How To Be An Inspiring Leader
So you’re the leader of a team now! Congratulations! Perhaps you’re a brilliant computer programmer, but if you suddenly got promoted to be a manager; you will need an entirely different skill set. Great leaders have good social skills, and they are adaptable. Here are 11 more things you can do to make sure you are the best leader possible.
1. Listen Effectively
Organizations value communication. But some leaders think they “know it all,” because they are the “one in charge,” so they don’t have to listen to their team members. However, this creates a negative atmosphere. Everyone wants their voice to be heard. So when your employees talk to you, lean forward, look into their eyes, nod, and then reflect back what they say to you. For example, if a team member just told you that a customer is angry and she is frustrated and confused about how to deal with him, you can paraphrase back to her and say, “What I hear you telling me is that you don’t know what to say to this customer to make him happy, and you would like my help. Am I correct?” This helps the employee feel valued.
2. Be Honest
Lying or withholding information does not create a productive atmosphere at work. Everyone has an instinctual feeling and knows when they are not being told the truth. So if a leader lies or is not completely forthcoming with vital information, this will make his/her employees uncomfortable. When the team members aren’t comfortable with their leader, their performance decreases. So make sure you are open and honest with every person you lead
3. Have Confidence
Just because you are a person in power does not mean that you always have confidence in fulfilling that role. But remember, if someone hired you to manage other people, they must have faith in you! So have faith in yourself, too! You can do it. It all starts in the mind. Act like a leader. Think like a leader. Treat people with respect, and they will treat you the same. Have a “can-do” attitude. When your team sees your confidence, they will feel safe with you as their leader.
4. Be Direct and Specific With Your Language
Ambiguity does not get the job done. For example, if a team member asks you how to accomplish a task, don’t just say, “Oh I trust you. Do what you feel is best.” Instead, give them specific information. Say something like, “I would be happy to help you. What I would like to see is for you to first get all the sales statistics together. Second, merge them into pie charts, and then when you have that done, please write up a 3 page report and give it to me by Monday. Do you have any questions? And feel free to talk to me any time if you need more support and guidance. My door is always open.”
5. Lead by Example
We’ve all heard the phrase, “You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?” Words are empty. People really do believe your actions over your words. So if you want your team to be superior employees, you need to be a superior leader. If you need them to stay until 8:00 every night for a week to get a project done, you better be there by their side. Employees emulate their leaders much in the same way that children emulate their parents. So make sure your behavior is what you want to see in your team members.
6. Plan Ahead
Procrastination, anxiety and feeling rushed does not make for a productive team. So make sure you look to the future and plan everything ahead of time. While some people can work under pressure, others cannot. Make sure you share the plan of action with your team members and show them the timeline you need to follow to accomplish your projects. When everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them, they feel secure and more willing to get the job done.
7. Inspire Them‒Don’t Force Your Team To Do Things
People do better work when they “own” what they are doing. In other words, when people are forced to do something, they will resist. So it’s important to give positive encouragement to your team. Tell them how important their work is to the project and that you have faith in them. Even if you know it’s a task they won’t enjoy doing, make sure you keep it positive. Also, give them the option of choosing which assignments they feel they are passionate about and capable of doing.
8. Show Appreciation
Doing great work is wonderful, but if someone doesn’t feel valued, then they will not want to continue to give their best effort. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, even in the workplace. So make sure you thank your team members regularly. Thank them for their timeliness, staying late to finish a project, for their creativity, for inspiring other team members, or for winning a contract. Notice and acknowledge all of the accomplishments, both large and small.
9. Be Positive
A great leader creates a healthy and happy team community. The best way to do this is by being positive. Don’t play into negativity. For example, if a team member says, “We’re never going to win over this customer, it’s impossible.” Don’t agree with them. Respond with, “Let’s not get negative about it. Anything can happen. We just need to figure out a way to handle this problem client in the most effective way possible. Let’s have faith about this. I know you can do it. We’re going to help you.” As the leader, your employees look to you for guidance about which direction to aim their emotions.
10. Think About Your Team’s Needs
People are not just employees. They are husbands, wives, daughters, sons, friends, mothers, fathers, etc. In other words, they have a life outside of work. A great leader recognizes this. It will be common for some of your employees to need to take the day off because their child is sick and has to stay home from school. Be compassionate. Acknowledge that they have other life commitments. When they feel like you understand, they will be more likely to give 150% effort when they do come to work.
11. Be Flexible
A sign of a great leader is being able to adapt your leadership style to your individual team members. For example, maybe your team member, John ,needs to be told exactly what to do or else he will accomplish nothing. If that’s the case, you should be more directive and authoritarian with John. However, maybe Jane would be insulted with that kind of style. She performs best when the leader allows her to express her creativity and lets her be self-directed. The best leaders are flexible and adjust their style for each employee.
Bottom line is this: you can be a great leader. You just need to learn how. It’s not difficult, but if you keep these 11 things in mind, you will soar.
About the Author
Dr. Carol Morgan is our Editor and part of our Expert Network. She has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University. But she also wears many other hats. Here are some of her other professional activities: Host of 'A Walk On The WOO Side' radio show on BrainSpeak Radio, motivational expert for the 'Living Dayton' TV show, eHow.com video expert, columnist for BrainSpeak Magazine, and an expert writer for various motivational outlets including The Huffington Post. She is also the author of several books.