No one said that being a leader is easy. In fact, it can be quite a challenge--even for the smartest and most-accomplished among us. While some make leadership look easy, few people are actually natural leaders. Somewhere along the way, they learned the skills of great leadership.
The good news is that you can learn and master these skills of great leadership, too. Follow this roadmap to up your own leadership game.
1. Put power in the hands of the people doing the work
Every business depends on the men and women who are actually doing the company's work--designing and building the products your company sells, setting up and getting your computers to talk with one another, meeting with customers, driving your delivery trucks, and all the other things required to make your business go. Push the power to make decisions down to the lowest possible level and give front-line employees the authority and responsibility for making decisions. The resulting outcomes will be faster, and they'll be better.
2. Encourage individual responsibility for product and quality
Give employees a sense of ownership in the work they do, along with the leeway to define the "right" outcome. Expect workers to make their own decisions (see #1 above) while taking accountability for them--whether the outcomes are good or bad. Reward employees who take individual responsibility with bonuses, promotions, and other incentives.
3. Create clarity of roles
To be effective, employees must know exactly what their job responsibilities are, and how their performance will be assessed. Clarify both formal and informal job responsibilities through the creation of written job descriptions, and then constantly assess individual performance. Be sure to encourage employees to learn new roles and responsibilities, and reward them when they do.
4. Share leadership
When you share leadership, you increase employee engagement, morale, and loyalty, while amplifying your own reach and effectiveness. Train your employees to lead, as well as follow, delegate tasks (and responsibility), encourage employee initiative, and create a supportive environment. And when members of your team step up and lead, be sure to reward them for doing so.
5. Build horizontal teamwork
Create a team-oriented organization that values self-management, and charter cross-functional teams of employees to take on important, organization-changing goals. At the same time encourage the development of informal teams, cross-train employees, and provide teams with the resources they need to get their jobs done.
6. Learn to listen, and to talk
Be sure to encourage and reward honest and open dialog among your employees, and be honest and open yourself. Make it safe to communicate, and constantly seek out new and more effective ways to communicate.
7. Seek consensus
Look to your employees for solutions by soliciting "what-if" proposals from every member of your team. Give the proposals serious consideration, and work to build consensus for the decisions to be made. If differences arise between employee points of view, work to resolve them.
8. Dedicate passionately to your mission
Before you can dedicate passionately to your company's mission, you've got to have one. If you don't already have one, work with your people to create a formal mission statement (and remember Peter Drucker's recommendation that a company's mission should be able to fit on the front of a t-shirt), and then be sure that your team eats, drinks, and breathes it.