Leadership takes practice—and here are 3 things you can do today to be a better leader
If you have ever needed to work with—and through—others to accomplish an important goal, then you know how important leadership skills are to your success.
Drawing from my own experience running a business for the last 18 years, and observations I have made throughout my career in human resources, it is my conclusion that while “natural-born leaders” do exist, they are few and far between.
I also believe that leadership is a virtue. Virtues are characteristics valued by our society because they promote both individual and collective well-being, and thus are “good” by definition.
My experience in Leadership Cleveland (Class of 2003) taught me that leaders are not somehow anointed by the “powers that be”, but rather, they are self-appointed. They stand up and take charge of a situation. Then they become acknowledged by others to be leaders.
To be an effective leader you must display leadership qualities that other people want to emulate, and follow.
Getting the most out of your people requires thoughtfulness, an open-mind, and a willingness to approach challenges with a trial and error approach. Over time, every leader creates his or her special style that is reflected in the organization.
Yet there are three fundamental characteristics that all good leaders have in common
1. A good leader sets the example for behavior.
Your job is to establish the culture and the environment for your company (or business unit). You need to show by example the way that people (vendors, peers, associates, and customers alike) should be treated and the way objectives should be pursued. Your standard is the one your people follow.
2. A good leader is attentive to the needs of his or her people.
Your people have needs, and you need to be on the lookout for what only you can provide them to improve their skills and their performance, whether it is in the form of: compensation, recognition, appreciation, mentoring, and/or discipline.
3. A good leader is open to suggestions and ideas.
If you have employees who have ideas that you have tried once but failed, you can show how you trust them by listening and letting them make mistakes, too. We all make mistakes, and as long as we learn from them, we can only get better.
People need to know, most of all, that their leader trusts them.
If you don’t show your trust, your best employees will leave you because they feel stifled, and they know they can do better elsewhere. This leaves you with the mediocre employees who will stay on because they are accustomed to being micromanaged anyway.
If leadership is a virtue, then ineffective leadership is a vice which is typified by micromanagement.
Based on all my experience in business, and as an HR Professional for my entire career, the number one thing you should avoid at all costs is to be a micromanager because it is the antithesis of good leadership.
Being a micromanager means you are doing the work that you’ve hired your employees to do. It means you are doing their work for them (while neglecting your own), or supervising them to the extent that you might as well be doing it yourself.
No one likes to be second-guessed and no one likes to be shown how to do the job they were hired to do. It is unfortunate that many otherwise-savvy executives second-guess their people all the time, and they’re not even aware of this destructive behavior.
While unproductive leaders may achieve a modicum of job security, it comes at the price of an unhealthy, unhappy organization.
If you are in a leadership role right now, or you desire to excel in a leadership role, I hope that this provides an insight that will help you
- Set the tone for your organization
- Be attentive to the needs of your people
- Be open to ideas and suggestions, and thereby become a better leader.