Hard work, determination and strong performance can get you far in life, but a title and an office with a window don’t make a leader, nor do they guarantee the respect of your team.
Whether you like it or not, you are in the spotlight. The people who work under you are looking to you for guidance and direction. To become a better leader you always need to look for new ways to improve your skills and influence the professional growth of those who report to you. These 5 tips will help you capture the hearts and minds of your team.
1. Communication Is Key
Great leaders in history, like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King Jr., developed a reputation for being outstanding communicators, primarily because they knew their audience. Churchill spoke in short, memorable messages, while King delivered impassioned speeches designed to inspire. They were both authentic, so follow their example but be who you are. Don’t forget that your employees can smell a fraud a mile away, so be honest and true to your real self.
There is little room for ambiguity in today’s business world; people will make their own interpretations, so give it to them straight. Your employees deserve to know the state of your business – its successes and its challenges. By regularly providing them with a clear picture of how the company is performing, and asking for their help, your team will understand what they need to do to achieve success.
Keep in mind that communication is always a two-way street. Don’t talk “to” your employees, talk “with” them. The people on the front line are usually the best at identifying issues before they become problems, so give them an opportunity to provide feedback and offer suggestions. Being “in the know,” will prompt your employees to work together toward a resolution.
2. Lead by Example
As a leader, you are always being watched and studied. Believe it or not, your team wants someone they can look up to and admire. You need to show – at all times – that you are committed to achieving the results your company needs to be successful and to keep people employed.
Your leadership style needs to be a direct reflection of you, so be the kind of leader you would follow. Leadership styles vary widely from the authoritarian to the democratic. Whether you’re very hands on – coaching employees on a regular basis and providing ongoing feedback – or a hands-off leader that believes professional employees know what they’re doing, be consistent.
When it comes to office dress, always show up in the same type of attire you expect your employees to follow. A dress code is an important part of any company culture, so make sure you are projecting the image of your company. Make sure your personal networks, such as your blog and social media profiles, are kept up to date and reflective of how you want your organization to be viewed.
3. Learn to Collaborate
There’s no single part of a watch that makes it work on its own. Getting an accurate time requires all components working together. When one system fails, a watch can’t properly show time. The same is true of the organization you lead, no matter how big or small. No one person can guarantee success.
Research shows that 38 percent of employees feel there is not enough collaboration in the workplace. Soliciting input and recognizing others’ contributions to success is a must for any leader. The health of an organization is dependent upon all parts working together toward a common goal.
Always be open to your employees’ new ideas. It’s one thing for a leader to say they have an open-door policy, but it’s another to live it. When employees really know they will be heard, they will develop an unwavering loyalty to you and your company.
4. Focus on Solutions
Some of the best organizations in the world have faced tremendous obstacles. But by putting their efforts toward where they want to go, they’ve been able to overcome hardships and emerged as stronger, viable companies with committed, engaged workforces.
Hand-wringing will get you nowhere, and it will just worry your employees, who will resent your weak leadership. Instead of obsessing over the problem, throw your resources at the solution.
Don’t become overwhelmed with problems that arise. Encourage a results-oriented workplace that focuses on outcomes, rather than the path to get there. Recognize each and every accomplishment as they occur.
5. Never Stop Improving
Strong leaders are never really content. Instead, they focus on continuous improvement, not only for their company, but also for themselves.
Good leaders are always willing to learn new things, adopt and implement new practices. They keep their minds open to possibilities, study the successes (and failures) of other organizations, and make their own growth a priority. By showing that they are flexible but not infallible, the best leaders engage and inspire their workforce at all levels.
No one said leadership was easy. In fact, achieving great leadership is always a work in progress. It takes tenacity, a willingness to embrace thoughts and ideas, and a big dose of humility to successfully align a workforce behind the company’s goals.