Leadership & Management
How to Be a Good Leader
January 14, 2020
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Everyone has the capacity to be a leader. You don’t have to be the CEO or even a manager to lead. Rather, the best leaders are those who lean into their unique strengths, push themselves to improve, and take meaningful actions to connect with and inspire others. Many think that leadership is an innate skill, but there is no inherent ability embedded in your DNA. Learning how to be a good leader starts with acquiring and practicing certain skills.
Leadership may not come naturally to all, and we won’t all become great leaders, but anyone can practice and improve as a leader. No matter your place in leadership, your age or your seniority, you can learn how to be a good leader. It does, however, take effort, commitment and a willingness to feel uncomfortable and take risks.
Styles of Leadership: It’s Not a Cookie-Cutter Attribute
There are many different leadership styles, and depending on your personality, environment, and background, one style may feel more intuitive. Perhaps you’re naturally dominant and good at getting things done, or tend to be supportive of your peers and good at holding a group together. Whatever your qualities, it’s good to recognize your strengths and lean on them.
Being a good leader, however, also means getting out of your comfort zone. You shouldn’t necessarily choose the easiest style, or the one that comes most naturally to you. Instead, work to inhabit the style that will be the best fit for your goals and the group you want to lead. Adapt to fit the needs of your team, even (and perhaps especially) if it’s uncomfortable.
When leaders are successful, it’s often because of their focus on impact. Impact is, in most cases, more powerful than ideas. You can enhance your impact as a leader by staying focused on the big picture, deeply understanding your organizations’ customers and measuring your team’s performance.
Good Leaders Cultivate Resilience
At RallyBright we’ve observed and collected data on hundreds of teams in our quest to become experts on team leadership and performance. We’ve found that those who are exceptional leaders cultivate resilient teams. Specifically, they help their teams build the five specific capacities of resilience.
We define resilience as engaging with opportunity, persisting through challenges, recovering from setbacks and learning from these experiences. Within team resilience, we identify the following five dimensions:
- Direction: Vision, purpose and behaviors
- Connection: Mutual investment and healthy communication that instills trust
- Alignment: Customer focus, both internally and externally
- Performance: Accountability and consistency
- Attitude: A growth mindset and optimistic perspective
So if you want to be a stronger leader, think of steps you could take to help your team build these pillars of resilience. For example, do you need to talk more openly and regularly as a team about your team purpose or what your customers’ challenges are? If so, fold these topics into your weekly or monthly team meetings. Do you have the right processes in place as a team to drive accountability? If not, align on what they are – a simple shared spreadsheet can work wonders – and get going.
Leadership Tips: Honing Your Skills and Taking Action
Being a good leader has nothing to do with power. It has everything to do with how you treat yourself and others. Consider these leadership tips as you develop.
Empathy is one of the most important things in the workplace, yet it’s not widely found. When you empathize with others, including employees and customers, it shows you care on a human level and allows you to see their perspective.
Manage Your Emotions
Managing your emotions doesn’t mean holding them inside until you blow. Emotions are linked to energy. As you ebb and flow through the day, your energy does as well. Managing how you react and feel about every interaction allows you to manage your energy, too.
Be a Great Communicator
Are you a good communicator? You can always get better. But being an outstanding communicator is more about listening than speaking. Work on how you listen and how you respond.
Mentor Don’t Preach
Your peers, team and others will have much more respect for you if you guide them versus yelling at them for not meeting your expectations.
Be Flexible and Trust Your Team
Micromanaging is not good leadership. Fostering freedom and flexibility lets your team know you trust them and will get out of their way so they can keep moving.
Are You Investing in Leadership Development?
Learning how to be a good leader shouldn’t be a solo endeavor. While many organizations say it’s essential to develop leaders at all levels, as many as three out of five executives fail to meet the goals they were hired to achieve within 18 months of taking the job. Furthermore, many leaders are still unsure of the real positive impact of leadership development.
This disconnect in organizations could actually be damaging the evolution of leadership. In many cases, when decision-makers don’t see a clear return on investment, it’s because they don’t have the right tools, resources or structure.
The bottom line is that without impactful leadership at every level, high performance and engagement could be elusive. These elements are critical to a company’s ability to survive and thrive.
The evidence strongly suggests that it’s time to try something new, and to invest more seriously in leadership development. This is no longer a “nice-to-have,” if it ever was; it’s now a critical part of any company’s growth strategy, and should be treated as such.