We hear a lot about leadership in business, but it’s often portrayed as one set of characteristics that you either have or don’t have. There are many different types of leaders that get different types of results from the people who follow them. Also, there are some people who become good leaders through practice and study. We have outlined five attributes that can be adopted by anyone to improve his or her ability to lead effectively.
One of the most crucial things you can do for your business is have a vision for your company and inspire your employees with that vision. People will follow you for one of two reasons, out of obligation or because of conversion to your vision. Conversion is the best way to motivate anyone. People do things because they want to, not because they have to.
Company goals come easily after this. Once you have drawn a path for them from where you are to the end result, or the vision, it’s easy to start making goals. Advocate for your vision and communicate it clearly and often. Set challenging (but doable) goals that align with your business’s purpose and motivate employees to really invest themselves in the same vision.
Steve Jobs was the master of this leadership attribute. He made it clear that Apple was created to innovate and change the world, and anyone who wasn’t there for that same purpose could leave. Revenue was not the first motivating factor for Jobs or his employees. Instead, people invested themselves in Jobs’ vision of doing amazing things, and then made that vision come true.
Many modern CEO’s have an “open door policy,” meaning that they don’t sequester themselves on the top floor of some office building and detach from their workers. While it may not be possible to connect to everyone every day, it’s important to stay connected and as available as possible. Communication can’t happen unless you are there and your employees are comfortable enough to approach you.
When interacting with employees, remember that communication is meant to be two-way. Sometimes you’ll need to be the one talking, setting clear expectations, giving honest and constructive feedback, or interfering when absolutely necessary. However, many other times it would be better to talk less and listen more. Be open to hearing people’s ideas, receiving feedback, and learning from others. You hired your talent for a reason, use their skills and ideas to grow value.
Make sure communication within your company is efficient and drives results. Meetings should be only as long as necessary, concise, and effective. Find the balance between being open and efficient to reduce employee frustration, disengagement, and wasted time. A new trend in meetings is daily “standups,” which can be held standing up or sitting down, but the title implies that the meeting should be very brief and involve only short updates from each employee.
Technology is carrying the world on a rapid river of innovation and change. Any company who resists the current will eventually get swept away. Stay up-to-date on changes in your industry and make a point of constantly educating yourself on the latest trends in your field so you and your company never fall behind. Young people have a special talent for this, so be willing to give them some time. They tend to have their ears on the ground, listening for what’s coming next.
Much like in parenting, your employees will model your behavior. You are their leader, they look to you to know what is acceptable in the culture of your office. If you are honest, hard-working and kind, they will lean toward those characteristics as well. If you show little care for your work and treat them with disrespect, they will become less productive and will not respect you.
Take ownership of your mistakes. Don’t pass the blame or make excuses, lead the way by admitting your errors. Just because you are a leader does not mean you don’t have weaknesses or that you must hide your weaknesses. Apologize without hesitating when you mess up and you will gain more respect.
Being a leader doesn’t make you all-knowing, either. Admit when you don’t know every answer. You’re not always going to be right! Don’t be afraid to admit that you are human just like everyone else. That being said, forgive mistakes just like you would want employees to forgive yours. These acts of humility will spread throughout your company if you set the example.
A lack of positive feedback can be discouraging for employees. It may seem that you are coddling them, but imagine never knowing if your hard work was done right or done well. Too much praise can become insincere and ineffectual, but honest and well placed praise is a great way to keep up confidence and overall morale.
Being a leader can be challenging. You are facing high stakes decisions every day, some involving a lot of money and investment. But without your employees doing their best work, you are doomed to fail no matter how hard you work. Show them respect and lead by example and you will get the most out of all your people.