The way that you lead your team affects your organization’s overall success. A great leader has confidence and knows how to inspire his employees, empower them, earn their trust, and communicate effectively. Accomplishing these goals benefits the company because workplace productivity and employee loyalty improve. Employees also benefit from having a good leader because they generally feel more satisfied with their jobs.
How exactly do you develop the good qualities of a leader, though? Read on to find out how you can acquire or improve the most important traits and skills that every leader should have.
Honesty and integrity
The most important qualities you should have are honesty and integrity. When employees trust their leader, they report more satisfaction, less stress, and fewer absences at work. The organization itself also benefits because it’s more profitable than companies where employees don’t trust their leader.
If you haven’t done so already, make a list of values and core beliefs and include them in the company’s mission statement if you can. Encourage your employees to live up to these standards, and make sure you follow them as well. Your own adherence to the rules could mean showing up on time for work, staying late to complete work as needed, or respecting the company dating policy. Doing so sets an example for everyone else.
Also make sure that you follow through on your promises. Don’t agree to give someone a raise or a promotion unless you’re able to do it. Keep other commitments as well, even if it’s something that seems trivial, like letting everyone leave early for the day. If you break small promises, your employees have no reason to believe that you’ll keep your bigger, more important promises.
Keep in mind that not everyone defines honesty the same way. While following the above tips is a great start, you may find that what your employees really want is more transparency. Consider getting feedback from your employees to find out what would help them trust you and the company more.
Willingness to empower employees
Unless you’re a one-person company, you shouldn’t carry all the work by yourself. Instead, identify each of your employees’ strengths and delegate tasks that they can handle. Sharing the work with more people adds more voices to the organization and prevents you from stretching yourself too thin. It also shows your team that you believe in them.
When delegating tasks to your team, make sure that you give them autonomy. Employees tend to be more dedicated and passionate about their work when they have a certain amount of freedom. You can check in on their progress occasionally, but don’t second-guess their decisions. After all, you put them in charge because you trust them.
Another way to empower your employees is by providing information. Unless it’s highly confidential, don’t deliberately hold back any knowledge that may help them in their endeavors. Over time, they may start sharing knowledge with you too.
You team looks to you as a leader for guidance. For this reason, you should have confidence in yourself, your employees, and your company. If something happens to make you feel panicked, stay calm. Setbacks happen to everyone. If the computers crash or you lose a major client, reassure your employees that everything will be fine. You could even make a joke about it; humor is great for defusing tension. Your team should feel that it can count on you.
Another aspect of confidence is being able to make tough decisions. You need to make them quickly because the longer you wait to do so, the harder it becomes. You’ll also need to stand by your decision, even if you get a negative reaction. For example, laying off an employee may cause them to beg and plead for you to change your mind. Having confidence in your choice makes it easier for you to stay firm.
Ability to inspire others
As you probably already know, the best companies have high morale. When employees feel that their leaders care about them and value their work, they are more productive, produce higher-quality work, and are absent less often compared to employees in companies with low morale. Clearly, effective leadership includes the ability to inspire others.
Help your team see the big picture. They want to know that their work matters. Provide updates on your progress as a company, and explain exactly how contributions from each team, department, or individual helped achieve certain goals. Honesty comes into play here because you’re providing a certain amount of transparency. Sharing this information with your employees helps them feel that they are a part of the company, and it helps them stay passionate.
Make sure to regularly acknowledge your team’s achievements and show your appreciation. You can praise them in person or put it into a thank you letter. Give praise that’s specific. For example, instead of telling them, “You did a good job today,” say something like, “You handled that difficult client really well today.” If you have constructive criticism, save it for later.
Public recognition also matters to employees because they want their peers to value them. Try giving credit to someone at a meeting or in a company newsletter. Again, be specific, and save constructive criticism for later. This next tip may go without saying, but also make sure that your praise is genuine.
At the heart of every successful organization is excellent communication. That skill starts with you, the leader. This topic is so broad that authors have written entire books about it. Learn the basics first: communicating goals, being approachable, and listening.
No matter how clearly you think you’ve explained your goals or priorities to your team, there’s always a chance that not everyone understood you. Misunderstandings can leave employees running in the wrong direction, wasting their energy as well as company time.
Before sending off your team, make sure they understand the plan. You can ask them what they think about the goals or if they have any questions. Another strategy that works well is asking the team or individual to summarize in their own words what you told them. If the priorities change later on, you’ll also need to let them know about it.
No matter how hard you try to communicate with your team, it will only do so much good if they don’t want to approach you. Your employees should feel comfortable enough around you to ask you for guidance or for clarification on a project.
To be approachable, you need to gain their trust, which is where honesty comes in again. Encourage personal conversations in the workplace. For example, you can ask an employee how their weekend was. Try to be open to different ideas, even if you don’t agree with them. Show empathy towards others at work. Try making jokes now and then. By developing a good rapport with your employees, you open the lines of communication.
This final piece of advice may seem obvious, but not enough people know how to listen properly. Oftentimes, people are so busy thinking about what they’re going to say next that they don’t hear everything the other person said.
When an employee talks to you, give them your full attention. Listen to everything they say, and make sure you understand them. Notice their body language, and read between the lines. When you truly listen to them, they notice. It makes them feel important, and you may also get valuable information that you wouldn’t have heard from anywhere else.
There’s a saying that good leaders are made, not born. This saying is mostly true. Certain qualities, such as charisma, come naturally, but people can learn good leadership qualities through training, practice, and experience.
Take a look at your own strengths and weaknesses and choose which areas to work on. If you’re not sure where you should start, you can ask someone you trust for their opinion. You could even enroll in a leadership course. Just remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect leader and that you won’t learn anything if you never make any mistakes.