I love all things leadership because leadership is what I am meant to do and I always strive to be a better leader. My mom lovingly teases me when she says, “You came out of the womb a leader.” However, I am confident she is referring to my bossy nature as a child. But all kidding aside, being able to impact the lives of the people around me is incredibly motivating. I enjoy making decisions, driving innovation, inspiring action, and helping others grow. And I am not alone; I haven’t met a CEO who doesn’t want to be a great leader.
But I’ve found over the years that leadership means different things to different people. And it’s hard to know how to be a good leader if you don’t understand good leadership.
So, let’s break it down.
What is a leader anyway and what do they do?
A leader is someone who guides a group of people by providing vision, inspiration, and direction. A leader sets the tone for the group, meaning they set expectations and ideally role models how the team should interact positively and positively. They develop and communicate the team’s goals and objectives, ensuring team members have the tools and resources to succeed. And most importantly, a leader is responsible for making decisions, solving problems, and coordinating the group’s efforts so they achieve its goals.
What makes a good leader?
There is no one way to be a good leader; your specific combination of leadership traits will make you a unique leader. But there are some basic things that all leaders must do to successfully influence and motivate others to work towards a common goal. Good leaders must be able to:
- Communicate effectively
- Develop a clear vision and inspire others to follow that vision
- Make tough decisions, have difficult conversations, and solve problems
- Inspire confidence and action when times are tough or things aren’t going well
- Motivate and empower others
- Build and maintain strong relationships with team members
- Develop their team members, helping them grow both personally and professionally
I also believe that a good leader is also someone who is fair, honest, and transparent and who treats all team members with respect and dignity.
I’ll give you an example. Last week, I had a candid, heartfelt conversation with a struggling employee. She was too embarrassed to admit she was over her head and overcompensated by being overly jovial, even though she was frustrated about how a project was going. We sat down to discuss the issues, and I was honest with her about her performance. I asked her what she wanted with her career and candidly told her how she approached the situation wasn’t going to get her what she wanted from her job. We brainstormed ways she could improve her communication and performance, and I offered to meet biweekly to mentor her along the way. We ended the conversation with a hug and a commitment: hers to work on her performance issues and me to give her helpful feedback so she could course correct before she became frustrated. This is an example of fair, honest, transparent and respectful leadership.
How do you become a better leader?
It’s not easy to become a better leader. You’ve got to do the work, always looking for ways to improve yourself and your leadership style. Reflecting on my early days as a leader, I cringe at some of the things I did and mistakes I made, such as getting too emotional about mistakes and not having a clear vision that everyone was working towards. But I am also grateful for those cringe-worthy moments because I learned from them, and I still do. I am far from perfect and make mistakes daily. I will say this; there is no final leadership destination. Great leaders know they must continually evolve and grow.
Here are my top tips for improving yourself as a leader:
1. Communicate effectively: Say what you mean, be clear, and follow up to ensure understanding. And remember, talking is only one side of communication! Be sure to listen to others carefully so they feel valued and heard.
2. Develop your problem-solving skills: No one wants to work for a leader who doesn’t solve problems. Address issues head-on and find ways to resolve them. Work collaboratively with your team so they are part of the solution. Be decisive and make decisions.
3. Set clear goals and expectations: Everyone on your team wants to know where they stand and what’s expected of them. Clearly define what you want to achieve and paint a picture of what success looks like. Talk to your team regularly about how they are progressing towards their goals and help them when they veer off course.
4. Motivate and share power with your team: I’m not too fond of the word empower because it feels like you are bestowing something upon them. Instead, create a culture where people are inspired and encouraged to make decisions and direct their work…to step into their own power. It feels motivating when you feel trusted to do your job and make decisions.
5. Build strong relationships: Remember, people don’t quit companies; they quit managers. That’s why you must build strong relationships. Talk to your team members, asking them how they are doing and learning about where they are struggling. Be kind, helpful and supportive. Listen to them and be responsive to their needs.
6. Be open to feedback: I am a huge believer in feedback; honest, helpful feedback is the only way to improve. Don’t be afraid to ask people how you can be a better leader. And when they tell you, act. The best feedback I’ve ever gotten came from my employees, and I’ve shown that I can take feedback by changing how I lead my team and the company.
7. Be a role model: remember, you set the tone for the team, and they are observing you. Do you live the company values? Do you take feedback well? Do you deal with problems head-on? Do you tell the truth? Do you admit mistakes? What you do matters. Set a good example by exhibiting the values and behaviors that you want your team to follow.
Leadership is a mindset; when you approach it with positivity, problem-solving, clarity, commitment, and grit, you will separate yourself from the rest. Don’t allow yourself to be a mediocre leader. Leadership is a privilege and one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Lean into the responsibility and do the work. You might be surprised how much of an impact you make!
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