How to Become a Better Leader: 8 Steps You Can Take Right Now
A leader is not made by a title, nor is one defined by birth. Leadership is a habit, and you can build a better leader by taking a series of actionable steps every day. To effectively lead employees, you need to communicate with your employees, motivate them, support them and improve their performance. Below is a list of things you can do every day to become a better leader.
Communicate With Employees
- Be a better listener. Too often, a person participates in a conversation by focusing on how to better convey her point than by trying to determine what the other person is trying to convey. It’s about figuring out how to get the other person to agree with you and not about learning something new. Try to refrain from trying to convince your employees of anything until you hear what they have to say. Then, if you still need to convince them, you can make your argument.
- Show humility. As a leader, you have a higher position in the business hierarchy, which can create distance and make it difficult to communicate. Demonstrating humility, by learning from your mistakes in front of your employees and sharing credit for your successes, can help bridge that gap.
- Don’t micromanage. Employees work better when they have some autonomy. If you actively try to dictate how they should do every element of their job, they will only do the bare minimum and will merely follow the process you laid out. Allow them to be creative and control elements of what they do, and they will work harder to do things better.
- Ask more questions and give fewer orders. For the bigger business strategy questions, you will need to make the final call. But instead of just issuing orders about what your employees are going to do, ask them for their suggestions. Not only will this process and feedback improve your plans, but it will also make your employees more engaged and allow them to take ownership of what you are doing.
- Learn about your employees before you engage with them. This doesn’t mean that you need to learn their favorite color or even that you need to spend time with them out of the office. But get a better understanding of what is important to your employees, why they work with your company, and what motivates them to do better. Ask them questions about their motivations, and if need be, write down what you learn and keep it in a file so you can review it later.
- Learn from your employees. Just because your employees are not doing something the way you are doing it does not mean that they are doing it wrong. Sometimes your employees can find a better way. In those circumstances, learn what they are doing and have them teach that process to others. Not only will it improve your business, but it will also make the innovative employees more open to critiques in the future.
- Only train others when you know the topic. As a leader, you might think that, since you are ultimately responsible for your business’s performance, the responsibility for training is on you as well. But just because you are running your business does not mean you have to do everything. Make sure that your best person is teaching a given subject, even if that person is not you.
- Be clear but not cruel. You need to strike a balance when talking with your employees about how they can be better. On the one hand, they need to know exactly what they are doing wrong and how they can fix it. On the other hand, if they feel like they are being attacked, they will shut down and not retain what you are telling them. Be firm and clear, but make the conversation about actions that they control and can change, and not about who they are as people.