10 Tips to Enhancing Your Leadership Skills
By Megan Tough
Have you ever heard someone say, “Actually, I have to admit that I think I am really
bad at managing other people. My staff all hate me and I’m incapable of doing my
The answer is no, of course. No one says this either because they don’t believe
it, or because they don’t want to appear incompetent. Unfortunately research tells
us that from the employees’ perspective, there aren’t that many terrific managers
What should we take out of this dichotomy? Perhaps at the least, we could all admit
to ourselves that there is room for some improvement in the way we lead others.
After all, it’s not the sort of skill that is easy to get 100% right all of the
time. It might just be that we don’t specifically know what improvements to make,
so here’s 10 ways to start:
1. Get a reality check
Finding out what others think of our leadership style can be real eye-opener,
and is often the most powerful driver for change. Using a 360 survey where you receive
feedback from your staff, peers and manager, gives you some concrete information
on a sometimes intangible subject. Use an existing tool (and there are some highly
regarded ones out there) or else simply let your staff know that you are seeking
feedback from them in order to improve your style.
A word of caution though, your staff may not feel safe in giving feedback if they
believe you are going to use it against them, or become defensive about what they
say. It’s up to you to create a safe environment so they feel comfortable in being
open and honest with you.
2. Don’t use the power of your position to get things done
If people are questioning why certain things are done, or the logic of decisions,
never pull rank in response. A critical component of effective leadership is getting
the buy-in from your team and colleagues. You don’t get buy-in by telling them that
the decision is the right one because you are the boss and you made it. Your team
may not always agree with what is being done, but they are more likely to respect
you if you take the time to explain your rationale.
3. Don’t think of employees as things that need to be controlled or managed
Instead, give them the latitude to take actions and make decisions. Trust
is a vital component of leadership. If you can’t trust people to do their jobs well,
then you either have the wrong people in the jobs, or you have the right people
but you haven’t trained them sufficiently. Let them do what they are there to do,
without leaning over their shoulders all the time, or demanding to know how they
spend each minute of their time.
4. Listen, listen listen
If there are unhappy or disgruntled people in your business, you can guarantee
that at some stage they’ve tried to tell you what the problem is. It’s likely you
weren’t listening (or didn’t want to listen), or perhaps your initial reaction made
the person think twice about bringing the problem to you. Truly listening is one
of the greatest skills to develop, regardless of your role. Good listeners are genuinely
interested, convey empathy, and want to find out what’s behind the conversation.
Great leaders are great listeners –without exception.
5. Stop providing solutions
Managers often achieve their positions after being technical specialists,
and so will have an opinion or view on how to "fix" situations or problems. They
believe that it's faster to tell someone what to do, or do it themselves, than give
their employees an opportunity to figure it out. By always providing the answers,
managers take away opportunity for their employees to learn and come up with alternative
(and potentially better) ways of doing things.
6. Always be constructive – always
Language and communication skills set great leaders apart from mediocre ones.
Don't patronise or be critical of others - take complete responsibility for how
you are heard. If you catch yourself about to make negative remarks, take a breath
and rephrase your words to get your message across without the emotional attachment.
Great leaders always find a way to say things calmly and constructively.
7. Judge your success by the success of your team
The true success of a leader can be measured by the success of the people that work
for them. As a manager of others, your prime responsibility is to ensure the success
and development of your team. If they are successful, you will automatically be
successful. Focus on building their skills and removing obstacles in their way.
If you can achieve this, you will see the results in the productivity, motivation
and satisfaction of your employees. This in turn filters through to bottom-line
8. Don’t do things just because they will “look good”
Nothing is more transparent than managers who make decisions and behave in ways
simply to look good to their superiors. If you want to improve as a leader, one
of the qualities you need is integrity. The integrity to make decisions because
they are right, and the integrity to stand up when you truly believe something is
not in the best interests of the business. Whether or not it is in your personal
best interests is much less of a consideration.
9. Include humour in your diet
Nobody likes to work in an environment that is devoid of any fun. People are more
productive when they are enjoying themselves. Creating a workplace where fun is
permitted and encouraged can make a significant difference, and it’s even more effective
when the boss participates. It increases team spirit, and encourages people to see
you as a person, not simply as the boss.
10. Let people get to know the real you
Being open about yourself helps to break down the barriers that hierarchy puts in
place. When your employees know the person behind the faзade, that’s when you start
to build the foundations of good leadership - trust and respect.
Megan Tough, director of Action Plus, works with small business professionals who
are ready to do more than ‘just get by’. Increase your income - decrease your stress!