Whether you call a country to arms, persuade a group of toddlers to sleep or re-brand a company, effective leadership is key. Should we use an iron fist? Or should we give everyone a “you tried” medal? Should we behead deviants? (No.) Whatever leadership role you find yourself in, effectually managing people with inherently conflicting biases, values and priorities gets tough. We have compiled a list of leadership skills you should strive for, practice and master in your attempts to lead.
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Passion (or lack thereof) seeps into the quality, efficiency and efficacy of your work. A good leader identifies their goals and fuels their determination to achieve them. Subordinates can smell your disinterest and distractibility, and their quality of work will directly correspond to yours. Greg Mylett, founder of Corporate United, attributed a leader’s success to his dedication to the team. “When I started Corporate United, my wife was pregnant with [our daughter] Hailey and I was working until 4:00 a.m. almost every day. The initial group of companies knew I was committed to making it work and they showed their appreciation by doing what they could to make it a success,” Mylett said.
Complacency marks the first step in a leader’s rapid demise. You let one subpar detail slip through the cracks, and your final product will manifest ultimately uninspired. Breathing life into seemingly mundane tasks proves vital in managing an innovative project. Foster your creativity by practicing stream-of-consciousness writing exercises and find your unique voice among the dizzying drone of your competitors. “Go outside your comfort zone. Do not be afraid to take chances and get creative,” siaid Ramtin Agah, the chief of medicine at El Camino Hospital and the founder of RenovoRx, Inc.
Literally nothing will go right 100 percent of the time. Some leaders suffer from an inability to acknowledge inevitable challenges and proceed accordingly. But keep in mind that the original plan often contradicts the best plan. Embrace adversity, and let it craft the final product in a positive manner. John Pothoff, CEO of Elligo, emphasized reassigning jobs as the project progresses. “Sometimes, resources are wasted on tasks that don’t advance the mission, so, [identify] those people and [redirect] their talents,” he said.
Communicating effectively ensures your vision comes into fruition. Eloquence and clarity drastically improve coworker relations and decrease the likelihood of misunderstandings. Speak slowly and deliberately, putting emphasis on the most pressing tasks. Think about it: When leading your group members for those dreaded class projects, you wouldn’t tell them to focus on making the PowerPoint pretty when you haven’t even finished the research yet. Pothoff said setting distinct goals leads to a productive team. “I think the most important factors to getting a team to work efficiently is to ensure the team has a clear scope of work, desired outcome and timeline,” Pothoff said. Just like an easy to follow syllabus, a clear definition of success will give your employees an attainable goal.
You can attribute staying calm under pressure to one’s ability to plan ahead. When disaster strikes, your subordinates will look to you for a Plan B…or G. Buy an Office Max Rewards card and stock up on all the filing essentials. You need to be able to whip out those tax reports from 2001 and that Chipotle receipt from this morning. If you don’t stay organized and on top of everything, they won’t trust you. It’s that simple.
Philip Annis, president of Embree Asset Group, Inc., credited the success of leaders to their judgment. “Mean what you say and choose the higher road. Always do the right thing. You only get one reputation and while it can take time to build it up, it can be shattered into irreparable ruin through one bad moral or ethical decision,” Annis said. A leader must have a rational mind, but this cannot necessarily be taught. But having good judgment and a level-headed disposition will increase productivity. Your co-workers will respect you, understand you and work to your satisfaction. You wouldn’t listen to someone who literally always gives off the impression of being a hot mess, right?
7. Self- awareness
A leader must know their personal strengths and weaknesses to effectively delegate. Identify those around you who can support you in your weaknesses and reinforce you in your strengths. You will both provide opportunities to those more capable and hold the entire team accountable for the final product. “By understanding each person’s journey to that point and where they wished to be in future, I was able to translate the overall goal of the team (designing and marketing a new medical device) with each person’s individual goal to achieve overall success,” Agah said. Jennifer Hall, a general counsel at Mars, Inc., also stressed understanding your team. “There is nothing more demotivating than micro-managing someone who knows what they are doing,” Hall said.
Fear and respect make up two different tactics of two different types of leaders. Your coworkers should respect you and hold themselves to your standard, but the moment they fear challenging you marks the moment you become complacent. As history has shown time and time again, dictatorship ends in chaos. Despite being a leader, you’re also human and prone to mistakes. Let your coworkers keep you in check while still retaining their position of support. Mylett said showing you care about your employees is the first step to ensuring hard work from them. “Caring goes all long way with team members as well. A previous President at Corporate United truly cared for his leadership team and associates. He may have lacked in other qualities, but genuinely caring for his associates made them go the extra mile for him,” Mylett said.
In addition to acknowledging your losses, embrace your victories. Enjoy the fruits of your labors, but know that this euphoria quickly dissipates. The next challenge will readily rear its head. Give credit to your team and retain your sense of self. Hall said she struggles with being threatened by better leaders. “[But I keep in mind that] my goal is to have a team of people that are smarter and better than I am so each year, each generation of leader is better,” Hall said.
“I appreciate an employee who tells me that they believe in themselves and want opportunities to grow and lead. If they are a future leader, it’s likely that I’ve already noticed them, and thus it only helps to cement them in my mind. However, if they haven’t hit my radar, then it immediately puts them on it, and I will take more notice,” Annis said. At the end of the day, you earned your position as a leader in your field. Someone deemed you capable of excelling in this position. Prove them right and your competitors wrong. If your convictions waver, it will cause a ripple effect among your employees. Give them a pillar to lean on, and never doubt your faculties.