How to Step Up and Be the Effective Leader Your Team Wants to Follow
Leadership is not a job title – it’s a set of closely-held beliefs and behaviors even when no one is looking.
So even though you own the business and put your heart & soul into it, you may not be as effective as you could be.
For every action, you take, there is a definite reaction. This may be an employee, a contractor, a VA or a vendor you deal with on a regular basis. Or it could be a family member, friend or neighbor.
Here are several key things you can do to stand out as a great leader:
Empower Those Who Support You
When good leaders are effectively empowering their support team, their lives are easier and their team is happier & more productive.
I use the term “Team” broadly so that it includes all of those who you need to support you and your business. When teams are empowered, leaders don’t need to spend a lot of time checking up on them, putting out fires, or lighting fires under people who are just not that into it.
Wouldn’t you rather focus your time working “on” your business and where you want to take it, rather than working “in” the business?
Use The ‘Speak Softly & They Will Listen Leadership’ Style
When we think of leadership, we tend to think of the commanding, visionary person who takes charge in a time of crisis and leads the company to victory. But there’s another form of leadership that I believe is much more effective at achieving high performance.
It’s the quiet leader that is heard the most! And you will never hear them declaring themselves to be the “Boss” when trying to convince someone to do something their way.
One of the primary traits of this leadership style is leading by example, and eliciting the behavior you want by demonstrating it, rather than just telling others to do it.
Daniel Goleman’s book, Primal Leadership, suggests that a coaching style of leadership may best describe the qualities of the quiet leader. “The coaching style is the least-used tool in the leader’s toolkit,” says Goleman, “probably because it doesn’t look like leadership.”
Like a coach, a quiet leader can achieve breakthroughs by asking guided questions rather than giving orders or advice. And what better way to empower your team?
And quiet leadership isn’t just for those at the top, but applies across the spectrum, from the leader in all levels of management, to solo entrepreneurs, to leaders of the community fundraiser, the leader of the 12-year-old soccer team and the leader of the family.
So, what about you? Are you stepping up to claim your rightful place as a leader?
Incorporate Top Leadership Qualities
I think it’s important to note that contrary to what we’ve often been taught, great leaders are made, not born, so you can hone your leadership skills and become the leader you want to be. Here are some of the top qualities that great leaders possess:
- Fairness. They put their own feelings aside and look at what is best for their team.
- Knowledge – They gather as many details about a situation as possible before deciding.
- Decisive – They always proclaim their decision and then stand by it 100% until/unless more information comes to light that requires them to rethink their decision.
- Communication skills. They keep their team apprised of all decisions that affect the team.
- Honesty – They share as much information as they possibly can. And if it’s confidential, they tell them it’s confidential and they tell them when they will be able to give them more information.
- Trustworthy – They can be counted on to always tell the truth and maintain confidences.
Motivating your team is imperative to the well-being of its members and the accomplishment of the goals.
While it’s not always easy, there are tried and true ways you can help unleash the power and potential of your team.
Here are a few powerful leadership skills you can easily incorporate to bring out the best in others:
- Ask questions rather than give direct orders.
- To let others know that you noticed, give specific and sincere praise for accomplishments.
- Celebrate successes along the way – use every significant milestone as an opportunity for recognition and encouragement.
- Respect the professionalism and expertise of those you supervise. Ask for their input in planning, and give them autonomy and authority to complete projects.
Set Clear Expectations
Too often leaders assume each person knows what to do, but without clear goals and expectations, team members are left to their own imagination and must draw upon past experiences.
This can result in hesitation, indecision, lack of performance, miscommunication and the goals not being met.
Properly setting expectations for team members will set standards for excellence and results.
Here are a few tips on how to do that:
- Start with a vision of what you want the result to look like. Not just what you want done, but the results you want to achieve when the project is completed.
- Keep your focus on the desired outcomes and stay out of the weeds. Your goal is to guide and lead, not control every step. Letting individuals find their own route encourages them to use their strengths to their fullest potential. You hired them to do a job, so let them do it their way as much as possible.
- Tie the mission of the project to each team members’ tasks. People want to know that their role, whether large or small, makes a difference.
- Give feedback—and often! Feedback given along the way is received as coaching, not punishment.
- Give positive reinforcement and don’t mix it with the negative or “constructive” feedback. Mention the thing you like and you’ll get more of it. Be specific and prompt. If you do need to give constructive feedback, remember the “sandwich” method.Good first, then the negative, followed by another slice of good. And remember to focus on the behavior or issue at hand – don’t make it about their personality. For instance, telling an employee that what they did was wrong is a whole lot different than telling them they are stupid.
3 Secrets of Impactful Leadership
As you are leading and impacting others, to get the best results follow these three secrets.
So, what does it take to be an impactful leader? It comes down to three critical steps.
- Know where you are coming from – Know what you believe in and what your values are so that you can make decisions and lead your team in the direction that supports your vision.
- Adopt a leadership mindset that positively affects your behaviors, your outcomes and therefore your impact. When you have a leadership mindset, you take responsibility for your team and your results.
- Empower your team members to be their best. Identify the strengths and talents of your team and put them in the jobs that fit their strengths so they can help you achieve the goals.
After all, isn’t that what you’re after? Reaching a common goal while making a positive impact?
Your impact stems directly from your mindset as a leader, because your mindset affects your behaviors, which then affects your results. So, what is your mindset?
The term “mindset” means a mental attitude or inclination. Our attitude determines our behavior, and our behavior produces specific results. If you are getting effective results from those you are leading, you can rest assured that you are having a positive impact on them.
Are you getting the results and having the impact you want, or are you experiencing unwanted results and outcomes? By looking at the relationship between your mindset, your behavior, and your impact, you can integrate all three components to generate the results you really want.
We often engage in behaviors without considering that we have a choice in whether to engage in them. If your circumstances are not going the way you desire, you may feel and act like a victim. But you need to take accountability for your part and make different behavioral choices when necessary to assure a better result.
It is important that you understand that changing your behavior is only sustainable if you change your negative mindset to a leadership mindset.
A great example of this is what happens when people lose weight. If they just change their behavior – such as eat fewer calories – they lose weight. But if they don’t change their mindset around food, exercise and a healthy lifestyle, they rebound and gain their weight back.
This is because they haven’t changed the underlying problem – the mindset that drives them to overeat in the first place.
Changing your behavior without changing your mindset is not sustainable. Changing your mindset, however, creates sustainable behavioral change.
Observe your impact on others, observe your actions as you carry them out, and observe your mindset as it fills your thoughts and shapes your attitudes. When you notice negative and limiting thoughts, make a choice and reprogram your words and thoughts to assure positive, lasting changes.
Leadership: It’s Mostly in Your Mind
Do you think of yourself as a leader? Do you enjoy leading? As you were growing up, did people tell you that you were a natural-born leader?
If you don’t see yourself as a leader, know that you are leading and probably not even recognizing it. Why? Because we are all leaders simply because of the influence we have on ourselves and others. Whatever you believe, think, value, feel, or say influences how you act and the impact you have.
This attitude determines much of our behavior, and our behavior produces specific results. If you are the leader of your life, in your work, and in your relationships, the results you get matter to you and those around you.
Are you getting the results or having the positive impact you want, or are you experiencing unwanted results and outcomes? Your impact may be subtle or it may be profound; it may be small or it may be big; it may be obvious or not so obvious; it may be positive, neutral, or negative.
Observe your impact as it’s reflected back to you, observe your actions as you carry them out, and observe your mindset as it fills your thoughts and shapes your attitudes. With this model, you have an ever-ready tool to use any time that you are not getting results you desire.
The Impact of Assumptions on Leadership
We all make assumptions. We naturally fill in gaps in what we think and perceive so that we can make sense out of our world and our experiences.
Sometimes the assumptions we make are accurate; sometimes they are inaccurate. Sometimes productive and sometimes counter-productive. Sometimes assumptions build community; sometimes they destroy. Sometimes they save us time; sometimes they waste time.
The assumptions you make can build bridges or destroy them. They can make peace or start a war.
Picture someone whom you know well. What is one assumption you make about that person? Where does your assumption come from? Why do you have that assumption? How does that assumption influence your behavior toward this person? Have you ever asked the person to confirm or refute your assumption? What would happen if you shared your assumption with this person?
As a leader, you have an obligation to notice you are making assumptions and then to check them out, particularly when you make an assumption that is negative in nature. Negative assumptions are particularly risky to hold on to. They create resistance and resentment. They fuel blame and anger. They get in the way of productivity and positivity.
The first step is to notice the presence of an assumption. Once you notice that you are making an assumption, consider communicating it. The purpose of communicating it is to have it confirmed or denied. This creates open communication, honesty, and an opportunity to clear the air or rectify a misunderstanding.
There are different ways to communicate an assumption. One way, perhaps the simplest, is to say it directly – tell the other person that you are carrying an assumption, and that you want to share it with him or her to determine if it is accurate or not. It may sound risky – and sometimes it is – but an unspoken negative assumption is much more dangerous than one that is spoken. When an assumption is brought out, an opportunity for healing, growth, productivity, and relationship-building is created.
If you are carrying a positive assumption, you have more latitude to decide if you want it to be unspoken, but even unspoken positive assumptions can sometimes get in the way.
Whenever you make assumptions, you have an impact on your experience and the experience of others. Generally, it is best to notice your assumptions and communicate them to others.
Effective Listening for Leaders
With organizations and individuals so fervently focused on the bottom line, it’s easy to ignore “softer” goals, such as listening well. All that touchy-feely stuff is a waste of my time, you might say or think.
On the contrary! A focus on listening can lead to more effective teamwork, higher productivity, fewer conflicts and errors, enhanced innovation and problem-solving, improved recruiting and retention, superior customer relations and more. As authors on leadership development have noted through the years, listening is not just a nice thing to do, it’s essential!
“Make the human element as important as the financial or the technical element,” wrote Stephen Covey in his seminal book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “You save tremendous amounts of time, energy and money when you tap into the human resources of a business at every level. When you listen, you learn.”
As long ago as 1966, Peter Drucker, author of The Effective Executive and numerous other books, emphasized the importance of listening to both self and others as an essential step in bringing to light everyone’s role as contributors to the organization’s overall success.
Likewise, studies in Emotional Intelligence (EI) over the past couple of decades have found that leaders “infect” the Workplace (for better or for worse) with their attitudes and energy. To understand and influence these flows of emotions and motivational states, leaders need to be able to practice empathic listening skills.
Visionary leaders listen to values held by individuals within the group, enabling them to explain their own goals for the organization in a way that wins support.
Coaching leaders find opportunities to listen one-on-one to employees, establish rapport and trust, and help employees help themselves in matters of performance and information gathering.
Develop your curiosity. This helps with Covey’s suggestion: Seek first to understand. Genuine curiosity is felt by others and helps to open up their speech and your listening.
Pay attention to your listening. Replay conversations you’ve had and assess whether you listened well.
Seek feedback from people you trust to assess your listening skills.
Work with a coach. Coaches can help you discover ways to listen better not only to those you work with, but also to yourself.
Listening better will reward you with an entirely new level of communication and problem-solving skills, for empathic listening requires the ability to see multiple points of view in any given situation.
As an entrepreneur and small business owner myself I know the importance of creating an innovative, motivated – and motivating – support team. When I first opened my business, I did it all myself but it didn’t take me long to realize that my genius was in building the business, not behind the scenes dealing with all of the administrative tasks.
So step up, think big, go far beyond the box and let the leader in you shine!
About the Author, Katherine Hartvickson
Katherine Hartvickson is the founder and president of Hartvickson & Associates, Inc. dba Quantum Ascendance. She is an experienced business consultant and success coach. Since leaving the corporate world in 2009, her clients include business owners and other seriously committed professionals and entrepreneurs who want to gain the confidence and skills to break through the barriers of success and achieve their ideal life.
What separates her service from others is her experience in leading large teams and developing top performers in corporate environments and because of this, clients achieve individual & financial rewards and the recognition they earned without sacrificing their personal life. If you are interested in knowing more, she can be reached at www.QuantumAscendance.com.