The Importance of Being an Effective Leader
While anyone can be a leader of a team within a company, not everyone can truly be an effective leader.
Many different things play into a person being a true leader, and below are the 12 best steps that need to be taken into consideration to become a more effective leader.
Now, while a good portion of these steps involve working in conjunction with your team, you can also use them as an individual to improve your capacity as a leader.
1. Open Communication
A successful team needs great communication, which means you as their leader need to facilitate an open communications environment. Your team needs the ability to communicate freely not only to their fellow team members but also to you as their leader. There are several different things that you can do to build and or maintain great communication.
If you are new to leading a team, one of the first things you need to do is determine whether there is effective communication between your team members. You will find it extremely hard to lead a team who are not provided the opportunity to communicate freely.
A great way to ensure free communications between your team members is to create team goals where they will need to work together and complete certain tasks co-operatively to reach a goal that aligns with the overall vision. This not only helps build communication channels between the team members, but also builds trust while allowing you to identify who are team players and who are not. Don’t take an idle role in the task as their leader, it’s also important to identify how they work with you as well.
Not everything you and your team does needs to be working towards the vision of the company. Another way to help your team build great communication is to have them perform team building exercises outside of the business environment. An example of this is something like escape room experiences – these allow you to identify how the team members work alongside each other and the roles they naturally take in a group environment.
A team with a lack of open communication is a team that will be harder to keep focussed on the end goal. Lack of communication can see team members isolated in their roles and splintering off on tangents that may not be congruent to the end goal.
2. Team Connection
A weak link within a team can cause irreparable problems which can quickly steer a team to a very negative place. A weak link within a team must be identified and dealt with effectively and efficiently to keep the rest of the team a tight knit unit.
Open communication as discussed above helps greatly in the identification of weak links.
Activities outside of the organisation that help the community as a whole (such as charity work) will not only give you insights as a leader as to how well your team work together, but will also help you identify the ethics and values of your team members.
Helping others is a great motivator to those who hold high moral and ethical values and those who don’t will soon self-identify in these situations.
3. Encourage Growth
Continued growth in personal and professional areas of each of your team member’s life is essential. Not only do they need to grow as a team but also as individuals in their own right. As their leader, it is your responsibility to ensure they each have the opportunity to grow in the areas they feel their strengths and ambitions lie (in both personal and professional areas of their life).
You don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts of money on team growth plans, there are many ways to help your team members grow that won’t break the bank.
This may include training and/or events outside the company or offering tasks or projects that you know will stretch their abilities without causing distress.
Team members mustn’t be “forced” into activities that they are uncomfortable in or may lead to distress (if the confidence isn’t there to fully support the activity/task/project).
Again, clear and concise communication between you as the leader and your team members will help ensure that your team members are feeling supported in their growth.
A sign of a truly effective leader is having your team members eventually moving on to lead teams of their own.
4. Stay Positive
It’s easier said than done but your attitude and mannerisms in the workplace have a strong impact on your team’s mood, which can have a detrimental impact on their performance.
We’ve always got something going on in our personal or professional lives that can be challenging but to keep your head above water and ensure your mindset stays in a place that is conducive to driving the business forward, you’ll need to ensure that you consistently work on your resilience.
Exposure over time to stressful situations helps build resilience as can changing the narrative to negative situations.
Changing the narrative is the process of looking at a particular situation or event in a different light – from a different angle.
Too often when something negative happens we run it through our mind over and over again which disables our ability to move forward. If we look for the positive outcomes in any given situation, no matter how small, we can start to change the way we feel about the situation and in turn, the way we deal with it.
Anger and frustration very rarely add any value to any situation so keeping a positive mental attitude whenever possible helps effective leaders not only lead at a high level, but also helps maintain mental stability.
5. Lead Instead of Order
People like to be led and very seldomly enjoy being “told” what to do.
Despite a possible rebellion against your leadership; enthusiasm and productivity decline with a control based leadership approach over an actual leadership approach.
Team members need to feel they are part of a movement and they need to know that their leader has got not only the businesses best interests at heart, but also theirs.
An example of good leadership in this area is of demonstration of where team members can better themselves either through carrying out their day-to-day activities or when learning something new.
Demonstration is a far more effective way for team members to employ best practice across all areas of their positions as it helps eradicate any unknowns and also allows the team members to question along the way. Effective leaders explain the “why” so that team members can learn to use their judgement in similar situations moving forward.
In many cases, a leader won’t know all specifics of a particular role in a company but will ensure that right people are in place to ensure the team is comfortable in the knowledge of where their position is within the team and what outcomes they must achieve to fulfil the objectives of the business as a whole.
Team members also need to know they have someone to turn to should any aspect of their position become troublesome, hard to deal with, or if there are new initiatives that need to be considered that they aren’t completely familiar with.
6. Set Goals
Goal setting exercises are a great way to bring your team together as a whole and for your team members to take a step back from the day-to-day to get a more holistic view of the business. This will give each team member more clarity on the role they play and the importance on how reaching their goals bears on the goals of the business as a whole.
Goal setting also allows for the easy implementation of reward systems. If team members have defined targets, there are less grey areas as to who feels deserved of any rewards that may be up for grabs and rules out any potential conflict over any perceived favouritism.
Ensure that all team members know what their responsibilities are to reach any team goals to ensure team members don’t go off on a tangent and start working on their piece of the pie in isolation to the what the other team members are doing. Team members should be constantly checking in with each other to make sure all activities are aligned to the overall strategies and goals of the group as a whole.
Goals may need changing along the way.
If certain short term goals are consistently being hit ahead of time or too easily, it is time to take a look at the goal and maybe stretch it out somewhat – not so much that it’s unobtainable, but enough to ensure that team members are consistently thinking and acting on ways they can reach and exceed their goals. If goals are too easy to achieve, it tends to extinguish the need for creative thinking.
7. Give Feedback
Constant feedback, whether positive or negative is required to ensure your team knows whether they are on the right track towards long and short term goals, and also whether they are aligning with the activities of the other team members.
Feedback can be given to the team as a whole and as a one-on-one interaction individually.
Just be mindful of any negative feedback that you may be directing to an individual in a group situation – it may be wise to keep this feedback reserved for one-on-one meetings unless it must be carried out in a group environment.
To keep the temperament of the team in a productive space, any negative feedback should be carried out calmly and reassuringly.
If your team feel they are being spoken down to, this can be demotivating and have detrimental effects on their motivation and performance.
If you have an issue with the performance of a particular team member that requires a little more than “feedback”, that can be dealt with dependent on your procedures.
As mentioned previously, it is always recommended that feedback regarding improvement areas should include demonstrations or examples if possible – this makes for a much more encouraging reception and adoption of new or altered behaviours.
8. Get Feedback
As with giving feedback and expecting your team to take it as constructive and positive, it is also essential that you are open to feedback from others and that you don’t get so caught up in the way that you do things, that you aren’t prepared to see if other’s ideas allow for a more effective and efficient journey towards the company goals.
Not only should you be receptive to feedback on your ideas and the way you feel things should run, you’ll likely be given feedback on your methodologies as an effective leader, whether good or bad.
If there is an ongoing common thread running through any negative feedback you receive from different team members or the team members as a whole, it’s time to take a look into the issues raised and figure out how you can adapt your approach in these areas to better suit your team whilst still aligning to the company values and goals.
It’s important to encourage feedback from your team.
As a leader, it’s much better for you, the business and the dynamic of the team overall if there is clear and honest communication throughout the organisation on all levels.
If there are issues that aren’t being addressed through communication, they will be festering until the day they finally surface through frustration or anger – this is never a great situation.
Some will offer feedback that will be of no particular value at all. Recognise that these ideas have been taken into consideration but display how they won’t work within the framework of the current situation.
As a leader, don’t be afraid to completely drop anything that isn’t working for either yourself or your team. It can be exponentially more expensive monetarily and opportunity wise, to run with an idea that isn’t working for pride’s sake than to kick it to touch and re-strategise.
9. Be Open to Ideas
Not only do you need to be open to the feedback of others as a leader, you also need to be open to implementing new tactics, strategies, and ideas of your team members if the case for business warrants it.
Like a website’s analytics data, there is no point taking feedback from your team or others if you aren’t going to do anything with it.
There are four main steps in effectively utilising the information in your website’s analytics dashboard to give you better results long term – these four steps are transferable to leaders taking feedback from their teams.
The four steps are:
- Collect the data (feedback)
- Analyse the data (discuss and/or document findings)
- Create a strategy based on the findings (decide what needs to be done)
- Execute (Do it!)
It’s that simple but you’d be surprised at how many companies and or leaders take on feedback and don’t do anything with it – it’s just business as usual the next day.
New ideas can be collected at any time of a project or through the year so it may pay to set time aside specifically for an exercise which allows your team to express their ideas (either openly or privately).
10. Stay Relevant
This is one of the most important leadership traits and encompasses what’s relevant for the business, but also what’s relevant for as a person as well as your leadership skills.
Ensuring your business is as close to world-class as possible is what leaders should be striving for. Without keeping up to date with the latest trends, technologies, strategies, and competitor activity in your industry, your business will suffer, your staff moral will suffer and your leadership will suffer.
Aside from industry business trends, you should also be working on your growth as an effective leader. There are a lot of nonsensical claptrap self-help books on the market these days with everyone proclaiming themselves to be gurus in all areas of life. If you’re a reader and like self-development style books, below are five recommendations and although some of these books were written many years ago, the value gained from them is very relevant in today’s world:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey
The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz
How to Win Friends and Influence People
The Magic of Thinking Big
David J. Schwartz
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Aside from books, there are numerous offline and online courses you can take to improve your leadership skills.
11. Your Leadership Style
What do we mean by “leadership style”?
Leadership styles can be dictated by the personal nature of the leader. If you’re a stern and authoritarian type of person, this is likely to be your style of leadership; if you’re a meek and mild kind of person, this could be your style of leadership.
Not all leaders are “born leaders” though – people who aren’t natural leaders can acquire the skills to lead from the front providing they know what it takes to be a leader and they have the necessary skills to earn the trust and respect of those they are leading.
Many leaders can switch modes – their behaviours outside of the work environment are completely different to that of the work environment.
An effective mode switching leader will carry the weight of responsibility from the work environment and learn to “park” it while in the home situation, possibly married with children.
The 6 top leadership styles are Democratic, Autocratic, Laissez-Faire, Strategic, Transformational, and Transactional. Each leadership style weighs on certain behaviours and cultures more heavily than the others. There is no right or wrong style of leadership (unless you are unfair or abusive in your approach), and leadership styles can evolve from one to another over time.
12. Keep Updated
It is always important to stay updated when it comes to being a leader. Now, there are two different meanings to being updated that you need to keep in mind. The first is to always stay up to date with everything that is going on in the world that affects your team.
Even the smallest thing can cause a large impact on your team, but things within the company are very important to know as well. The second meaning of always be up to date has to do with your team on a more personal level. If there is something personal going on with one of your team, it can throw off the whole team.
You need to be prepared for something that might end up taking one of your team out for a little while and know how to counter it with the rest of your team. A great way to achieve this connection with your team where you will be kept up to date on anything personal going on with them is to host small little get-togethers or treat them all to food and drinks after a long day at work.
You can also set up a Facebook group or some other group messaging program to allow all of your team to communicate and stay in touch with each other. Depending on what field you work in, another thing that can be very important to stay updated on is the latest technology.
Technology plays a large role in a lot of people’s lives, especially in the business world. Also, new information that comes out in the field that the team is working within can be important as well and completely change what the team is doing.
Ensuring that you are up to the play on all aspects of your business at all times is key to ensuring that strategies are adhered to and business goals are met.
We’ve previously mentioned how critical good communication is in a business and this is yet another reason to make sure that the communication within the business is flowing freely.
Even the smallest thing going undetected by the leadership team can have a negative domino effect or chain reaction on many other aspects within the business.