Much has been written about what makes a good leader, from articles with common sense advice to findings by large-scale studies. But despite the abundance of information on how to be an effective leader, many people still struggle with leadership. It seems that for a lot of leaders, any attempt to lead only results in being alienated from the group. This is not surprising, considering how easy it is for a leader to lose the trust and cooperation of those he or she leads. There are many ways to improve your leadership skills and become an effective leader, but these are just some of the most important ones.
Lead by example
This is perhaps the most sensible and most useful advice that every leader should follow. It can be argued that being a leader puts you in a position of power. It does not, however, exempt you from the rules. In fact, being a leader only gives your team a reason to expect much from you. As a leader, devote yourself to performing well, abide by standards, and uphold your integrity. Your team will be more motivated if you’re not just a leader in name but also in character. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words, and this can’t be truer in the case of a leader.
Ineffective communication is one of main reasons behind poor leadership. Failing to communicate with the team may also be misconstrued in a way that results in resentment. As a leader, it is your responsibility to clarify your team members’ tasks and facilitate collaboration. Communicating with your team will not only enhance teamwork and increase efficiency, it will also promote rapport and better working relations.
Listen to your followers
Also vital to becoming a good leader is taking the time to sincerely listen to your team. Being a leader means having the power to make crucial decisions and direct the group’s activities. A leader, however, cannot do everything alone. Neither is the leader immune to making mistakes. Your followers have their concerns and suggestions. Ignoring their feedback and depriving them of their right to voice out their opinion can easily lead to the group’s breakdown. So remain open towards your team; be available to them when they need you; let them speak their mind in a mutually respectful environment. You will be surprised with how much improvement you can make by truly listening to your team.
Few things alienate team members more than the feeling that they are not trusted. Some members of your group will not be able to perform at the level of competence that you desire, but this doesn’t mean that you should treat their work with suspicion or be condescending towards them. If you’re finding that some of your followers are having a hard time completing certain tasks, evaluate them for their strengths and weaknesses. Then delegate tasks according to their competencies and trust them to do the job. It is a leader’s job, after all, to ensure that followers’ competencies are compatible with their responsibilities.
Recognize and reward good work
Team members are encouraged to perform better if they feel valued. As a leader, take the time to recognize and reward your follower’s achievements. Numerous studies have shown that acknowledging good work has a positive effect on intrinsic motivation and overall performance. This doesn’t have to come in the form of more compensation. Sometimes a simple feedback congratulating someone should be enough.
Many people see their responsibilities as “just a job.” That is, they may operate under the notion that working is just a matter of performing tasks in exchange for compensation, and they end up giving only the bare minimum. As a leader, you can improve your team’s overall performance by making your members see the value of what they do. Help them recognize the importance of their individual roles and encourage them to take pride in their work. People who treat their work with respect are more likely to perform better than those who regard what they do as “just a job.”
Finally, be a flexible leader. There are various styles of leadership, from permissive styles that give members total freedom to authoritative styles that control all aspects of the team. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages. While you may have your personal leadership style, it’s still best to be flexible by knowing when to let your members work autonomously and when to take the reins. Being a flexible leader will help you apply the strengths of specific leadership styles to appropriate situations. That said, remember to strike a balance between flexibility, firmness, and consistency.
A true leader knows that there’s no end to learning how to be a good leader. It also takes a great deal of concern, empathy, and sincerity to be effective in this position. But knowing the basics of effective leadership is the first step towards knowing how to be a good leader.