There are tons of articles out there about being a good leader, and many of us find that the only really good way to accrue knowledge about how to lead people is through experience. As they say, “experience is life’s greatest teacher.” However, I have read and learned a few great tips in the last 20 years and want to share the best I’ve heard that can be applied across any field and to any leadership team. Enjoy!
Build-Up Those Around You
Some employees thrive under pressure and in a reign of fear or terror. But most don’t. And the fact is, that happy employees are more productive employees. So build-up your employees and encourage your C-level executives to do the same. Fostering a sense of respect and professionalism can pay off a great deal–especially when your employees aren’t in the break room planning a mutiny. Building-up does not mean ignoring weaknesses or poor performance. But it does mean inciting an atmosphere where people can take chances and innovate new ideas without fear of failure.
Ask Smarter Questions
Obviously this is something that we live by, seeing as how we named the Levelwing blog after this principle. I believe that a fundamental key to becoming an effective leader is not only the ability to ask smarter questions, but the ability to teach your team to do the same. So what is a smarter question? It goes beyond the facts: the who, what, where, when and why; and dives deeper into the actions associated with the answer. It’s not about what the next big thing is but how we can leverage that thing to improve our business. The actionable insight is the only one that matters.
Find your Core
There is a lot of great research happening out there about multiple intelligences, emotional intelligence, company culture, etc., which lead people to participate in “leadership fads.” I’m not saying you should ignore it all. But the fact is that it’s probably not designed directly around your company or even industry. Therefore, you and your colleagues must be the judges of what is core to your company. Chasing down the different fad paths can lead to confusion and inconsistency within your company, which complicates output and external communication. At the end of the day, fostering a culture in which you would want to work–whether as CEO, analyst or mail room clerk–is more important than what Apple, Facebook and Google are doing on their campuses. Your core is what matters most.
Listen More Than You Speak
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to accomplish. As a leader of a company, you likely have a lot of opinions. It’s probably safe to assume that you’re Type A. But the fact is that you have hired the people around you to teach you something. Their differing backgrounds are what brings new perspective to the table. You’ve likely been involved in doing one or two things for the last 10 years, so a little paradigm shift can do an organization good. Therefore, create an environment where good ideas are made better with smarter questions and focused conversations, then fostered. Oftentimes, actively listening can move your company forward faster than your speaking.
Being data-driven goes hand-in-hand with all the other aforementioned leadership tips. It adds a level of sophistication to your leadership. Sure, you can learn to ask smarter questions or to build up others, but how do you assess what initiatives are a success and which are failures? In all instances, you and your employees should remain goal-oriented. You must communicate that data is the deciding factor for all decisions both small and big. If you communicate this well, your team will develop the ability to poke holes in their own ideas, your clients will receive better output and you will have a company that is representative of what is important to you.
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