EPMEPM: First Person

5 ways to be a better leader

Leadership. We talk about, read about it and some of us may strive for it. But what does it really mean? The definition of leadership is ‘the process of leading a group of people or an organisation,’ but being in a position of leadership does not automatically make you good at it.

When it comes to leaders I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

In every instance, the leader’s style heavily impacts the culture of the team and its success.

Harvard Business Review refers to six types of leaders:

The coercive leader

This ‘do what I tell you’ style of leadership may have worked in the past but it rarely does now. In fact, Gen Ys and millennials will not engage with or respect this type of dictatorial leadership at all.

The democratic leader

Democratic leaders share decision making.

This is great for engagement and buy-in, particularly in periods of change, but communication is vital.

If you seek opinions and don’t then explain why you chose a different direction you risk disengagement and confusion.

The coaching leader

Coaching leaders help others grow with the approach of ‘why don’t you try this.’

They are good delegators and drive a stable culture.

In times of urgency or crisis, team members may just want direction and decisions made for them.

Showing a genuine interest in your people builds loyalty and trust.

The affiliative leader

Affiliative leaders are fantastic to work for because they put their people first.

They are motivating and build loyalty but, on the downside, they tend to tolerate poor performance.

The authoritative leader

Authoritative leaders are similar.

They are clear in their vision and they empower people to take smart risks.

They bring people on the journey using a ‘come with me’ approach.

The pacesetting leader

They are high tempo, with a ‘do what I do, right now’ approach.

They are great for high performers who operate at the same pace, but not as good for anyone else who will likely feel worn out and overwhelmed.

Leadership is serious business and, while it comes naturally to some, mastering the different styles usually takes time.

While every leader will naturally take on a particular style, we need to master more than one approach and move between them depending on our people and the team’s circumstances.

How can you be a better leader immediately?

Putting your leadership style aside, the good news is it’s not actually hard to become a better leader.

Start with sticking to these five simple non-negotiables:

1. Say hello and goodbye to every team member, every day.

This might sound like an obvious one, but you’d be amazed at how many leaders don’t take the time to greet their team each day.

2. Be present.

When a team member speaks to you, give them your full attention.

Even if you are busy trying to meet a deadline give them your full focus.

It might be that you ask them to come back later, but never be half-focused when doing so.

3. Genuinely care.

As with being present, showing a genuine interest in your people builds loyalty and trust.

Ensure you celebrate birthdays (handwritten cards are a great way to go) and milestones, remember their children’s and fur babies’ names and ask after them.

If you have a bad memory or a large team, write it down somewhere for reference.

4. Praise publicly.

It’s so important that we catch our people doing the right thing and leverage it.

Rather than sending an email, pop by their desk and publicly praise them.

Not only does it make them feel great, it also shows their peers that good work is recognised and rewarded.

5. Be consistent.

No one respects a temperamental or unpredictable leader.

Your mood should never impact your team.

Being consistent in your behaviour and the way you talk to others, especially in times of stress, allows you to build trust and confidence.

Leadership is serious business and, while it comes naturally to some, mastering the different styles usually takes time, practice and conscious effort, so start with the simple things, find your groove and build from there.

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