Great leaders aren’t always found with the title of CEO or manager on their business card.
Anyone can demonstrate leadership qualities.
It’s not about winning a popularity contest. You don’t have to be liked to be respected. It’s about serving and influencing others regardless of their job title in the effort to achieve a certain goal. More than anything, it’s about creating harmony in an environment where people want to work together. This is especially important in today’s flexible workplace, as good leadership is needed in many different environments – in-person, hybrid and virtual.
So, want to know how to be great leader?
Leadership can be a struggle to develop, as there are intrinsic qualities that are tough to cultivate.
But if you’re willing to face the challenge, and follow these guidelines, then you’ll be on the right path to becoming the leader your business needs to succeed, whether your employees are in office, completely online or somewhere in between.
1. Build trust
When it comes to leading a team, you have to be willing to go out on a limb for your employees to show you have their back. Exhibiting a genuine interest in your team’s wellbeing shows you care and are willing to protect them when necessary.
When you build trust, it demonstrates that your own interests and actions will never supersede the goals of the organization or your employees.
How can you build trust?
- Participate in day-to-day activities and make yourself available for questions. This is especially important for a remote workplace, where it’s not as easy to walk down the hall to ask something.
- Make a continuous effort to learn something about each of your employees.
- Be fair and consistent. Employees should be able to anticipate rewards or consequences based on your past actions.
- Involve them in important decisions to show you value their input.
- Recognize an employee’s contribution rather than taking credit for results.
2. Promote an open environment for two-way feedback
Part of the trust-building process is creating an environment where it’s safe to take risks and allows you and your employees to comfortably exchange candid, honest and direct feedback without the fear of being punished.
It’s important you provide ample channels for two-way communication between employees and managers, and also solicit and reward them for their ideas and contributions. This facilitates progress toward reaching organizational goals.
Open the communication channels by:
- Encouraging employees to ask questions, discuss concerns or suggest ways to solve problems. Allow them to express opinions on company decisions or policies.
- Highlighting examples of people who have achieved significant progress toward the company’s goals or performed in a way that supports them.
- Not talking over or dismissing an employee’s viewpoint. All employees, including management and senior leaders, should respect their colleagues’ opinions.
Knowledge is power. That’s why you should ensure that every employee is provided up-to-date information about the organization’s goals, performance successes and failures.
Use email, your company intranet and team meetings to help spread the word. And, whenever there’s a change – good, bad or ugly – update your employees and tell them why it’s happening. And, expect the same from your direct reports.
The points above apply in the same way to remote teams as well. Creating an open environment behind screens isn’t much different in terms of strategy, but it may require a little more intentional work on your behalf to ensure employees don’t have extra roadblocks and feel connected.
This is critical because the longer you or an employee withholds key information, the more it hurts your organization. It prevents you from building trust and an open environment that will develop your team. You’ll earn credibility when you are open to feedback and work toward making changes to fix issues as they arise.
3. Be a coach
One of the main duties of a leader is coaching your employees.
As a leader, you should foster trust and cooperation. Leaders can paint a vision of the future that inspires the team to do whatever it takes to get there.
And as a coach, you have to inspire action that will help execute that goal. Reinforce an honest and candid environment without taking information personally. Equally treat everyone like you would want to be treated.
Give credit where credit is due. Say “thank you,” be encouraging, and try to put yourself in their shoes to better understand their everyday challenges.
Find ways to energize, motivate and show confidence in your team with the belief they can do anything they set their minds to. Take advantage of performance reviews. Use the results of those reviews to provide opportunities for employees to grow and develop specific traits or skills.
Provide coaching and mentoring to build confidence and competence – it’s not a one size fits all approach.
Reinforce positive behavior when employees are accomplishing their goals and objectives. This could be recognition in front of peers and other rewards that don’t cost money, but are meaningful to the employee.
4. Show confidence in your decisions
When you undertake the responsibility of leadership, you have to be comfortable making big decisions and sticking to them.
You can’t be afraid to be decisive and make tough calls when circumstances require it. It’s critical you understand the many facets of an issue and obtain as much information as possible to make an informed decision.
Ensure your choices are not just beneficial to you, but with the organization’s goal in mind. Once a decision has been made, you have to be confident in sharing that information. One of the best strategies is to always communicate the “why” behind the decision.
5. Take responsibility
We’re all human. Mistakes will happen. But it’s not always easy to own up to mistakes and be receptive to feedback and change.
Business growth involves taking risks that don’t always pan out. Be willing to stand up for your employees and their decisions when expectations aren’t met. This will motivate your employees to feel they can accomplish what’s needed to achieve the organization’s goals.
You have to support and assist your team. Give them the confidence to take risks and speak up without being punished. When the mistake is yours, take ownership. Don’t try to blame someone else, the situation or a circumstance.
Be credible – people want to follow an honest leader. Be candid about why things didn’t work out, learn from the mistake and move on. People will trust someone who actively displays honesty.
6. Have a mentor
No matter who you are, it’s always helpful when you have someone to look up to who is experienced with strong leadership capabilities. It makes it a lot easier to see someone perform in action than living by words on paper.
Rarely will someone offer to be your mentor – you’ll likely have to do the courting. It may be someone in your business area, but a great mentor relationship doesn’t necessarily need to be in your same industry.
Identify potential mentors who have similar values, then have casual meetings with them to find the one with whom you have good rapport. Be prepared to explain what you hope to learn, why you value their insight and expertise, and what you bring to the relationship.
When faced with a big decision or obstacle, imagine how your mentor would handle it. Think about what they’ve done to overcome similar situations. This can help point you in the right direction when you find yourself being challenged.
7. Leverage your team
As your business grows, you’ll realize that you can’t be around for every decision, and you won’t be fully qualified to perform in every position.
That’s why it’s crucial to leverage the strengths of your team. This means finding each employee’s strengths, trusting their expertise and making the most of their abilities. Find out what they’re passionate about and help them lead a related project. Empower them to succeed with meaningful work that supports the company’s goals and objectives.
Clear any organizational roadblocks for your team that could limit creativity and innovation. Ask and provide them with what they need to be successful and achieve their work. Don’t get in their way if they’re meeting or exceeding expectations. This is especially important for remote teams. Check in to make sure your remote workers have the resources (equipment, software, support) needed to be innovative in a remote environment.
8. Be flexible
Workplace flexibility is expected of organizations today, but it must also be practiced by leaders. Flexibility isn’t just about not driving into the office, it covers when, where, and how your employees work – and how you respond. Here’s some tips.
- Understand high-level policy changes that promote more workplace flexibility like:
- Hybrid work
- Flexible scheduling
- Access to technology
- Check in with employees to assess individual needs (like stepping out for an hour to pick up a child), and allow them within reason
- Ask employees if there’s a better way to get work done that makes life easier for them
- When you can’t be flexible, again, share the “why,” and address the business needs at hand.
Now you know what it takes to become a great leader. But do you know how to build a more productive workforce? For more tips, download our free guide, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.