As a leader, you play an incredibly important role in your business. The members of your team look to you for direction, and they trust in you to be forthright, fair, and honest. Lead by example and set the bar high, and your people will follow. Lower your expectations, and your people will follow you there, too.

Unfortunately, many leaders don't seem to understand just how important they are to the organization's success. Don't believe me? Consider these sobering statistics from recent studies conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI) and Manpower:

  • 65 percent of all employees are dissatisfied at work
  • Only 10 percent of frontline leaders are effective in conveying performance expectations, and facilitating clear agreement on next steps
  • Only 5 percent of senior executives are highly effective at disclosing and sharing their thoughts and feelings with others
  • Only 10 percent of senior executives are highly effective at inviting ideas from others

According to Roxi Bahar Hewertson, CEO of Highland Consulting Group, and author of the book Lead Like It Matters, any leader can become more effective. The key is to understand that leadership matters, and then to leverage your skills and play on your strengths to become a better leader. Here are eight leadership insights from Hewertson's book at will put you on the road to becoming a great leader.

1. Knowing is the easy part--doing is the hard part

I think that deep down inside, we all know what it takes to be a better leader. The problem is that knowing is one thing, and doing is another thing altogether. Step back for a moment and look at how you lead. What things should you stop doing, and what things should you start doing to be a better leader starting today?

2. Leading people is messy

People are people--inherently unpredictable beings with minds of their own, who are influenced by all kinds of people and events both inside and outside of work. Recognize that there are no easy answers when it comes to leading people, no cookie cutter that you can apply to everyone. And be ready to clean up those messes--the hurt feelings, the dropped balls, the changes in plans--when they happen. And they will happen.

3. Leadership is a discipline, not an accident

Just because you're the founder or CEO or manager of your company doesn't make you a leader--you have to be a leader, and live it every day of the week. The good news is that leadership skills can be learned and practiced. What are you doing to do to improve your leadership?

4. Leading and individual contribution require opposite skill sets and motivations

When you're a line employee, the focus is on doing things on an individual basis--the spotlight is on the work you do. However, when you're a leader, the focus and spotlight turns to your team. Leading a team of people requires an entirely different set of skills than leading only yourself. Again, these skills can be learned and practiced.

5. Leading is all about relationships

To be an effective leader, you absolutely must be able to build strong relationships and bridges of trust and respect with your people. People won't follow people they don't trust or who they don't respect. Build relationships with the members of your team, both inside and outside the office.

6. Learning the "soft skills" is hard

Says Hewertson, "Mastering leadership skills is not rocket science--it's a lot harder, precisely because it is more qualitative than quantitative, and because we are leading people, not machines." Pay special attention to learning--and applying--the soft skills of leadership: listening, communicating, empathizing, giving feedback, resolving conflict, and building trust.

7. Most change efforts fail, and they don't have to

Change is all around us, and it's moving faster than ever for most businesses. Unfortunately, approximately 70 percent of all change efforts are doomed to failure. As a leader, it's your job to lead change in your organization. This often means taking risks to abandon the status quo to embrace what's new instead of what's old.

8. Leaders create and destroy cultures

As Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey once said, "If you are lucky enough to be someone's employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning." You have the power to create a great culture in your business or work unit--or a lousy one. What are you doing to make sure your business is the kind of place where people are excited to show up every Monday morning?

Published on: May 14, 2016