Every successful business has a strong leader behind it. While some of them seem to be born knowing exactly how to lead people, to most of us it doesn’t come quite as naturally. There is a set of skills that you should acquire and practice in order to become a stronger leader..
How would you define a strong leader, though? Some people would say that a great leader has such qualities as assertiveness, adaptability, intelligence and conscientiousness. Others may say that leaders should be positive, inspiring and empowering.
However, can you be all of these things? And what can you do to embrace some of these valued leadership qualities to become a better and more effective leader? This article will outline some helpful tips on how to do just that.
Understand your own leadership style
To be able to improve your leadership skills you need to first of all understand your own leadership style. You need to think about your current strengths and weaknesses. What do you think could be improved and what is currently working very well?
Once you have a better understanding about your own skills and weak points, you can start improving certain areas and look for ways to better your leadership abilities.
There are also a few different leadership styles that you could follow. For example, transformational leaders are positive, empowering and inspiring. They are passionate about seeing each of their team members reach his or her true potential and achieve their goals. Authoritative style, however, is all about confidence and strong-mindedness. These types of leaders know how to set expectations and map the way towards the common goals, while engaging and energizing their team along the way.
You don’t necessarily have to pick a single leadership style and stick to it but it can help you better analyse your own style and skills. You also need to remember that you cannot be all-in-one – you need to set your priorities and decide what type of leader you wish to become.
Learn to communicate openly and effectively
Effective communication is one of the most important success factors in businesses and a great leader will never stop improving this skill. This doesn’t only include communicating with your team as a whole – it’s also about the one-on-one communication with individuals.
As a leader, you should be able to clearly communicate your vision and expectations to your team, after which they would ideally feel inspired and motivated by it. You should also express sincere care and concern for your employees, both verbally and nonverbally.
You want to make sure that your employees feel comfortable communicating with you and your door is always open to them. They shouldn’t be scared of talking to you about any concerns or challenges they are facing. Likewise, they should want to share their successes and achievements with you too.
Make sure that you always stay honest and transparent with your employees. This shows them that you trust them and don’t keep anything away from them.
Encourage personal and professional growth
An effective leader should always be invested in the success and growth of their team. You should act as your team’s cheerleader – encouraging your employees to keep learning new skills and further develop existing ones. Let them adapt the newly acquired skills and use them in the work they do. Whether it’s a difficult situation, an unhappy client, an important project or whatever the case, you should always let them take on these challenges.
Great leaders believe in their employees and give them the opportunities for learning and growth. Invest in your employees, motivate and encourage them as well as guide them through the process.
Keep a positive attitude
Being a strong leader is not only about managing the day-to-day processes smoothly – it’s also about how you handle the unexpected.. Running into some sort of challenge, miscommunication or an error is unavoidable and you will have to deal with it occasionally. However, the way you handle the negative situations says a lot about your leadership skills.
Try to keep a positive attitude even in the most frustrating of situations. This is especially important if it’s a mistake that one of your employees has made. If it’s already done, getting angry about it will not change a thing. Instead, try to think about the positives in a problem (e.g. “well, at least this is still okay…”). This way, you will be able to think more clearly and solve the issue.
Be a mentor, not a preacher
People are interested in growth and development – they want to learn how to do their job better and find their own ways.. As their leader, your job is to mentor them by guiding and supporting them every step of the way, instead of bossing them around and giving them orders. You should also know how to teach and show them something without just telling them what to do. Act as their rock – someone they will willingly go to with questions and concerns.
Don’t micromanage your team
There is no worse way to lead your team than by micromanaging them. If you follow and order every single step of your employees, you will forbid them from showing their talent and making the best use of their skills. If you want to be a good leader, you need to take a step back and give your team freedom. Show them that you trust them and you may get surprised to see your employees excel and use creativity to come up with something unique and brilliant. Besides, the trust and responsibility you put in your team members will likely make them more motivated and enthusiastic about their work.
Be open-minded to new ideas
Change is inevitable. It is also usually what makes your business progress into the right direction. A good leader should always be able to embrace change and innovation, instead of trying to maintain a status quo.
You don’t hire the very best people for your business just to have them mindlessly do their day-to-day tasks. You want them to be motivated and passionate about what they do and therefore always look for new and creative ideas on how to improve old processes. Try to always encourage this creativity and be open-minded to any new ideas.
Even if you don’t think a specific idea is plausible in your business, never shut your employees down and make them feel silly for bringing it up. Make sure to let your team know how much you appreciate and welcome creativity and innovation.
Admit when you are wrong
This may be a bit of a shocker but even the most successful of business owners are human beings… This means that no matter how good you are at your job, you are prone to make occasional mistakes and that is absolutely normal. However, the worst thing you can do in such a situation is not admitting that you are wrong..
Owning up to your own mistakes does not make you a weak leader. On the contrary, it shows your team that you are confident and positive enough to admit when you get something wrong, say your apologies and move forward learning from it. This will also show your employees a good example – if my boss is not ashamed of admitting their own mistakes, why should I be?
Give credit where it’s due
It’s not uncommon to see someone in a leadership position take credit for the work of others. However, true leaders are always generous with credit. They understand that great accomplishments require many great talents.
Therefore, make sure you don’t forget to show your team appreciation and give them credit for their efforts and hard work. If you are able to, offer some sort of rewards when your team has worked exceptionally well. Recognising your employees’ efforts will make them more motivated and happy with their achievements, knowing that they do not go unnoticed.
If you are not passionate and excited about your business, you cannot expect your team members to be either… If you truly love what you do and care about reaching your goals, you will have genuine enthusiasm for the projects your team is working on. This is the very best way to make everyone around you get excited and motivated about your vision.
There are some simple ways you could adapt this leadership quality, without trying to fake anything. For instance, always show your employees that you care about their progress. Regularly update your team on how they are doing and let them know how much you appreciate their contributions.
While your business may be serious, don’t forget to have fun too. The best leaders know how to build excitement and fun in the most mundane of tasks. This will create a more optimistic and enthusiastic organisational culture, where people are motivated and passionate about their work.
Give direct feedback
Feedback is what helps your team learn, grow and improve. It’s therefore important to not shy away from giving your employees direct feedback on what they’ve been doing right and wrong, what could be improved in the future, etc. If you are not direct, your team will never know what you actually think of their work and where they can still grow. Try to be honest with them and keep your criticism constructive. Additionally, don’t forget to mention their strengths and their skills that you appreciate, instead of just focusing on the negatives.
Giving someone feedback is by no means easy. You may be afraid to accidentally offend someone when pointing out their negatives. However, in most cases your employees will appreciate it and use it for further growth, rather than get hurt by it.
Ask for feedback
Your employees are not the only ones that can benefit from honest feedback. There is no better way to know what leadership skills you need to improve than by asking the people you lead for feedback. It’s not always easy to analyse your own behaviour and recognise your weaknesses without other people’s perceptions. Asking for feedback can significantly help you discover certain areas where you need improvement and develop a plan on how you can acquire these specific skills.
Leadership skills are not some magical gift that you either have or don’t – it’s a lot of practice, lessons and feedback. So, don’t get discouraged if you feel like you are not as strong of a leader as you would like to be. All you need to do is want to improve, be willing to work hard for it and dare to take a risk. Even if you make mistakes on the way, your team will see your efforts and appreciate you trying to become a better leader and mentor for them.