Leadership 101: Key Steps to Becoming a Successful and Respected Business Leader
Aspiration to leadership is not an uncommon trait. We all grow up wanting to be captain of the team, head of our class or the center of our social circle. In business, leadership often becomes a measure of success in part because it’s typically the leaders who receive accolades and additional compensation. However, we all recognize that it takes incredible skill to lead – even more so to lead effectively. To manage an effective team while gaining and maintaining the respect of our employees is the highest aspiration. Here are a few steps to help you achieve that goal.
1. Lead by example.
Whether in business or our personal lives, no one likes a hypocrite. Unfortunately, for many people the prevailing attitude is often “do as I say, not as I do.” This is a surefire way to lose the respect of employees and foster resentment. What’s more, this attitude will eventually set your business behind, and keep you from achieving the level of success that you’d like. If you want the respect of your employees, avoid assigning them any tasks that you would be unwilling to take on yourself. You shouldn’t adopt an attitude that they are in the trenches and you are standing by watching. Don’t hesitate to jump in and help. At the same time, don’t hold employees to a higher standard than you hold yourself.
2. Recognize the value of your employees.
As a leader in your business, your value to the company or a team can and should go relatively unsaid. When there are achievements or new advancements, don’t hog the credit. Understand that any group achievement is reliant on employee productivity – their ideas and their strong execution of a strategy. If you want to be respected by your employees, don’t pretend that you did everything, or adopt an air of having been critical to the team’s success. Recognize what other people did well, and make sure that they know you recognize their talents and hard work. Take note, this step is useless without that last part – being thankful or appreciative means nothing if you don’t express it directly to employees.
3. Take time to listen.
From the outside, many people think that leadership is all about talking – dictating and giving orders. The truth is that it’s even more about listening. If you’re going to have the respect of your team, employees need to know that they are heard. This is why many companies advertise a so-called “open-door” policy. It’s important to morale that you listen to their ideas, that they have the ability to improve operations and help the team achieve even more.
4. Be accommodating whenever possible.
Employees sometimes require flexibility. Some work better under certain circumstances. When they bring ideas or requests to you, look for ways to say “yes” rather than reasons to say “no.” Eventually, this attitude will become the prevailing thought proces throughout your whole team or company, so try to take the positive approach. Otherwise, pretty soon employees will be looking for ways to cut corners or avoid doing work, rather than completing tasks more effectively or efficiently than you even hoped.
5. Offer abundant opportunities for advancement.
Everyone has ambitions; stifling or hindering the goals of employees will serve only to foster their resentment – and it will be well-earned. As a leader in your business, a critical part of your role is to cultivate an environment that allows employees to hone their skills, advance themselves, and enjoy the increased compensation and added benefits that come with more responsibilities. Failure to grant employees these opportunities will leave them feeling stifled in their own growth.
Leadership is a complex function in any organization. It requires not only abundant understanding of operations and numerous technical issues, but also of psychology and how to motivate or recognize your employees. In many cases, it means knowing when to be good cop and when to be bad cop. On the whole, being a leader can be very rewarding if you do it well. Your company or team can go on to accomplish a lot, and you can enjoy respect of employees and co-workers. You can give employees opportunities to grow and advance, while also advancing your own career. If you want to be a more successful leader, respected by your employees and partners, be sure to follow these steps above.
Steven McMeechan is a strategic marketing and communications specialist with over twenty years’ experience in senior marketing management roles across a range of industries including Information Technology and Financial Services. He works for Capstone Financial Planning and lives in Melbourne Australia.