Truly good leaders, however, will master the essential skills required to inspire, motivate, and engage human beings through close relationships that lead to results.
Sound too good to be true? According to countless leaders I've spoken with and interviewed, strong bonds with employees give you a competitive advantage. But it takes some key skills to connect with them. Here are three you should never ignore:
1. Active listening
People underestimate the power of the great leadership skill of listening. When a person feels that they are listened to, it goes directly to their self-worth. When someone demonstrates that they care about what concerns them and that the other person really understands their perspective, it validates that individual.
"Active listening, as it is commonly referred to, doesn't mean you agree with or endorse the other person's position. It simply means you have heard and understood them," says Jay Perry, founder and CEO of Ally Business Coaching.
"Active listening--or, as we call it in our coursework, leadership listening--involves focusing on what the person has said then rephrasing back to them your understanding of their thought," explains Perry.
Sounds very simple, and in theory, it is. The harsh reality is that it is extremely difficult to execute due to several factors. But according to Perry, whom I've featured as a guest on the Love in Action podcast, the more you practice it, the more impactful your effect on those you lead becomes. "In my mind," says Perry, "it is the first step in servant leadership."
Are you approachable? Before you assume you're fit to lead, this is an important question to ask. Because if you're going to lead, you need to be approachable. If you're not, it could hurt your leadership in several ways:
- Your employees may be less willing to share information for fear of disapproval;
- your team members may be disconnected from you; and
- your team members will fear taking ownership of their work, and will only look to you for answers.
To be approachable means promoting a culture where feelings of loyalty and a sense of purpose are felt among staff. Here are a few ways to become more approachable:
- Keep an open-door policy;
- share information;
- spark up non-work-related conversations;
- be human and show your sense of humor;
- be an advocate for your employees when they face challenges.
People will follow leaders who reward and recognize those who fight alongside them. A great leader never flies solo or plays for the name on the back of his jersey. She will always acknowledge successes as a team effort.
This leader understands human nature and will make it a priority to recognize people for their hard work, both in public and private, and according to how they prefer to receive praise.
An employee that sees this leader in action--not seeking self-glory, but building up others--will typically be more willing to follow that leader.