Every day I try to be the leader that I would follow. I constantly try to improve my leadership skills and if I realize there’s something that I’m missing or something I need to improve on, I write it down and begin finding ways to develop that skill. I use my own leadership model to do so, try it out for yourself. As I develop my skills I periodically stop to think to see if what I’m doing as a leader is working, or effective.
I asked myself earlier a few weeks ago what were 5 things in the last year that have made me become a more effective leader. After a few days I think I have finally answered my own question…so, here are 5 things I believe contribute to me being an improved leader.
Understanding the difference between being a manager and being a leader. Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “You manage things, you lead people.” I believe this to be a highly valuable thing to understand and know. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. People need to be led and things need to be managed. Knowing the difference is one thing, but understanding it takes you to another level. People require leadership and processes require a manager. Understand it.
Having humility. It’s okay to be wrong, it’s okay to not know all of the answers. It’s very acceptable to be wrong. There’s a huge stigma that mistakes are bad. They’re not. Careless mistakes are, but an honest mistake, though could impact the team, is just another bump in the road. Leaders are not leaders because they have all of the answers. When your team sees that you’re honest about not knowing all of the answers, you will gain more respect and trust and trust is a very important element in teamwork. If you do make a mistake, own it and overcome it. It’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes, it’s okay for others to see it as well. Have some humility in what you do.
Communicating clearly. Communication is a very hard skill to master. For someone to put thoughts or an idea into words, or better yet, action, it can be quite difficult if you don’t understand how each member of your team listens or learns. To clearly get your objectives across to your team can be very delicate. Make sure you take time to get the correct words down before you speak your objectives/tasks/ideas, etc. The precision of your communication can make or break the success of your team. And always make sure that your team members know to ask questions if they don’t clearly understand the objective. That is also another part of communication. It’s a two way street. Ensure you communicate clearly and ensure your team knows how to seek answers from you by asking. Listening and hearing are two different things. Listening is an audible action, hearing what’s said is the process of information into a structured concept. Communicate clearly so that your point is heard.
Empowering team members. It’s important for leaders to empower their teammates to make decisions as they see fit. Empowering people often encourages them to do things as needed instead of waiting for someone to tell them what to do. If people feel empowered they feel a sense of purpose in the organization or team. As a leader it’s not always your job to make every single call. Your job is to foster an environment of positive growth and to also create other leaders. I believe in order to grow more leaders we must empower them.
Engaging your team. Nothing disconnects a leader from the team more as to when the leader is not engaged with the team. It doesn’t mean you have to be in the room every minute of every day, but team members must be able to look next to them and see their leader standing with them. If your team is getting their hands dirty, you should be getting your hands dirty as well. A leader doesn’t sit behind a desk all day, they don’t watch from afar, they are standing with their teammates. If you’re the leader of the team, be with the team, but more importantly, engage with them.