The importance of supportive leadership
It’s known and understood amongst most business owners, CEOs and MD’s that good leadership is critical in organisational growth. Organisations are increasingly aware of the importance of the workplace environment for employees and the role that leaders play in this.
The leadership role is evolving to not just be focused on results but to focus more on the employees and providing a supportive approach. This adds another dimension to a role that traditionally has been largely profit focused. Leaders are now expected to be more people focused and to know how to join this up with profit expectations – not necessarily an easy thing to do in complex business environments.
What is Supportive Leadership?
Supportive leaders are those who are willing to focus on identifying what changes and support is required to ensure the well-being of their team and, in turn, deliver a high standard of performance by alleviating any unnecessary obstacles.
In supportive leadership, the manager is not so interested in giving orders and managing every detail as in giving employees the tools they need to produce results themselves. Delegation is still a crucial part of supportive leadership, but it is not about simply assigning tasks to then receive the results. Instead, they work through the tasks with employees to improve skills and talent until the manager does not need to worry about a task being done correctly and the employee is fully empowered in a particular area. A major upside to supportive leadership is that the manager will work with the employee until he or she is empowered and skilled enough to handle tasks with minimal supervision in the future. This helps develop a productive and loyal team that can deliver effective results for business growth.
Creating a supportive environment, by its nature provides a mentoring approach for employees to benefit from, which in turn benefits the leader and so the business.
6 key abilities of supportive leaders
1. Ability to see the bigger picture
Time can be tight for a leader in a business, but having the ability to take a step back and view situations and see what’s on the horizon can identify what expectations need to be considered and how they are to be handled and what involvement is required from the team.
2. Ability to prioritise
It’s vital to identify key priorities and communicate them effectively to the team so they understand what needs to be achieved and why. A supportive leader will be able to explain and engage an employee in the need of a project and to show support through to completion.
3. Ability to empower and inspire
It’s not always easy to know how to inspire teams and individuals, but by the nature of being supportive, a leader can motivate through empowerment and demonstrating trust. By enabling employees to take ownership, and by encouraging individuals to give a new opportunity a try combined with being honest, can create loyalty, confidence and high productivity as employees have a clear understanding of the need and expectation.
4. Ability to communicate
You would expect this to be the easier of the skills required as a supportive leader, and yet it is so easy for leaders to minimise the information they pass down, or due to tight schedules forget to sit and talk through projects and expectations. Leaders can often assume their teams know and understand what is required, yet poor communication can lead to many numerous working issues and misunderstandings. Learning and implementing different methods of communication can quickly turn an under-performing team into a productive and engaged team.
5. Ability to accept mistakes
We are only human at the end of the day and everyone makes mistakes. A supportive leader is not only able to accept that mistakes and failures do happen, but will also have the type of relationship with their employees which creates an open dialogue for individuals to feel ‘safe’ within to learn from the mistakes and grow.
6. Ability to make yourself available
Being accessible to employees when required can help foster an underlying safety blanket, whereby they know they can ask for support when needed and they will be taken seriously. Being able to empathise at certain times and provide relevant support and direction will aid loyalty, encourage success and employee retention.
Leadership, or supportive leadership does not always come naturally to people, and there are many aspects of the role of leadership to be considered, not just with teams and employees but with expectations for business objectives and your own role in helping to grow the business.
Creating a supportive leadership team
Think Forward understand and have direct experience of the pressure leadership teams face to deliver on objectives with limited time and resource and with ever increasing expectations. Being a supportive leader is not just about being there for your direct reports, but the senior leadership team also need to be supportive of each other, helping and boosting each other when needed.
But it can often be challenging for leaders to focus on this or even see the benefits of being consistently supportive when there are so many other activities to juggle. At Think Forward we have seen first-hand the positive impact on productivity and team morale when leaders pull together to acknowledge the strengths, fill the gaps, agree consistent approaches and learn together.
Knowing how to engage with teams and employees to get the most out of them does not always come naturally to people, so at Think Forward we implement a collaborative approach to firstly better understand the leaders themselves, alongside business objectives, and then by using our coaching expertise combined with using tools from the Lumina Learning suite, we are able to identify key traits to strengthen and define development plans for long-term leadership growth.
Penny Strutton, Think Forward founder, says “Creating and building a supportive leadership style does not come overnight, and it varies according to the business and the team themselves. We work closely with leaders to create a bespoke development plan based on informed and identified outcomes from the Lumina Learning tools and the individual consultations we do. From this an integrated program is created to help support and grow the business leaders to make the changes needed for a supportive leadership infrastructure.”