People love to talk about “born leaders,” referring to those people with natural charisma, courage, and focus. But as football coach Vince Lombardi famously said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort.” A truly exceptional leader doesn’t just get their team to the finish line; they encourage innovation, communication, and unity along the way. If you want to become a more effective leader, here are five areas to focus your efforts.
- Lead by example. Many people view a “leader” as the person telling everyone else what to do. But while that kind of guidance certainly has its place, the most effective way to guide your team towards the kind of attitudes and actions you want to see is to model them yourself.
- Communicate. It’s important to communicate your own thoughts, instructions, and expectations to your team — after all, how can they do what you need them to do if you don’t tell them what you need? But communicating openly also means making sure your team is both comfortable with and capable of communicating with you.
- Recognize achievement. Studies have shown that positive reinforcement is incredibly effective at motivating employees. In order to make sure your team members feel like their good work is not only recognized, but valued and celebrated, go out of your way to highlight their successes.
- Stay open. If you truly trust that your team is skilled, creative, and qualified, then you should recognize that they might have valuable ideas to contribute, even if they contradict with yours. The ability to stay open-minded and embrace the best ideas, regardless of where they come from, will show your team that you trust and respect them.
- Don’t micromanage. Speaking of trusting your team… once you’ve given them their directive, make sure you give them space in which to achieve it. Breathing down someone’s neck not only makes their work harder and more stressful, but it indicates that you don’t think they’re capable of doing a good job on their own.
A great leader recognizes that their team’s success is their success. That means the most important thing you can do is support your team. Learning to put them first can be challenging, but the rewards of great leadership are well worth it.