How to be a good leader

Rearview shot of an unidentifiable businessman giving a presentation to his colleagues in the office

When you become a leader, you suddenly become responsible for other people. Whereas previously you may have had your own line manager to report to or someone else delegate work to you, such things may now be your responsibility. You may need the ability to balance lots of priorities, ensure work is delivered on time and to a high standard, solve conflicts and communicate effectively with your team members.

But people don’t magically become leaders overnight ‒ it requires training, leadership coaching, experience and hard work to become a good manager.

What makes a good leader?

There isn’t just one perfect formula that can be applied to create the perfect leader ‒ each leader may have different goals, different ideals and different methods that can all be used to guide and build a successful team. However, there are some leadership basics that must be considered that apply to all leaders and managers to enable them to be the best they can, no matter their role.

So what are the necessary skills and qualities that you may need to make you a good leader?

Qualities of a good leader

Trustworthy

It’s imperative that there’s trust between you, as a leader, and your staff or team members. They need to trust in your leadership, be confident that your decisions are the correct ones and trust that you can easily resolve issues, whether personal or professional. It can come from a result of your actions – when you say you will do something, it’s important to follow through with it. Over time, staff will learn that they can trust in you.

You may also need to invest time in your team members. Being a leader often requires that you wear two metaphorical hats – business objectives and team empowerment. You should switch between the two goals to ensure your team is happy and that you can achieve your business goals.

Trust can take some time to build up, so if you’re new to management, you should be patient.

Knowledge

When you’re a leader, your team members will expect you to know the correct answers and make the right decisions. For this reason, it’s important that you’re knowledgeable in your field. You must understand what it is that your team is expected to deliver and ensure they can do it to a high standard. Lack of knowledge can become a real barrier for team members, and so such barriers should be taken down to allow staff to deliver their work properly. As their leader, you should be a fountain of information so that any project misunderstandings can be identified and rectified.

Adaptability

As a leader, there are a whole host of situations that could befall you, some of which cannot be predicted or foreseen. Therefore, it’s important that you are able to adapt your skills and leadership style depending on what is required of you. You may need a good level of emotional intelligence to be able to navigate through a situation to find the right outcome.

Organisation

Organisation is key in almost any job role, but particularly so when you’re managing a team. It’s important that you stay on top of the work being delivered, understand the projects being worked on simultaneously and recognise where there are tight deadlines. It may be that you decide to collaborate via project management tools to help you or make use of real-time calendars.

Communication

Communication between any team members is key. As a leader, you may not only be required to communicate with the members of staff under you, but also report back to your own manager. Information needs to be shared accurately and in a timely manner between this entire chain of people to keep things running smoothly.

Communication is also key with your team members on a personal level. It’s important that team members feel like they can be open with you, discussing any challenges they may be encountering that could be impacting their performance.

How to become a good leader

Now that you understand some of the qualities required of a good leader, we’d like to look at exactly how you put these qualities into practice to become an excellent leader yourself.

Get to know your employees

Getting to know your team members is really important, so it’s wise to take the time to do exactly this. Holding regular team meetings to update them on projects is a good way to do this, but it is also important to invest time individually with each team member. Regular one-to-one meetings are important. They allow you to learn more about your team members and their preferred working style so that you can effectively engage with them. One-to-one meetings are also key for helping to develop your team.

Communicate effectively

Communication isn’t just about getting to know your team – there will be times when you need to pass on information from above to the employees you manage. Knowing the best way to do this is imperative, and you may need to analyse what information you should tell them. Is the information on a ‘need to know’ basis, or should you provide them with everything you’ve been told too? This will be up to your own discretion as a leader and your understanding of your team’s likely reactions.

Acknowledge your team’s successes

Morale is important for any business, and it’s important that you acknowledge and celebrate your team’s successes, either individually or as a whole. You may choose to share their success company-wide, via email or in a company meeting. You could promote their story in a newsletter that goes around internally and to clients or customers. You might even choose to reward them with a prize, such as an extra day of annual leave, a gift card or even a drink in the pub after work. It doesn’t matter how you acknowledge the team’s successes, just that you do.

Use your team’s strengths

It’s likely that every person you lead excels in something different, and it’s important to recognise these strengths and use them to your advantage. Doing so helps to create a cohesive team, where each person understands exactly why they’re there and what their role is.

When you understand the strengths of your team, work can be delegated more effectively and be completed faster, giving your employees an overall sense of positivity and increased motivation.

Being a good leader comes with time, experience and practice, so don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t come naturally straight away. If you’re looking to increase your confidence in a leadership role, don’t be afraid to ask for further management training and coaching.

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