Leadership means something different to all of us. It can mean running a team of five where everyone has a different set of responsibilities (I mean you, start-upers), or managing a group of 100 people all with identical tasks (multi-level businesses). One thing is indifferent - everyone has to be on the same page in order to achieve a common goal. The key leader’s qualities are communication, empathy and agility. Read below how to develop these skills and become a great leader.
1. Recognise talent
The leader’s role is to identify the areas in which their team members excel and then inspire them to progress and achieve their best. One way of cherishing their potential is through expanding their network, other options can be through working on their self-development. Once you know their strengths and interests, recommend some online articles or books they can read to learn more about what they are passionate about. Hence, you will also show that you care about their life outside the office which will improve your professional relationship and boost their loyalty to the company. Furthermore, discussing books or articles is a good conversation starter which can be used either during networking events or when strengthening the inter-team relations.
2. Focus on people
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, the effort put in will not equal the benefit received. Maybe your team members have been assigned the wrong project, maybe their responsibilities do not match their skills. Chat with them about what it is they struggle with, learn about their expectations and explore their fears and uncertainties. Be a flexible leader and make the relevant changes once you know the problem. By being adaptable, you will be a role model for the rest of the team who will in exchange become more agile. If you do not have the capacity to talk to your team members in person, schedule a call with them and ask your HR department to create a report on the employee’s performance. Only by regular contact can you excite your team for the common goal and ensure they will stay committed to the task and the overall mission.
“Always treat people in a way you would like to be treated yourself.”
Personal contact is very important especially in start-ups and non-profit organisations, which are companies with limited access to finance. This can be compensated by sharing professional experience of the leader and focusing on the employees’ career development as well as enabling a speedy growth of the network. A good leader must recognise the worker’s strengths to be able to assign the relevant tasks and create a mutually beneficial relationship. However, talking with employees is timely. Ensure that every conversation is as productive as possible and everyone is on the same page.
3. Communicate regularly
What tends to happen is that the work ethic embodied by the leader becomes reflected throughout the rest of the team. This applies to both, on and offline. For example, working remotely creates a set of challenges. In the age of instant messaging, it is easier than ever to communicate with the team. However, one has to be conscious not to intervene with other people’s work-life balance. If you tend to send emails late at night or during weekends, make sure to clarify with your team that they are not expected to respond immediately. Again, honest and sincere conversation is key.
“Make sure you follow up in a timely [...], so employees can be inspired by your strong work ethic.”
Communicating online also removes the element of body language. Some things can be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Therefore, it is crucial for teams that work online to utilise all the resources they have. As a leader, jump on a call with the team (phone or conference) at least once a month. Here you can see the facial expressions of your team which can have a huge impact in getting to know them better. Prepare to discuss everyone’s achievements, set clear goals and be available to answer any questions. Make sure you follow up in a timely manner after this call, so employees can be inspired by your strong work ethic. Seeing people’s faces or hearing their voices can be a crucial part of any conversation, don’t underestimate it.
4. Embody a company culture
What kind of leader you are depends not only on your personality type but also on the company culture. Assuming you have already acquired some level of responsibility in the company as you have been chosen to lead a team, you should know what the company stands for. If you are the founder, don’t let your personality interfere with the work of other colleagues. Remember that although (or because) you earned your role within the company, you cannot treat others disrespectfully. The team members are here to help you, their task is to get better at their job, not to transform the company. Do not expect everyone to think, act and work the same. Instead, recognise these differences and make the most out of them. You, as a team, are all in this together!
5. Give constructive feedback
Always treat people in a way you would like to be treated yourself; detach from unnecessary emotions. When giving feedback, always stay neutral and explain yourself clearly, do not suppose that everybody acts and thinks in the same way. Clarify your decisions, give space for questions and always maintain a cool head to guarantee a productive session. Everybody thinks differently (which is the beauty of all of us), so when you give feedback, make sure you do it in a constructive and a judgement-free manner.
Whether you are running a small group or an expansive team, try focusing on high-quality conversations and developing a human approach. People want to be valued for their efforts, show that you care and give them the most valuable attribute you have - your time. And if it does not work, worry not! You can always meet fellow leaders and share your experience with them. That is the best way to learn is to try what works and what does not, because at Femme Palette, we believe that it’s never too late to become a great leader.