Becoming a Better Leader

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With great power comes great responsibility. This time-honoured idiom remains true regardless of the sector, industry or country you may find yourself. Being a leader is not an easy task, and requires equal, if not more, introspection as the ability to critique others. Leadership can be defined as the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization. After reading this you might think you possess the necessary skillset and powers of persuasion to be an effective leader. However, being a leader is also underpinned in one’s ability to be fair, just, and steadfast.

Often leaders fall into the trap of becoming disillusioned, one-dimensional, and overly authoritarian. It is in that moment that these people become isolated and can succumb to the power bestowed upon them. Being a (good) leader requires that one opens themselves to criticism and encourages active participation of their subordinates. Communication once again is as important as ever in steering the ship to steadier seas. No one person is able to achieve the overall objective without entrusting others with a certain level of autonomy and responsibility.

This article will explore the methods a leader can incorporate to improve upon their current ability to inspire and solidify their workforce to meet the objectives of their respective business.

Encouraging communication

Leaders are often depicted as people who have a lot to say and take pride in having their voices heard. However, how often have you taken the time to actively listen to your employees? To improve yourself as a leader, you should make time to engage with your employees and encourage that they speak to you without fear of recourse. As difficult and/or intimidating it may first seem; over time, your ability to listen and absorb their concerns will strengthen the foundation you have with those operating your business.

A good leader will furthermore acknowledge that different people have preferred mediums of communication. This could be in-person conversation, telephonically or electronically. Utilising all of the mediums available provides easier access to communication when attempting to distribute information or an employee is attempting to make contact. Customising the channels for communication to meet the needs of your business enables that most employees are comfortable in engaging with you. More so, honest and transparent communication goes a long way in building trust and reciprocity.

Form Connections

Understanding that your employees and teams are people might seem like an easy enough concept; however, it is far from true. How often may you have forgotten the name of an employee? Perhaps you may have had several interactions with them or even had them work on something urgent? As much as paying attention to the finer details of your business is necessary for growth and success; knowing the people with whom you work is equally as important.

This is not to say that a leader should fraternize with their employees, although taking the time to learn a few things will provide you with greater insight into their characters and potential. Small, but meaningful interactions will allow you to learn information about a person along the lines of their individual strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, and concerns. In turn, this information could help guide you in future decision-making processes, which may include or exclude the person of interest.

On a human level, these interactions will also do something for the self-esteem of the employee in question. They may derive a sense of appreciation which can subsequently translate into further commitment and loyalty.

Encourage Career Growth & Succession Planning

It happens more often than not that some employers pay no attention to the potential and ambition of their employees. The more correct approach would be to increase the exposure of their trusted employees with new experiences, challenges and responsibilities. It is an unfortunate reality that many high performing individuals become stunted in positions that they have out-grown; however, no provision has been made for their development. A good leader acknowledges the power of a growth mind-set as developing their employees will result in new ground being broken for expansion and innovation. Furthermore, such a leader will resist the urge to feel threatened by individuals who have an insatiable hunger to expand their professional horizons.

So, whether it be through continuous career development seminars or courses; or through the delegation of sporadic duties, leaders should take it upon themselves to be responsible for the succession of employees. A small investment today and over time can amount to a considerable favourable return.

Upholding a Positive Attitude

The world we find ourselves in is not that of a utopia. For that reason, it is fair and right to expect the occasional mishap, problem or even, catastrophe. Nonetheless, as a leader is would be wise to pay attention to the issue without fixating on it. “Never let a good crisis go to waste” – a quote by Winston Churchill illustrates the mind set one should maintain regardless the magnitude of the events at play. Being a good leader requires that you practice solution-based thinking, encouraging such from those looking to you for direction. Confidence, enthusiasm and realism are necessary in creating a more engaged and productive workforce. This might not always be the easiest or most natural inclination, but remember that your reaction will be perpetuated by those around you. As a leader, you have power to dictate how your employees may react to similar scenarios in the future.

Be a Teacher

Good leadership requires a transfer of skills. You should aspire that your employees become as competent as you. The beauty of humanity is that through something as subtle as tone of voice, the same message could be received in several ways. As much as a leader should look to expect the best results possible, a leader should be able to convey their ideas in a manner most conducive to achieving the former. Like a teacher, a leader should afford their employees patience and the opportunity to fail. The important take away here is that a leader should want their employees to try. Equally so, a leader should want to make the effort to teach and uplift those around them.

Be Goal-Orientated

Setting goals is the first step towards achievement. The second step would be to share this with those around you so you’re able to garner the necessary support.

As a leader it is right that you pave the way for those to follow. However, you cannot do all the work by yourself. The ability to delegate once again shows its hand in terms of you sharing your vision and how your employees are a part of it. Likewise, your employees should not feel alienated from the business and it is imperative that you understand how their contribution adds to the bigger picture. For this reason, take the time to engage with your employees, set clear goals and objectives for them, but remember to re-evaluate these once again in the future.

Feedback

Make sure that feedback forms one of the pillars of your organisation. This includes top-down methods like that of performance reviews, but also bottom-up feedback via organisational surveys and audits. Both of these tools help illuminate the happenings of the people and the business.

Beyond these, celebrate the achievements of your employees. Acknowledging their successes by outlining the impact of such in the business acts as positive reinforcement and assists in prolonged performance.

As a leader, it may also be worth your while undertaking business coaching. This could be used to upskill yourself as a leader. These coaching sessions could be extended to include members of your staff and hence, enabling them to provide feedback on their thoughts, opinions and experiences with you as their leader.

Overall, insight should never be seen as something pessimistic. It would always be in the best interest of a good leader to look for ways of improving themselves regardless of any initial personal reservations.

Conclusion

Whether you’ve been in a position of leadership for longer than you’d like to admit or you’re proverbially ‘wet behind the ears’; being a leader is not an easy task. The plethora and cascade of thoughts, ideas and concerns which you carry with you on a daily basis requires that you present the best version of yourself on a daily basis for those who look to you for guidance. Do not, however, forget that you were not always in the position you find yourself, as it will help you retain a level of relatability to those surrounding you. Take the talk to your employees, teach, and learn. Take into consideration that your most important business asset is that of your people.

Remember that being a good leader takes time. Although some individuals are naturally inclined to have good leadership skills, it is something anyone can learn and improve upon. With hard work, dedication and strategic planning, you can lead your team to success.

“Here lies one who knew how to get around him men who were cleverer than himself” – Daly Carnegie’s tombstone epitaph

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