Becoming a great leader doesn't have to be a soul-searching journey, nor is it dependent on your natural charisma. Instead, through a series of relatively simple actions, you can refine your leadership skills and cement yourself as an authority in your space.
Do the following 7 things regularly to develop yourself as a leader and earn the respect of your employees, followers, and mentees.
1. Actively Listen. Active listening is a crucial skill for anyone in a collaborative work environment, but particularly so for leaders. Engaging with your followers directly and showing that you truly hear what they're saying is one of the best ways to build strong bonds and make yourself more accessible as a leader.
However, active listening as a leader isn't just about listening to people when they happen to speak with you. It's about going out of your way to hear what your followers think. If you're a supervisor in a work environment, pull your employees aside individually and talk to them openly about their thoughts and feelings. They'll feel valued and closer to you, and you'll have the opportunity to gain valuable insights about operations. Keep your mind and ears open, and take the time to build that level of trust. Encourage your employees to do the same by maintaining an open collaborative environment for discussion.
2. Tell Your Story. Storytelling is a valuable marketing tool, because it presents your information in a way that is both entertaining and personal. For the same reason, storytelling can be valuable in your work or leadership environment. When addressing someone new, use storytelling as a way to introduce yourself by summing up your style and goals in a brief narrative. When you gather your followers together and speak to them as a group, use a narrative-based address to immediately gain their attention and keep them invested in your premise.
Storytelling can also help you get through complex problems, or motivate a worker who is feeling apathetic. Use a story from your past, or a hypothetical story to illustrate a potential solution. Storytelling is especially valuable to leaders, because it can present complex information in a direct, simple, and personal way. Practice using that format to your advantage, and you'll improve your conversational and problem solving skills simultaneously.
3. Express Your Gratitude. Take the time to express your gratitude, to your employees and to your followers. For example, you could individually thank workers for doing a great job and regularly thank social-media followers for their support. No matter how you choose to express that gratitude or what you choose to express gratitude for, the very act of expression can make you a better leader.
First, it makes people feel appreciated. Simply telling somebody thank you for a job well done can do wonders for a person's motivation and positivity. Second, it sets a great example. As a leader, people look to you to set the tone for the environment. Establishing an air of gratitude will make people more positive and more humble in their efforts. Finally, expressing gratitude will make you happier and more positive in your own life, giving you a better experience in your leadership role.
4. Help People Understand Their Strengths. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and if you take action to help people understand and develop their strengths, you'll establish yourself as a better leader. For example, if you notice a worker struggling with one set of tasks but exceeding in another, let him or her know your observations, and make an effort to arrange the workload to a balance more favorable to the person's strengths.
This is valuable for several reasons. First, it makes people feel noticed and valuable, motivating them to perform their best and giving them the means to do so. Second, it sets you up as an authority in the space. People need a leader who can direct them and help them grow, so demonstrate that ability whenever you can. Finally, it helps you build a successful team gradually by always helping people find the best roles within your organization. Over time, all the members of the team will feel like they're exactly where they belong.
5. Try Something New. Consistency is an important element of great leadership, because it sets a familiar, predictable standard. However, it's also important to try new things. Whether those new things are procedures, employees, ideas for products, or marketing strategies, the element of newness is what drives your business forward.
Integrating new ideas into your existing framework is a great way to discover processes that are no longer relevant, and a perfect opportunity to tap new segments of the market. But being open to new ideas is also a great way to improve your image as a leader. It shows that you're innovative and willing to take risks, and that alone will increase the amount of respect your followers have for you.
6. Simplify Something. Go out of your way to simplify something at least once a week. It can be a complicated procedure, a wordy email, a messy office, or a hierarchal chain of command. The act of simplification is great for leaders because it encourages new ways of looking at old problems, and sets a standard of continuous improvement that can (and will) become infectious in your business or organization.
By demonstrating that simpler is better and actively working to change things accordingly, you'll help your employees or followers realize what's overcomplicated in their own spaces. Instantly, you'll relieve a problem that currently exists, but more important, you'll establish an environment that encourages others to do the same. As a leader, it's important to keep things simple so you don't have to waste time on micromanagement or irrelevant details.
7. Get Involved at the Ground Level. One of the best actions you can take as a leader is getting involved on the ground floor. If you're a popular social-media personality, take the time to have conversations with regular users. If you're the president of a manufacturing company, head to the factory floor and get a taste of what your lowest-level employees are doing on a day-to-day basis. It's a strategy that politicians often use to connect with the "common man," but it doesn't have to be superficial.
Instead, focus on building real relationships with all the members of your work force or following, and work to understand their habits and concerns. Not only will it make you appear more personable and worthy of respect, but it will also give you an opportunity to identify pain points and work to resolve them. Never let yourself climb a ladder so high that you can't see what's going on at the bottom. Work to be involved with everybody, at every level.
Leadership doesn't always come naturally to people. Some leaders are born, but most leaders are created through a series of circumstances and a passion for great work. Commit yourself to continual self-improvement as a leader and eventually you'll earn the respect you desire. Once you earn the trust and respect of the people around you, the rest will naturally fall into place.
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