My consulting business keeps me busy with a diverse group of business owners and senior managers who strive to become more effective at leading their organizations. As a college instructor to introductory management students, my curriculum is centered on effective leadership practices. Throughout my career, I have discovered eight consistent traits shared by leaders who inspire people to produce unimaginable results.
Regardless of the size of your organization or number of years you've been in a leadership role, there are things you can do differently to avoid having a weak, ineffective team with minimal unity. Challenge yourself to adopt these eight traits shared by leaders who are effective at inspiring results from those they lead.
1. Make others feel important.
The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to feel important and appreciated. As a leader, you won't ever be completely effective until you can do this. While communicating a shared vision and direction is important, it is equally as critical to develop a relationship with those you lead. How are you inspiring your team to accomplish and achieve excellence?
2. Promote a vision.
A vision is a descriptive picture of where you are leading your team and why it is valuable to them. Over time, the vision becomes a source of energy and excitement that gives meaning to their work. How are you communicating your vision to excite, inspire, motivate and unify your team?
3. Lead to serve.
Simply put, nobody likes to work for a jerk. As a leader, adopt an attitude of service to others. Make it a priority to encourage, support and enable your team to unleash their full potential and abilities. When you treat your employees well, it will inevitably lead to excellent treatment of customers by your employees, and a highly loyal customer base. What are you doing to stay attentive to the growth and development of those you lead?
4. Admit mistakes.
Be real, open and honest to build trust. It is a sign of humility and strength. Many times, our first response when confronting a mistake is to deny it or make up an excuse. We don't want to seem stupid or careless. However, it is important to have the self-confidence and integrity to admit your mistakes. The only way to maintain the trust of those you lead is by learning to do this. A simple apology goes a long way. How do you typically respond when you've made a mistake?
5. Criticize others only in private.
The best advice I received from a manager early on in my career embodies this statement perfectly. This manager always told us how important it was to demonstrate "public support and private criticism." Criticizing an employee in public only embarrasses and alienates everyone. When you do this, you're showing your team that you have a need to feel powerful. You may not realize it, but it's true. When was the last time you were criticized publicly? How did it feel? Next time, stop yourself before you do it to someone else.
6. Stay close to the action.
Talk to people, ask questions and show you care. You cannot effectively lead your team by staying in your office. Talk to those you lead, ask questions and get a sense of what is happening. The more informed you are, the better you'll be able to correct situations and motivate those you lead. What are you doing to actively see and understand what is happening in your operation?
7. Make a game of competition.
Set team goals, and reward those who meet or exceed them. Without goals, you will be stuck in a constant "reactive" mode. Whenever I work with my clients to develop reward and recognition programs, I tell them this: "What doesn't get measured doesn't get done." Involve your team in setting challenging yet achievable goals that support your organization's mission. When these are met, celebrate. What are you doing to reward your team's work achievements?
8. Encourage your employees to have fun while they work.
Despite what a crabby boss or co-worker of the past has told you, studies have proven that happy employees who are having fun show increased productivity, innovation, better decision making and superb team work. Organizations who embrace this also have fewer absences, lower turnover and more profitability. When is the last time you shared a laugh with your team?
Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, professional development and executive coaching for more than 13 years. She brings leadership experience from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, non-profit agencies and insurance.