Leadership is an expansive topic. While all good leaders tend to share certain qualities, there’s no one right way to lead. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the qualities that good leaders possess and how those qualities can be converted into action steps for more effective leadership.
This one may seem obvious, played out, and wholly cliché. However, if so, why do many leaders seem to be so bad at it? There are a plethora of reasons, but if we want to be uncomfortably honest right out of the gate here, the failure to listen often boils down to one major issue: ego.
Sometimes, as leaders, we don’t listen because we feel like we need to be right. Sometimes we think that our own ideas are superior. Sometimes we don’t want to face the challenges of opposing viewpoints. Sometimes we think that admitting that a subordinate has a better idea means that we’re somehow weak or bad managers, and so we avoid creating the opportunity for that to happen altogether. Such thoughts reside in the minds of the egotistical, the insecure, and the fearful. Those traits don’t belong in the makeup of a good leader. This is a tough thing for a lot of us to face, but we’re not omniscient corporate demigods with all of the answers and, often, the answers we need are found within the bright minds of those whom we’re leading.
Do you want to blow your team’s collective mind? Ask them their opinions and shut up. And listen. Regularly. Once they pick their jaws up off the floor, they’ll start sharing their thoughts. Take notes. Make sure they know that you’re actually interested in what they’re saying and humble enough to consider viewpoints that run counter to your own. This will build immeasurable trust from your team. Once you have their trust, you’ll also have their loyalty.
Change and Improve Culture Through Example
No corporate culture is perfect and some require more alterations than others. If you want to see change in a culture, you have to demonstrate it in action first. Do you want your team to show up early? Then you need to show up even earlier. Do you want a team that is extremely uplifting, optimistic, and encouraging to each other? Then you must be uplifting, optimistic, and encouraging to your team. This requires a lot of self-discipline. Guess what? So does good leadership.
Share Successes and Shoulder Failures
One thing that can kill morale in a team you’re leading is using singular first-person pronouns when taking credit for the hard work of your entire team. Simply replacing “I,” “me,” and “my” with “we,” “us,” and “our” when talking to others about your team’s successes can make all the difference.
Likewise, don’t ever throw your team under the bus. If your team fails, own it as the leader and deal with the team privately. Being in a leadership position means standing by your team, even when it costs you. That’s why you get the bigger paycheck.
Show Emotions (With Appropriate Restraint)
Are you really stoked about a major win for your team? Get excited! High-five everyone. Pat some folks on the back (unless HR says not to). Acknowledge team members who made significant impacts, and make sure that team members get a chance to recognize colleagues who they thought contributed significantly.
Bad news? It’s OK to show some emotion there, too, but make sure optimism shines through. Don’t dwell on the negative. Don’t point fingers and don’t whine. You want a positive, optimistic environment that people are excited to belong to and serve.
Encourage Personal Growth and Risk-Taking
You should always be pushing your team to grow. A stagnant team is a dying team, or is already dead-in-the-water. Business, in particular, is competitive and requires constant growth and innovation. This means that you and your team should always be reading and studying new content, whether it’s pertinent to soft skills like leadership and interpersonal matters or if it’s industry-specific. You and your team members should all have personal and professional mentors who challenge and provide feedback and insight.
When it comes to projects, encourage risk-taking and out-of-the-box thinking. It will lead to innovative outcomes that can result in huge successes, and be willing to take the heat if something goes awry. Let your team experiment, knowing that they have the safety of a leader who will shield them if things don’t pan out as expected. More often than not, this will produce huge wins for you and your team, especially in the long-term.