Most of us are required to exercise a leadership function at some time in our lives even though this may be in adhoc and informal situations.
However, regardless of whether you officially lead a team at work or only find yourself in leadership situations from time to time, there are certain elements that have to be present for you to lead a team effectively.
Be positive: one of the most important characteristics that a leader must possess is positivity. As a leader you must have a fundamental belief that you can change and improve things. Being positive means you see opportunities rather than problems, that you focus on what can be done to resolve an issue rather than dwelling on what can’t be done. The way you speak is also important, nobody will feel inspired by a leader who uses negative language to make judgements or expresses doubt before examining possible solutions.
Lead by example: Team members automatically and often subconsciously look towards their leader’s behaviour to give them guidance as to how they themselves should act. A leader who has a very strong work ethic and is a good role model will inevitably motivate their team. As a leader you simply cannot do things such as turning up late and then expect to admonish someone for doing the same. The days of “command and control” for a leader are long gone and thank goodness, as they were never effective in getting people to give their best. Some new leaders may think that as they’ve worked hard to attain the leadership position, they can now relax – HUGE mistake and one which will quickly jeopardise your credibility as a leader.
Develop a vision: This may appear quite daunting but in fact it simply means having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it. How do you do this in a company? The core process is relatively simple; first you look at the overall strategy of the company and develop a vision for the team based on these aims. Secondly you define and develop individual goals that support these aims. There are often two areas where leaders can fall down here:
- if the team isn’t given clear guidance on what is required of them and what the vision looks like, they can become demotivated as they fail to deal effectively with unforeseen issues
- if individuals aren’t provided with clear aims and goals and leaders don’t place enough trust in their people’s ability to achieve these goals, the leader is likely to resort to micro-managing which ultimately leads to demotivation on the part of the individual.
Be inclusive: great leaders recognise that best results are achieved by including the expertise and creativity of their team in the decision making process. When individuals are encouraged to make contributions, they feel empowered and the ensuing sense of belonging can give rise to yet more creativity and a greater committment to overcoming challenges together. This approach also helps a company in times of change, if an employee has been involved in the decision, they will be much more willing to be flexible and adapt to the change required of them.
Manage negativity: if you take an inclusive approach in your leadership style, it is likely that negativity in the team will be at a minimum. However, human beings tend to err on the negative end of the positive-negative scale and so this will often need your attention as negativity, once it gets a hold of a group can be very contagious. To manage negativity, employ the following techniques:
- Acknowledge the negativity – if you ignore it completely it will only get worse
- Don’t collude in the negativity even if you agree with what people are being negative about
- Focus on issues, not personalities
- Recognise the positive in all situations
- Express your ideas and feelings – it’s useful to provide people with an insight about what you’re thinking, openness and honesty help to resolve most negative issues
- Put yourself in their shoes – making an effort to really understand why a person or group are feeling negative can go a long way to constructively solving the issue
At the end of the day it is imperative that your team believe in you, you need to exhibit behaviour that indicates you will deliver on your goals and promises. By following these basic guidelines you can establish some firm foundations and quickly enhance your credibility as a leader of team.