When you lead, do others follow? If not, why not?
Guidance to strengthen your business leadership skills – a 5 minute read
Some believe certain people are born leaders. Others think an individual can learn to be a leader. Regardless of how you may feel you obtained your leadership skills, there are always ways to enhance your abilities.
The following article is based on my experience and observations that many individuals have several of the traits set out below; but there are few that carry the full set!
Indeed some of these traits compete in certain situations and as such the ability to lead or show leadership is often a question of how those traits influence behaviour in that situation. Ultimately the most effective leaders are able to emerge from that situation positively and without damage to the wider goals.
Essential trait: Likability
As a leader, your actions set the tone for what is appropriate behavior in the workplace. It is essential that you exhibit actions that you want your team to emulate. In doing so you may establish unwritten rules of conduct and expectations for how staff should behave at work and what actions will not be tolerated. The best way to encourage these specific actions is to correctly and precisely demonstrate these behaviours yourself.
So, how likeable are you? Can you …
- Be generous and share the credit for success? This trait is evident in all great leaders. This subtle empowerment engenders feelings of transparency and integrity.
- Demonstrate the willingness to seek answers from other sources? Such actions show your human side and help you gain the respect of employees and customers alike. Leaders learn to acknowledge different opinions and consider background information to better understand those around them.
- Show emotional awareness? While some may say emotions have no place in the business world, wise leaders strive to be aware of the sensitivities of others and the importance of emotional intelligence.
Emotions usually reveal the deeper, most important and relevant points of personal interactions. It is an important area to explore more deeply.
- Take the time to learn more about your team? Doing so demonstrates that you care about them as human beings and do not consider them just another name on the company payroll. Use the knowledge when appropriate to show you have remembered.
- Show your personality? All leaders have their own style of dealing with people. Share some information about your personal life to help your staff learn about you. Plan a happy hour where business is not discussed and everyone can be themselves. Be true to yourself and show your humour.
- Admit to mistakes? If you make a mistake, do you readily admit to your error? Apologise when needed and admit when you do not have the solution to a problem. When you admit a mistake your employees feel safe admitting their mistakes, instead playing the ‘blame game’. Accepting that individuals make mistakes will create a more cooperative atmosphere in your company.
- Be positive even in the face of adversity? Leaders must demonstrate a commitment to the goals of the company. Show your staff how strongly you believe in the organisational goals and how much you value their contribution to this endeavor. If you want dedicated employees, be dedicated yourself. Don’t hesitate to speak passionately about what you believe in.
These human traits are what make you likeable and likability is a key ingredient in an ability to lead. I fundamentally believe that good leaders are well liked and personality traits en route to being liked are important to understand. Once accepted as a likeable leader it is important not to let yourself down in other areas of leadership. Below I have listed other areas I believe you should aim to excel in.
Communication of the team’s purpose, its goals and the steps that are needed to reach those goals are all key aspects of good communications. Above that you can avoid difficulties by ensuring that your team know they may openly discuss workplace issues with you. Be approachable. Give employees your attention and keep an open mind. Maintain the confidentially of the conversation to build trust. Make a note of what was discussed in meetings and circulate appropriately to avoid misunderstandings. Quickly address any misunderstandings should they arise.
It is easy to be positive when things are going well but a good leader will remain confident when things go wrong. They know how to embrace failures and inspire their team to consider such events as opportunities to learn.
A positive outlook will help your staff remain encouraged and create an overall upbeat environment where people will want to remain. Thinking and acting positive go hand-in-hand.
Let your team know you are open to their ideas. Empower them to take their ideas to the next level by giving positive feedback and constructive advice as warranted. The opportunity to present and try out ideas can lead employees to deeper commitment, enhanced problem-solving abilities and greater productivity. Reward creativity and recognise that these actions help your staff develop their full potential.
Challenge your team
Give your staff new challenges that are within their abilities. Provide constructive feedback as they work on new projects. Learning and mastering new challenges will give your staff a sense of accomplishment. It shows that you have confidence in their skills and value them as part of the organisation. There are many skill learning opportunities on line that can be worked on during working hours.
A confident leader realises there is always more to learn and will turn to a trusted friend or colleague for their opinion of a given issue or to receive feedback on their job performance. Seeking the advice from someone with more experience is not a sign of weakness! It demonstrates a rounded approach adopted by strong leaders who others want to follow.
Further reading in this series