It’s tough being an effective leader. It looks a lot easier from the outside than it does once you’re sitting in the leadership chair.
We expect our leaders to make the right decisions, foresee much of the future, be calm in the face of adversity, never lose their temper, continually motivate staff, appease disgruntled customers and have excellent interpersonal communication skills every single day. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
People are not born with innate leadership skills. They develop these skills over a period of time. For the vast majority of us, being thrust into the leadership role can be a real challenge. Feelings of uncertainty and insecurity are not uncommon.
The good news is that you can improve your leadership skills by following a common sense, step by step process.
The first thing we need to do is work out: What is an effective leader? The following are effective leadership characteristics that the experts tend to agree on.
Five Characteristics of an effective leader:
Role Models – Good leaders understand that their attitudes and behaviours set the tone and culture of their workplace. Like it or not your attitudes and behaviours are often copied in the workplace by your staff. If you scream a lot when you’re frustrated then don’t be surprised if you catch your managers screaming at their staff when they’re frustrated. If you’re dismissive of your customers then don’t be surprised if your staff show the same unconcern towards the people who provide your income. Effective leaders are aware of their behaviours and make a big effort to behave in ways that will bring out the best in their people.
Never belittle staff – Effective leaders always treat their staff with dignity and respect. They are never condescending or demeaning even when their staff fail to perform. If an individual is failing to perform there are many things you can do to rectify the situation – belittling them is not one of them. At the end of the day your staff run your company. You may make the big decisions but they do all the implementing. They manage your accounts, look after your clients, make sales and represent your business every day. To disrespect your staff is tantamount to a general belittling his troops before a battle.
Good listeners – This is not as easy as it may sound. Effective listening requires that you move out of your comfort zones. It is, of course, easy to listen to things that you agree with but the true test of a good leader is to listen to things that you don’t like or make you feel uncomfortable. As a leader you must develop the capacity to patiently listen to all sides of an argument carefully before making a decision.
Know when to take responsibility and when to praise others – A good leader will take responsibility when things go wrong and praise their staff when things go right even though that may not entirely reflect reality. The least effective leaders blame others when things go wrong and always take the credit when things go right. Constantly blaming others for failures will also promulgate a culture of blame within your organization, which is the last thing you need. Giving credit to others when things go right is an amazingly powerful motivational tool for your staff and it’s entirely free. Taking responsibility when things go wrong will earn you a great deal of respect.
Never stops learning – A good leader is always looking for new ideas and new ways of doing things. Given the rate of change and the disruptive nature of new technology it is essential that you make time to keep abreast of changes that may impact upon your business. This includes new technologies, new operational models as well as new players in the market. An effective leader will keep a close eye on the competition with a view to adopting good ideas.