(Updated March 25, 2021)
Effective leadership goes far beyond simply convincing your team to do the work assigned to them. That’s called management.
Managers are necessary for the success of a business. Leaders, on the other hand, are the ones that truly help a business reach its full potential. True leaders inspire employees and create an environment where people work eagerly toward a common goal in which they all believe.
Effective leaders transform companies and transform minds. Behind most truly successful companies are effective leaders who bring the best out of everyone with whom they connect. The attributes necessary to make someone a good leader are too many to mention here, but here are five that really stand out.
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This may seem counter-productive, but effective leaders should be willing to admit that they’re flawed. It’s much easier to motivate and connect with your team when they see that you’re human.
Do you remember your first job and how your manager in the perfectly pressed suit made you feel? You were probably nervous and maybe even a bit intimidated. You may even have made some preconceptions about who that person was just based on that first impression.
Being able to admit when you’ve made a mistake can go a long way in eliminating the misinformed preconceptions your team forms about you based on your title or your attire. They’ve like dealt with bosses in their past who lived up to their negative first impressions, so it’s your job to break down those existing first impression barriers by letting your team know you aren’t perfect and you own it.
As a leader, you need to be able to say, “I was wrong.” Many people are afraid to do this because they worry their team will lose respect. Most often, the opposite is true. Your team will gain respect for you and forge a more personal connection, which will lead to higher levels of productivity, innovation and team spirit.
Another attribute that helps leaders gain the respect of their team is the ability to understand and have compassion for team members’ situations.
It happens all the time. Good team members start slacking, become negative or otherwise disengage from their work. An effective leader will recognize that discipline is not always the best approach in these cases. Up until the behavior change occurred, the team member was a positive contributor to the company’s mission and vision and was well liked by co-workers.
Seeing things from your team’s perspective
By being able to see things from the team member’s perspective, a leader can avoid losing that person. Sometimes all it takes is a little understanding. Maybe something is going on at home, or maybe that person is not being utilized properly and is frustrated and bored. Whatever the case may be, a leader will get to the bottom of it and coach the team member until things are made right.
Your team members will appreciate the time taken to help them work through things, and they’ll likely work harder once things get back in order. They’ll appreciate the effort and one-on-one attention. A little show of kindness and understanding goes a long way in your team actually liking you and wanting to do a great job for you.
Speaking of your team liking you, a charismatic leader inspires people much more easily than a grumpy-faced manager who’s only task-focused and can’t connect.
People naturally like charismatic leaders because there’s just something likable about them that they can’t quite put their finger on. This is an attribute that is best when it comes naturally, but it can be learned.
People want to be like these types of leaders and they want to follow these types of leaders as well.
Your team will want to buy into the mission and vision and follow along the path to success. Charisma is an attribute that allows leaders to connect across the entire company, crossing departmental lines and building relationships with those both inside and outside of the company.
Charisma can also be helpful in situations when things don’t go as planned. Effective leaders don’t give up when things get tough. When things go awry, those in leadership roles will be the first ones team members look to for direction. If you’re curled up in a ball behind your desk panicking, your team will likely follow your lead.
Rather than panicking, effective leaders start by reassuring their team that everything is fine. They then jump into action and relish the opportunity to forge forward and fix the situation.
It’s ok to show concern. Again, you’re human. The important thing, however, is to appear confident even in the face of the most dire circumstances. Your team will see this and will feed off of the vibe. Confidence inspires.
An effective leader won’t fold in the face of adversity. They’ll instead create a sense of order, and perhaps more importantly, they’ll keep the mood lighthearted as they lead the team toward a solution.
In addition to its impact during panic-inducing situations, keeping things lighthearted is important in everyday situations as well. The saying “laughter is the best medicine” is as true in business as it is in everyday life. Too high a dose of seriousness will kill motivation quickly by creating a rigid, tense working environment. An effective leader will have a knack for keeping things light and understanding when the time is right for a little comic relief.
It’s all about timing
An effective leader will also possess comedic timing. Not in the sense of delivering a punch line at the right time. More in the sense of understanding the audience and knowing when it’s right to crack a joke versus times when humor isn’t a good fit.
Using humor at the wrong time can get you in hot water. Delivering a laugh at the right time, however, can have quite the opposite impact.
Using humor to create a positive culture
Company culture is critical in attracting the most talented team members to your company. A laid back atmosphere can lead to higher productivity, as top talented people will want to be a part of a company that’s developed a culture of fun and camaraderie. Using humor effectively can help promote this type of culture, and the company will benefit as a result.
Pursuit of Learning
John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each another.” No matter how amazing you think you are, there is always room for growth. This is the same for leadership as it is for any aspect of life.
If you stop looking for ways to grow as a leader, you will become stagnant, and you risk losing out on opportunities to inspire your team and lead your company to the promised land.
How to continue learning and growing as a leader
Always be seeking ways to grow as a leader. One great way to do that is to read books on leadership. I suggest reading a mix of books from leaders across different industries, with diverse backgrounds and even across time. Leadership insights aren’t always new. You may learn something unexpected by reading a book about a leader who’s long gone but inspired people hundreds of years ago.
Another great way is to watch videos online. Here’s a good example of the type of content that’s easily accessible online for leaders to view and learn from.
Events, online or in-person, are also great ways to continue learning and growing as a leader. Years back, I took part in the Clemson Leadership Summit. It’s a certificate program through Clemson University, and I have to say, the insights I took away and the connections I made really helped improve my skills as a leader.
So, whatever angle you take on this, the important thing is that you are always exploring new ways to learn and grow. Don’t become stagnant and irrelevant as a leader.
Wrapping it Up
Think about leaders you’ve worked for or those you may have read about. It’s almost guaranteed that they’ll exhibit at least four out of the six attributes listed above, perhaps all of them. And if they don’t exhibit one or two, as an effective leader it’s likely they’ll be aware and be working on developing those attributes that they lack.
If you find yourself in a leadership role, it’s important that you understand the need to possess these attributes. They’ll go a long way in molding you into the most effective leader possible. An effective leader is never done improving, so figure out where you lack and work toward the goal of improving in those areas. And remember not to be afraid to admit to areas where you need improvement.
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