The bad old days of bosses giving orders and employees blindly following fortunately are mostly behind us. To be effective, and for their companies to thrive, leaders must create supportive work environments that can influence, but not force, desired behaviors and outcomes. This means applying an entirely new set of leadership practices that takes into account these new ways of doing business.

Today's most-effective leaders do the following:

1. Empower

Great bosses allow their employees to do great work. They delegate both the responsibility and the authority necessary to get a job done. This is a vital function of leadership, since even the world's best bosses can't succeed all by themselves. To achieve their goals, leaders depend on the skills that their employees offer them and their organizations--and they do everything they can to ensure that there are no obstacles in the way.

2. Energize

The best leaders are masters of making things happen. They create far more energy than they consume and, instead of taking energy from an organization, they channel and amplify it back to the organization. Successful leaders create a compelling vision for their employees to strive for, they communicate this vision and get people excited about the role they will play in achieving it, and then they get out of the way.

3. Communicate

Communication is the lifeblood of any business, small or large. Businesses where workers and managers genuinely connect by communicating frequently and honestly are far more effective and far more profitable than businesses where they don't. Information is power and, as the speed of business continues to accelerate, information must be communicated throughout an organization quickly and efficiently.

4. Solve problems

One of the key jobs of leaders is to solve problems, and to create a culture where every employee is engaged in solving the problems they encounter in their jobs. In a problem-solving culture, leaders assume that their employees are responsible, and treat them accordingly. And they encourage their employees to:

  • Be willing to take risks
  • Be helpful to their fellow employees
  • Focus on how they can solve problems, not on blaming others for causing them
  • Be trustworthy
  • Be a conscientious student of their fellow employees and the people they serve, because everyone has something to teach
  • Avoid asking questions that place people on the defensive
  • Be sensitive toward others

5. Support

It used to be that the main job for bosses was to give orders and to make sure that their employees did as they were told. This is no longer the case. Increasingly, bosses are becoming coaches, colleagues, and cheerleaders for the employees they support rather than prison wardens or executioners. Great leaders allow their employees to make mistakes or to disagree with the status quo with no fear of retribution. In fact, they encourage employees to take risks and to challenge the status quo on behalf of their customers and their organizations.

Dedicate yourself to making these leadership practices a part of the way that you do business with your employees. They will pay you back with dramatically improved effectiveness and involvement in their jobs, and your organization will reap the rewards.