Being a leader at all is not an easy task, let alone being a great one. You might recall your distant school days when you grudgingly accepted leading a school project. Well, who can blame you?
Being a leader means shouldering the responsibility of directing your group members who are motivationally challenged and have different personalities from yours, culminating in the likelihood of being blamed if something goes awry. Fast forward to the present day, and little has changed on the challenges a leader must face every day.
However, you might know some leaders who are pretty good at their job. You recognize them as such, because working with these kinds of people brings the best out of you, and you wouldn’t hesitate to follow their decisions to the dot, because you know they know what they’re doing, and you have a gut feeling your team is sure to succeed. Here, we’ll dissect what it takes to be a better leader in the workplace.
Basic qualities of a good leader
Whether they’re appointed, elected, or just worked their way up the ranks, there are certain qualities that elevate good leaders over their coworkers. These qualities and skills can either be inherent, or learned from experience.
#1 Charisma. Charisma is the classic trait that sways people’s opinions toward your own. It may be good looks, a charming personality, or superb oratory skills–whatever the case, these traits are able to convince the most stubborn opposition to work toward a common goal.
Charisma could be considered a talent, but it could also be cultivated by bearing oneself properly. Charisma is a good foundation for good leadership, but one must not rely on it alone.
#2 Knowledge and expertise. One of the main reasons why leaders are chosen above their peers is their deeper knowledge in their particular field. This knowledge and experience will help them make better decisions and tackle problems that might arise.
#3 People skills. Being a leader, stripped to its most rudimentary form, is simply dealing with people. The people you are bound to lead are most likely different in terms of skill, personality, and opinion. Leaders should have a complete grasp of dealing with people and their idiosyncrasies, as they must make sure everyone involved works toward a common objective.
How to become a better leader at work
Being a leader in the workplace can be more complicated than leading a country or an army, in that there is no absolute power to compel their cooperation; instead, you are faced with the difficult task of winning their respect in order to get things going.
#1 Adopt a fair perspective regarding your coworkers. Think of being a leader as more of a responsibility than a position of power. You may be a boss, but you should not boss people around. Instead, lead by example. Always remember that they are working WITH you rather than FOR you, as you are also an employee of a bigger organization.
Do not think of your staff and your position as a mere stepping stone in your climb up the ranks; instead, think of them as your team. Keeping this frame of mind keeps them motivated and loyal.
#2 Actively listen to your people. This means taking time out of your schedule and making yourself available for a little catch-up with the people who work under your leadership. Active listening not only cultivates openness and approachability in the workplace, but allows you to know your people better by getting a peek into their ideas, rants, and frustrations.
#3 Give credit and express gratitude. Acknowledging good work by praising and giving your team due credit is the ultimate morale booster for any workplace. Doing this ensures that you make your people feel appreciated and that you and the organization you represent highly value their hard work, which in turn makes them more committed to the team and motivated to continue performing well.
#4 Know their role and get involved in their work. This is where leading by example takes form. As a leader, you are expected to provide insight and guidance in situations where they lack the know-how to proceed with a task. So, it is a good call to get to know their individual jobs and take a hands-on approach to leadership.
However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll micromanage every detail of the job. The idea is for you to show your presence and give proper direction when the need arises.
#5 Ask for solutions, not excuses. Mistakes and screw-ups are pretty unavoidable in any workplace. As a leader, you should cultivate a sense of responsibility by giving your people free rein in troubleshooting problems and challenges.
Instead of allowing them to make excuses and blame others for a failed task, it will benefit the whole team if a solution to the problem is put forward.
#6 Acknowledge your own mistakes. Even leaders are not infallible to committing mistakes in the workplace. When such a situation arises, learn to acknowledge and take responsibility for your own mistakes, instead of placing the blame on someone else.
It could be as simple as an apology for an unintentional remark, or taking full responsibility for the outcome of poor decision-making. Remember that, as a leader, the actions of your people will reflect your own skills as a leader.
#7 Make it a habit to analyze and strategize as a team. Keeping everyone in the loop is not only proper business practice, but it has a side effect of letting your people know that you value their opinion in decision-making. Make sure that you communicate regularly and clearly, and include members of your team who will be directly affected by future plans.
#8 Hire for potential, but promote for skill. It has been emphasized that people are the greatest asset of any enterprise. As a leader who is in charge of setting up a team and managing them, it is important that you recognize the people who have the actual skills and potential to be an effective member of a team.
Most organizational problems arise from placing the wrong people in the wrong roles, and good leaders are able to hire people not to fulfill a favor or superficial qualities, but for their solid skill and experience.
#9 Celebrate success as a team. If your team manages to successfully deliver a project with good feedback or manages to exceed your target ahead of schedule, a little celebration will be good to acknowledge a job well done. However, you should do it as a team.
Do not celebrate by sending your people to the local pub on their own, or leave them with overtime while you sip champagne with the top brass. You could celebrate with a simple beer and pizza night after work, or a team lunch.
#10 Add a human touch to everything you do. By keeping your feet on the ground, you establish a sense of equality within the team, and make yourself more approachable for ideas and suggestions. Start meetings with a little personal story, something like how your pet dog got rushed to the vet the other night or a goofy recap of the last episode of The Walking Dead.
This will put your team at ease and lighten the mood. Also learn to use humor to your advantage, and learn to share a laugh with the people you work with. A happy workplace always produces the best results.
Striving to become a good leader is a lifelong quest that is practiced through trial and error. However, like all leadership training talks say, improving your leadership skills doesn’t require you to undergo long hours of rigorous training, but can be achieved by simple gestures alone. Your success as a leader is based upon your flexibility and adaptability both with regard to the team and yourself.