Are you a leader?
Truth be told, not everyone is a leader. It’s just not meant for everyone. And that’s OK.
But more people are leaders than they realize. Leadership takes on many different faces; it’s just a question of understanding how you lead and why.
Here are 10 key business leadership skills you’ll need to succeed as a leader:
- Lead By Example. You can’t be an aloof leader, someone that’s never around and incapable of getting your hands dirty. One of the best ways to lead is by example – pitching in where needed, lending a helping hand, and making sure that the work you do is clearly understood by your team.
- Passion. A leader without passion isn’t a leader. He’s a paper pusher. Or a taskmaster. Or a government employee… Passion drives a lot, and you can inspire so much in others through your own passion and enthusiasm. That doesn’t mean you have to be constantly cheery, it means you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and what your company is doing.
- Be Organized. A disorganized leader isn’t leading, he’s chasing his own tail. Disorganization breeds nothing but more disorganization. If you’re frazzled and messy, your team will be too. When you’re organized you’ll be much more productive and so will everyone else.
- Delegate. You can’t do everything. A great leader needs to be able to delegate effectively. The key to delegating successfully is giving employees ownership of the work you assign them. They can’t just feel like they own the work, they really have to.
- Take Ownership and Responsibility. Although you’ve just delegated work and truly given your team ownership, you also have to take ownership and responsibility at all times. Your team has to know you’ll be there for them through the good and the bad times. That doesn’t mean you absolve people from making mistakes or ignore crappy work/effort, but it does mean you take responsibility for the big picture.
- Communicate Effectively. Duh. Everyone knows great leaders have to be great communicators. But there are certain points of communication that many people forget. For example, it’s critical that you communicate to employees how their work matters in the bigger picture. Are they a cog, or does their work truly make a difference?
Communicating success is also something leaders forget to do. People need affirmation. They want to know they did a good job. You just have to tell them.
And be precise. Insecure leaders will often ramble; uninterested leaders cut things off to quickly. Whether you’re giving praise, providing constructive criticism, or defining goals and to-dos, you have to figure out how much to say and in what order. Be precise, specific and concise. Get to the point.
- Be Brave and Honest. Cowardly leaders will shy away from any number of situations that crop up regularly when running a team. The project your team has worked on for 6 months just got shelved. Now what? Or you have to talk to someone about their lack of effort recently. Do you ignore the problem? Or maybe it’s time to take your product into a new market. Do you hobble forward, scared and nervous, or do you grab the market by the throat?
Leaders are brave.
And honest. Tell it like it is. Don’t sugarcoat, don’t obfuscate. Don’t be a jerk either. You have to learn how to present things to your team in an honest but balanced manner.
- Great Listener. A huge part of being a great communicator is being a great listener. If all you want to do is talk, you’re not a leader. Keeping people motivated means listening to them, asking them questions, understanding their issues. When you listen more, you can respond more effectively and get to the heart of things much faster.
- Know Your People. You have to know your people. You don’t have to be best friends or even socialize outside work, but you do have to know what makes them tick. You need to know something about their personal lives because their lives outside work matter. Their lives outside work drive a great deal of their success (or lack of) at work. Keep track of simple things: birthdays, marriages, children, etc. The more you know your people the more common ground you’re likely to find, the more you’ll be able to connect.
- Be a Follower. Benjamin Disraeli said, “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” That sums up many of the other points so beautifully. Great leaders are followers too. If you’re a leader without following, you’re a dictator. And as fun as that sounds… Being a leader-follower means finding value in your team, getting inspired by your team, encouraging your team to communicate, brainstorm and be open.
Very few people are great leaders overnight. It takes time and practice. As long as you’re open about learning along the way and working with your team on leadership versus dictating to them, most people will be happy to go on the journey with you.
And without getting too mushy, here are some great quotes on leadership:
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton
“Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half
“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore M. Hesburgh