A leader is not necessarily a boss, though most great leaders are bosses. A boss can be anyone who manages the work and behavior of others for pay. Becoming a great leader is just an extension of that. It’s the ability to attract, influence, and motivate employees in such a way that they will collectively perform at their highest levels.
Being a good boss means being able to make decisions that affect your team while being fair and understanding how those decisions will impact them. Being a great leader means managing your emotions during stressful times, listening to your team’s viewpoint on issues, communicating well with everyone involved, and encouraging them at every opportunity.
Here is some practical advice to become a great leader:
1. Understand what makes a good leader
A good leader needs to have the ability to make decisions and take action. You need to know when she should lead, when she should follow, and remain silent. You must also be able to communicate with your team in both written and oral form so that everyone is on the same page about each issue that comes up.
2. Be clear on your company’s vision, mission, and values
If you don’t know where you want to go, how can you expect your employees to get there? Your vision is what guides your business as a whole and helps make sure every employee knows what they do individually. Your mission is specific goals that help move you closer to that vision, while your values are core beliefs that guide decision-making in any situation. This includes everything from how employees interact with one another at work to how customers are treated outside of it. Your company likely has these already in place. Now it’s time for you to determine their effectiveness from an employee standpoint.
3. Be a great leader, not a great boss.
It’s easy to confuse the two. To simply be a boss means getting your employees to do what they’re supposed to when they’re supposed to. This isn’t always enough for them to give their best work. As a leader, you want them to take ownership of specific tasks and problems as well. Tell them how you want something done and allow the freedom for them to make it happen in their own way.
4. Be understanding and open-minded in all aspects of your business
This is where authentic leadership shows itself. You must be willing to listen to employee concerns and understand that they have problems of their own that could affect how they do their job on any given day. Showing you care by asking about these issues will go a long way toward making sure everyone stays motivated and happy at work, which will ultimately improve your company’s overall success rate.
5. Be willing to fail sometimes when it comes to making decisions
A great leader knows when to take action and when not to. Sometimes, that means deciding without all of the necessary information or input, even if it seems like a significant risk. That’s because sometimes, you need to do something quickly in order to make sure you’re making progress in the direction you want your company to go.
As long as you know what the consequences of failure are and have communicated them clearly with your team, then go for it!
6. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong about something
Being a great leader means accepting when you are wrong and communicating that effectively with your team. It also means admitting that you don’t have the answers for everything, which is why it’s vital that team members feel comfortable asking questions and suggesting solutions as well.
You’ll never grow personally or professionally if everyone feels afraid to speak up and express their opinions. After all, no one expects leaders to have all of the answers. They expect them to be able to find them out when needed.
7. Make sure employees know how they can help you succeed
As a great leader, you will help your teammates reach their full potential by providing opportunities for growth through education and training programs at work and outside of it via seminars, classes, and networking groups. These can be explicitly dedicated to helping people in leadership positions learn more about leading teams well or furthering their careers individually in some way.
You will also need to regularly take time during meetings with your team members to ask questions and get clear answers about any issue so that you can grow your leadership skills and everyone else on the team.
8. Show employees how much they mean to your business by showing them how much they mean to you as individuals
Your employees are your most valuable assets, and they’ll feel as such when you make them feel valued. That means letting them know that you’re thankful for their work, listening to their thoughts on improving the company, and making a point of getting to know them personally. It also includes giving praise for good work and holding people accountable when they fall short of expectations.
9. Communicate your vision clearly
You can tell a lot about a leader by observing his communication style. If they can’t clearly communicate their goals with their team, then it might be time to reevaluate how well they communicate with everyone involved with the business in general.
This includes customers, vendors, and more. When your employees understand where the company is headed and why, it makes it easier for them to contribute what they do best toward its success. They also feel better about working at your company because they know exactly what you expect from them and how important their roles are in relation to the overall goal of the company’s success.
This doesn’t mean everything has to be spelled out in detail or presented in PowerPoint slides — just that employees are given sufficient information so that they can understand what you want from them on an individual level (i.e., “I need this by this date; here’s why I need it; here is how I will measure its success”) and not so much that you overwhelm them with details (i.e., “This is the top priority; don’t worry about anything else until it is complete; this is my vision for these specific tasks moving forward).
10. Be fair but firm — even if you hate conflict or negative feedback
No matter how much you want to be liked by everyone, it’s essential to keep your cool when problems arise and decide on the spot. Evaluate each situation calmly but with an open mind, and make a decision that you can stand behind — even if it means firing or letting go of an employee. Keep in mind that being a good leader is all about fairness and consistency. If you don’t appreciate negative feedback yourself, at least give your employees time to fix any issues they may have before addressing them head-on.
Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time to learn what works and what doesn’t, which means you should start by trying out some of the tips above on your own at home. Observe how others react to your behavior and then practice different techniques until you find one that works with your personality.
If you’re a manager or CEO who wants to develop your leadership skills, there are plenty of online courses and resources. If you have a specific goal in mind, such as developing your emotional intelligence or getting better at maintaining relationships with employees, start by searching for courses that align with those topics.