Leadership: a 10 letter word that has been interpreted in so many different ways throughout the ages that makes it nearly impossible to establish what an effective leader is. Let’s start from the beginning, though, according to the definition in the dictionary, leadership is:
The definition from the business dictionary, however, goes a step further into the concept to say that:
Leadership involves: establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision, and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.
They continue to say that leadership, unlike management, can’t be taught. Even though there’s no such thing as a “leadership school” to teach the “do’s and dont’s” in leadership, it’s an ability that may be learned and enhanced through specialized mentoring/coaching.
That’s why we’ve decided to gather and bring to you these comprehensive tips to help you take the right steps on the path towards becoming an effective leader.
How to become an effective leader?
]Leadership is all about people, it’s about steering a team towards a common goal. As sad as this may sound, many businesspeople couldn’t care less about managing people. They’re interested in creating awesome products/services, getting out there to find great opportunities and meet customers.
Managing people is a ‘necessary evil’, though. Entrepreneurs will undeniable face this challenge, unless they decide to hire something else to take on this task. As we’ve mentioned above, a leader can’t be ‘created’.
Some leadership skills, as mentioned by numerous authors, are innate. It’s not all black and white, though. It’s not a matter of whether you have what it takes or you don’t.
Good leaders are the ones that identify they have the basic set of skills necessary for leading a group of people towards a common goal. Even though they’re natural leaders, everyone can be trained and improved to become the most effective leader he/she can possibly be.
That’s why some entrepreneurs decide to hire someone else to be responsible for the endeavor of managing their company’s people. They may be brilliant engineers, designers and administrators and still fail at managing people.
The important thing is that they admit that and put a person with the characteristics of an effective leader in charge to make sure people will be well managed and kept happy and productive. Without further ado, let’s go through a few steps to go from being a good leader to being a great, effective one.
5 steps to becoming an effective leader
Know your team
Leadership is, first and foremost, a “people’s” job. How could you possibly think of being an effective leader if you haven’t even bothered to get to know your team? Before you can find the best way to talk to them you must absolutely get to know them.
Each person is unique on both personal and professional aspects. Take your time to learn more about who your team members are, what are their interests, what are their talents, etc.
One of the things that separate an average leader from a great one is the ability to care about their people and take care of them. It’s a direct correlation. The more you take care of them, the more motivated they’ll be to take care of your products, customers and ultimately help your company achieve its mission.
Lead by example
More often than not we see leaders that adopt the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. Whether they do that intentionally or not, that’s extremely harmful to their capability as a leader.
How can any leader expect that their people follow them if not even himself is doing what he preaches? Instead of coaxing their team members to do what they want, effective leaders promote a collaborative work environment in which people are free to make suggestions, propose improvements, etc.
The most effective leaders are not the ones that control people to make them do what they want. They’re the ones that communicate with their team members, let them know all the available choices and get everyone engaged.
Make sure each of your team members has the necessary autonomy and resources to take ownership of their tasks and they’ll be comfortable working without depending on you sooner than you know it.
On your personal life, do you like people that say things like they are objectively or do you prefer the ones that go round and round in circles before they get to the point? Unless you have very uncommon preferences, I’m guessing the first option is the right one.
Radical Candor really just means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you’re saying it to. Why is it so rare that such a simple thing feels radical?
Putting it in other words, it means going straight to the point about any subject (even criticism) while caring for the other person’s feeling. There’s a very fine line that separates honesty from rudeness. The effective leader never goes beyond that line.
Being straightforward and sincere is not the same as being rude. As a leader you have to be prepared to tell people what you really think of their work so they can feel recognized or even know what to improve in case of constructive feedback.
By adopting this management rule you’ll be working towards implementing a culture that allows people to speak their mind freely and encourages them to share their thoughts on their colleague’s actions without fear. Learn them to provide constructive feedback instead of rude criticism and you’ll be halfway through the ideal communication level.
Talk to your team
Being a “people’s job”, leadership is a great deal about communication. If you’re in a position of leading a group of people (whether it’s you and a colleague or a team of over 50) you must know that, in other to be respected as a leader you must work towards developing a mutual sense of understanding and trust.
That’s exactly what you read. Mutual.
Your people must trust and understand you as much as you do them. In order to do that, however, leaders must learn how to connect.
I know it sounds even silly to say that but the more connected our digital society becomes, the less able to properly connect and communicate we become.
We’re so constantly ‘hidden’ behind our digital gadgets that we’re actually losing our ability to connect personally. Research shows that a humane, effective leader must be compassionate, positive, humble and empathetic towards their team members’ feelings.
The best leaders are able to build genuine personal connections to their teammates. Only after the bond is created is that the necessary trust for building a strong culture can exist. Where there’s trust there’s truth and honesty, and that’s the absolute best path towards excellency in performance.
Listen to your team
Communication is a two-way street. I’m pretty sure you heard that before. Now that we went over how important it is to build your team’s trust and learn how to talk to them, it’s time we look from the other perspective and tell you how important it is that you listen to them.
As we mentioned on the ‘be direct’ portion of this article, it’s important that you as a leader realize that they’re not the only ones that can benefit from honest feedback, you can too.
Being open to listen to other people’s opinions and assessments of your leadership is a lot harder on some than it is on others. Self-assessing your own work without any type of bias is close to impossible, that’s why you must value each feedback you get from your team members and other fellow professionals.
Seeing things from your own perspective may not be enough to really see things as they are. Talking to other people (friends, leaders, employees) often broadens your horizons and gives you the necessary perspective to explore areas that need improvement.
Want to improve the way you manage your team?
As we already established, being an effective leader is not an easy job. It can get a little easier if you have the right set of tools to help you manage their activities.
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