If you’ve kept an eye on our blog posts over the last few months, you’ll see that we’ve been running our ‘Top Ten’ theme for a while, on a wide variety of topics. Some are harder to compile than others, as there are right/wrong ways to do some things, with little variation. With other topics, however, we have trouble sticking to just ten points.
The subject of leadership falls in the latter category. There are many techniques, trends, ways and methods that each have certain steps, or a broken-down process, that we could include. In this list, we’ve compiled the principles we think effective leaders should exhibit, rather than any one method. Enjoy.
- Be an example
Go back to your grandparents’ time, and leaders were most probably rarely seen, and any discipline given was meted out more readily than today. Workers have changed since those days, and to get the best out of them, leader and managers have been forced to change too. The carrot is more effective than the stick, and therefore, aspiration has a more motivating effect than bullying. Great leadership involves being an example to your team, showing them – demonstrating – what you’re looking for from them. It’s a common term for authors, but it should also apply here: show, don’t tell. A leader doesn’t lead from the back of the team, but from the front.
- Great communication
Hiding in your office and mumbling at your team because leadership makes you uncomfortable is not going to move anything forward. Clear instruction and a continuous presence if questions need to be asked is a far better approach. To be a great communicator isn’t just about giving instruction; being a good listener is as important. How can you understand problems and obstacles threatening to upset productivity otherwise? Be objective when listening and focus on the problem and why it’s occurred, rather than assuming, or blaming or shaming – and always be honest with your team. Share your vision with them.
An effective leader doesn’t just help their team and the downward structure of their company: they also look to develop themselves and ask for guidance from further up the ladder. An improved leader will get more from their team – they won’t let the grass grow under their feet. They’re more likely to seek a mentor, to learn from and observe. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses as leader and assess what you don’t know.
- Asking the why
Problems occur all the time. A good leader won’t just fix it and move on, they’ll look to learn from mistakes and investigate why the issue occurred, to help prevent it happening again. Accepting that processes and methods need to adapt and be revised from time to time keeps productivity high. Effective leadership involves constant evaluation about what’s working and what’s not.
- Be human
In which we mean, not a robot. Your team will respect you more if they think you understand them. Show empathy when needed; yes, targets and results are important, but so is your team. Aim to connect with each member of your team on some level – find out what motivates and drives them, their values and what they consider important. It’s intel that may prove helpful when you need to ask more of them. Don’t be aloof and unapproachable, it won’t get you anywhere in today’s workplaces. Show your passion for the job – it’s infectious. And if you make a mistake, own up to it.
A great leader doesn’t take the glory of their team for themselves, but instead, gives credit where it’s due. Effective leadership involves praising your team and thanking them for the work they do. If you don’t make your team feel appreciated and valued, they won’t do more than their contract states – whatever pressures or problems occur. Don’t aim to be the smartest person in the room with a Messiah complex – your department will achieve more if you recruit or develop true experts in each field. These are the ones that will innovate and safeguard your team’s future by taking risks and thinking outside of the box – if they’re given enough rope by their leader.
- Feed back
Effective leadership involves giving feedback, and not in an annual appraisal, but continually. Leading the team doesn’t always mean being liked or popular – your team are not your friends. Though praise can readily be given, sometimes, feedback may be negative, and this can be one area leaders dodge or skim over because it makes them uncomfortable. Don’t make feedback personal; stick only to the facts, allow the individual time to process the information, and ask for their opinion on the incident or approach in question. On a similar note, ask for feedback from your team, concerning your leadership.
- Organise yourself
A good leader is one with a clear vision and a calm manner. A cluttered desk and a never-ending to-do list does not encourage rational thinking or suggest a firm grasp of the next step. Be prepared for the unexpected, ask for help when needed and delegate what you’re able – you’ll be a more effective leader.
- More than a label
Being a leader is a great responsibility, but a good leader doesn’t let it define them. They lead their people effectively because of their approach rather than what it says on their employment contract. If the team is missing a few members, they’ll step into the front line and shoulder the burden; if there’s a decision to be made, they make the right one, not the easy one. They remain close to their team, wanting success as much for them as they do for the company and themselves. A great leader aims to serve, rather than to be served.
- Step up
The success of your department should be shared with everyone that made a contribution. However, it doesn’t work the other way. If your team is failing, it’s your responsibility to find out why and to alter things. You’re the guiding hand, the steer. Realistically, there may be one or two bad apples amongst your bushel, but it’s your goal to identify them and influence their behaviour – and if they’re beyond help, have the courage to let them go.
Career coaching and leadership/management coaching are just two of the services Emerge offers. For more information on these, or any other aspect of coaching, training and development, contact us on 01329 820580, or via firstname.lastname@example.org.