Over my career in business, I have learned that being a good leader does not depend on one skill or one personality trait. Instead, I found that succeeding in a leadership role requires a combination of skills, personality traits, and strategy ideas.
I already knew that excellent leadership came from the right combination of qualities when I first started my SEO agency, SEO Services New York, and I knew from experience and from working with other CEOs what I needed to do to develop my leadership abilities.
What I came to realize over time is that although everyone should aspire to have certain leadership qualities, I needed to adapt them to my personality and also to the environment and culture of my company.
Here are my eight tips on how to be a better leader.
1. Create a Trusting Relationship with Employees
I believe that this tip is universal, regardless of your personality. In business, your employees have to trust you. How can you build a higher level of trust? You have to use actions, not words.
One of the best ways to earn trust is to make yourself a part of your employees’ day-to-day work life. Participate in tasks with them, but do not “look over their shoulder.” Find ways to genuinely take part in their efforts, even if you only play a small role.
You can also take the trust-building in the other direction. If there are decisions that will affect everyone, you can involve your employees in the decision-making process. Don’t put the final decision on their shoulders, but ask for their input and, if they provide it, make sure they know that their thoughts are valued.
2. Be Consistent
I strive to react to situations, both large and small, in the same manner, every day. Part of being a leader is having clear expectations AND clearly defined rewards or consequences for meeting (or exceeding) or failing to meet those expectations.
It is easy to put yourself in your employees’ shoes when it comes to consistency. You’ve probably had a boss who played favorites with some people and made life more difficult for others. Or perhaps you performed a task exactly as you thought you were supposed only to have your boss criticizes you for subpar work. Remember how that made you feel?
Did you want to give your full effort the next time such a project came up? Of course not.
Consistency is not only fair, but it will also bring out a higher level of performance from your employees because they will have well-defined goals that aren’t going to change based on how you happen to be feeling on a particular day.
I always struggled with how to deal with people who did not live up to expectations. However, I found that I could use this as an opportunity to remind them what I expected from them. Often, they have just lost sight of the expectations and goals, and I need to re-emphasize the goals for them.
Don’t berate a subpar effort. Instead, spell out exactly what went wrong, and tell the person what they can do to improve for next time.
3. Develop Confidence in your Decision-Making Abilities
Being the boss means that you have the final say when it comes to making decisions. That can be positive because it allows you to control the direction of your company or organization, but it can also bring a lot of pressure. Everyone is looking to you to make the right decision. If you can’t, they might start questioning your ability to be a leader.
I use a deliberate approach when confronted with big decisions. First of all, I collect all the information and input that I can get my hands on. Making an informed decision gives you a much higher chance of success. I have found that many times, the right move becomes evident after I do my due diligence. I also try to make sure that the decision moves the company forward towards its goals.
If you can take these two steps, you will start gaining more confidence in your decision-making abilities. Also, it will be much less stressful if you already have a set philosophy to guide the process.
4. Be Authentic
Some tips on how to be a better leader focus on asserting authority, which is a necessary skill, but I think it is overvalued. It is much easier for people to want to be “on your side” if they see you as a real person, not someone who is trying to project a specific image at work. Yes, everyone needs to know that you are in charge, but you also shouldn’t shy away from humility, and you should be transparent about work-related issues that you might be causing you concern.
This can be a balancing act, but it is worth trying to find the balance between being the one in charge and being someone authentic and honest.
Perhaps you can think about it this way: People will always cheer for and support someone who does not put on airs instead of someone who always tries to project some manufactured image of themselves that is not authentic or realistic.
5. Show Passion for the Work
Hopefully, you are working in an industry that you are passionate about. I am lucky enough to love what I do, and I try to share that enthusiasm with the people who work with me. I go out of my way to do this because I have seen bosses try to fake passion for their work, and it doesn’t work.
If you have enthusiasm for what you do, then you need to find ways to bring this out so that others can see it. The best way to do this is to share in day-to-day tasks (which, if you remember, is also a way to build trust). You can put your passion into the context of work and maybe even inspire others to be more passionate about what they are doing.
6. Be a Good Listener
Nothing is worse than having someone brush you off when you are trying to say something that you think is important. This is a common experience in the workplace and any group or organization. If you want to learn how to be a better leader, showing respect by being a good listener is a simple place to start.
Leaders should always make sure that the “lines of communication” with their employees are open. Moreover, they should engage employees when they make an effort to communicate.
One strategy that I have found effective is to set aside time each week where employees can come and talk to me. If I do have such “office hours,” I know I will not have distractions, and I can focus on what the employees are saying and then respond in depth instead of brushing them off to work on another task.
7. Talk Straight
The fastest way to create an “us-versus-them” dynamic between employees and leadership is not to be truthful. That is basically like saying “you are not important enough to know these vital facts or strategies.”
Of course, leaders do not go around spilling all the company secrets all the time. What I do is consistently communicate the goals for my company and the challenges that we are encountering. If there are changes to our approach or strategy, I tell everyone so that they know that they are a valued part of the team.
8. Be Mindful of Your Personality
Some CEOs get so caught up in learning how to be a better leader that they forget their own identity. The tip “be authentic” can apply to your relationship with yourself as well as with others. You can’t force yourself to act a certain way because you think it will make you a better leader. If some actions or strategies seem unnatural to you, you should either forget them or find an alternative way to adopt them so that they are not at odds with your personality.
Hopefully, these eight tips will help you as you learn how to be a better leader. I know from experience that these ideas, or some variation of them, will work in a business setting.