Effective leaders are hard to come by. That’s partially why the life coaching industry in the U.S. is worth an estimated $2 billion.
High performers are often hurled into leadership positions and not always with the proper training— as we learned with the Peter Principle. Then, leadership coaches are called in to help the well-meaning leaders get back on track with training important elements of leadership.
Rather than flail in the big seat or wait until an executive coach needs to be emergency dialed, managers should bone up on the habits of genuine leaders. To lead in this day and age, when employees (and Millennials and Gen Xers especially) feel free to hop between jobs if they’re unhappy, leaders must strive to create welcoming, fun, and productive atmospheres.
This starts with effective leadership. The managers of today shouldn’t rally and shout like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross—“Always be closing!” Instead of ruling with fear and testosterone, the effective leaders of today know to mix in softer skills that build truly collaborative environments, where workers feel safe to question and innovate. An effective leader should:
- Build trust. Effective leaders give employees trust first—they have to give it to get it. They are also competent at what they do, inspiring the loyalty of employees. They have perspective to see when a problem is huge or tiny, and respond accordingly, without amping up everyone’s stress levels over a small hiccup.
- Offer transparency. Transparency leads to trust. Inspiring leaders “vision cast” by sharing their larger visions for the company in an accessible story that doubles as a pep talk. They create a challenging but attainable goal, and a timeline to go with it. This enables workers at all levels to understand and get buy-in for why decisions are made. It motivates them to go after the vision and keep everyone aligned toward a shared goal—instead of wandering off into tangents.
- Become a servant leader. No job should be too low for anyone, and those in charge set the tone for the entire office culture. Leaders should spend a day in customer service, for instance, to better empathize with both front-line employees and customers. The best leaders humble themselves as a matter of habit. They put the needs of others before themselves—as we here at Deputy say, “You are second in charge.” Leaders should authentically care about how employees want to advance in their careers, and implement steps to help them get there. It will only help the business to have employees in roles that better suit them.
- Move fearlessly (within reason). While effective leaders should care about their employees’ well-being, that doesn’t mean they should always cater to popular opinion within the office. They should be prepared to trust their instincts and logic to make tough choices, and stand by their ideas even when loyal staff members voice their dissent. Note that this doesn’t mean not to listen—only that, on principle, an effective leader cares more about making the right decision than defaulting to the path of least resistance.
- Be themselves. Employees can smell phoniness from miles away. A leader is better off bringing their full selves to work. If they approach people with vulnerability by revealing hobbies, interests, quirks, and faults, employees will be able to do the same in response. This adds to the virtuous cycle of trust. They should be as kind to a secretary as a potential business partner. And, most importantly, they don’t gossip. Managers might set the tone for a larger gossip culture. Rather than griping about issues behind others’ backs, if a leader or any other worker brings problems straight to the source, it starts a conversation about the gap between reality and expectations. New information can clarify the truth. Instead of getting mad about an employee leaving early, a wise leader might learn that the harried worker had a family emergency. This will open up a pathway of ongoing communication and strengthen the cycle of trust.
- Own their flaws and mistakes. A leader doesn’t have all the answers. After all, that’s why they hire experts and specialists in their respective fields. The effective leader knows when to step back and when they’re out of their wheelhouse. At these points, they rely on the wisdom of their vetted team. And when they do slip up, they own up to their mistakes. It makes their leadership genuine—because it would be a lie if a manager pretended they know everything. It also models how employees should act; everyone should accept their own mistakes to learn from them.
- Work on EQ like a muscle. Effective leaders practice mindfulness and meditation to manage their emotions. They know that reacting rashly in the moment could have severe consequences, so they have the self-awareness to control and direct their feelings. In turn, they develop a keen awareness of others, learning not to take to heart others’ angry flare ups and impulses. With active listening, effective leaders can read the emotions underneath the words, and help their employees to feel heard by acknowledging their feelings. They read fiction because it’s been shown to deepen empathy. They don’t wait until after layoffs happen to be sensitive to the office mood—they come out ahead of the problem and address it head on.
- Respect everyone equally. Even if a leader would never in a million years be friends with one of their employees outside of work, that manager should still show them the same amount of respect as they would an office confidante. In the end, the boss might spend more time with one employee than the other. But both workers deserve to be given the same transparent information about the office and to be given equal opportunities at the office. This goes a long way toward creating an equitable work environment, which builds a strong community on a foundation of trust. If a strong leader ever violates that trust by accident, they aren’t too proud to say they’re sorry.
- Manage work, not people. Strong leaders know how to give direction on work tasks and trust that their workers are skilled and motivated enough to take care of the rest. Micromanagers wear themselves out by getting lost in the details, and lose track of the big picture that they were hired to envision. In the end, it all comes back to trust.
In the end, being the right leader for the job means constantly becoming that leader—by always learning. Management skills aren’t something to check off and complete. They require constant attention, reading, personal self reflection and growth.
Want to learn how you can leverage Deputy to find the lifelong learner who knows how to lead? Try Deputy for free today at Deputy.com or call us at 1-855-6-DEPUTY (855-633-7889).
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