8 Ways to Be a Better Leader

Business manager standing in meeting room

Whether it’s showing appreciation with gifts during the holidays or making time to check in with each of your employees on a regular basis, there are a lot of things you can do to earn respect and show that you take leadership seriously.

When you’re a good leader, you’re motivating and inspiring people to do great things.

Employees and people in a wide variety of settings look to leaders to guide their own actions. When you’re an exemplary leader, you provide support, you’re a role model, and you’re a communicator. In the business sense, strong leadership can help promote long-term success, a positive corporate culture, high morale, and a high rate of retention for employees.

There are a lot of styles of leadership, and no one style is suited to every situation or environment. The qualities of a good leader in business are different from a leader in the military, for example.

The following are eight ways to become a better leader, particularly in business.

1. Be Motivational

Being motivational sounds like it’s obvious, but it’s something a lot of people in leadership positions struggle with. To motivate people, you first need to set high but achievable standards regarding professionalism, productivity, and communication.

If the standards aren’t met, don’t assign blame or single people out. Don’t lower your standards either.

Instead, a strong leader in these situations will work as a partner with their employees to deal with challenges.

When you’re a motivational leader, rather than focusing on problems, you have to be working as a team with employees to identify possible solutions so that everyone can meet and then eventually exceed expectations.

Harping on shortcomings and failure isn’t just demoralizing and doesn’t just erode motivation—it also increases turnover and facilitates a generally negative work environment.

2. Delegate

For many leaders who excel in nearly every area, delegation is the hardest thing for them. You have to give your employees opportunities to show what they’re capable of. When you’re delegating, really try to think about each of your employees’ individual strengths.

When you’re a leader with delegation skills, it means you are giving other employees the authority but also the direction needed to complete tasks. You’re reducing your workload but making sure everything is taken care of.

When you’re someone who can identify the right person for a task and be a motivating force for them to get it done, it’s going to improve output.

Delegation skills that you need as a leader include communication, time management, and the ability to train employees to successfully perform the tasks you’re delegating.

When you delegate, it empowers your employees and builds a sense of trust among your team. It also helps your employees learn and develop new skills.

3. Be Empathetic

Empathy is often identified as the number one leadership skill, but it’s not something a lot of leaders actually have.

Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to become best friends with everyone who works for you. You do need to understand the shared experience you have with them.  You want to show them you’re a real person, and you want to understand where they’re coming from as far as being a person outside of just work.

You want to be someone who’s approachable, and empathy can help you with that.

When you’re empathetic, you’re less likely to encounter defensiveness and negative feelings from your employees.

4. Observe and Listen

Too often, our only goal is to be heard, but we could achieve more by sitting back, observing, and listening.

Observing and listening can actually go right alongside empathy.

When you observe and listen, you’re able to identify your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, hone in on what motivates them and their goals, and you can figure out what makes them tick.

You don’t have to agree with everything they’re saying, but you do need to genuinely hear them out.

5. Be Willing to Embrace Change

The best workplaces are ones that are flexible and agile because this fosters innovation. You want to be a leader that similarly showcases a willingness to embrace change. You learn how to lead through change, whether that means you’re adapting to a new leadership style from someone else in the organization, embracing a new business model, or you’re dealing with new procedures or policies.

A good leader is always willing to change when needed.

6. Communicate Realistic Expectations

Employees can become incredibly frustrated and demoralized when they feel like they’re criticized for doing or not doing something they don’t think was ever fully communicated to them. You have to be clear with your expectations and communicate them without room for misinterpretation.

A good leader sets clear goals that are achievable and realistic and also highlights what the next steps will be if these goals aren’t met. You might also offer a roadmap to help your employees understand how goals need to be met.

If you’re always setting unattainable goals or you aren’t fully communicating expectations, it’s going to diminish morale because your employees are going to feel like they’re constantly failing.

7. Handle Failure Well

Speaking of failure, it’s part of life and our careers. You need to handle failure as well as you do success when you’re a leader.

No one wants to see a leader who points fingers or refuses to take accountability.

You want to be looking for reasons things went wrong so that you can fix the situation going forward. When you fail, or your team fails, you’re not playing the blame game. You’re looking at what could have been done differently to achieve success instead.

8. Develop Employees

Finally, as part of setting your employees up for development, you want to identify opportunities to develop them.  Provide them with training and tools, and help create a roadmap for their success. Work on encouraging them to find their strengths and their sense of internal motivation, and then you can also incorporate this into their assignments and tasks.

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