Many of you reading this aren’t CEOs of billion-dollar corporations. Well, maybe not yet. As much as you aren’t the leader for such a large organisation, you may be a leader in some way. Perhaps a project manager, or a manager in your company. And you are facing a problem. Your team isn’t motivated. Because of that, you start to question your leadership potential.
Believe it or not, being a better leader isn’t far from you. Here are 5 small, yet significant actions you can take to become a more inspiring leader:
1. Care for those you lead, instead of criticising them
When you see an employee whose productivity is below average, the most natural thing to do is to criticise them. In fact, I have been on the receiving end of such treatment before. I realised that my respect for those kinds of people quickly deteriorate. On the other hand, there is a group of leaders whom I look up to and respect. This group of leaders are those who have empathy.
Instead of criticising someone who is not productive, they ask a simple yet powerful question, “Are you okay?” What I often realise among people is that they tend to have underlying issues that result in their drop in productivity.
By caring for your followers, you build trust with them. Although your team’s productivity may fall in the short-term, in the long run your team will perform exceedingly well because they trust you to lead them.
2. Listen before preaching
I know you are a pretty smart person. You may know a lot about your business and how things work. However, that does not mean that you don’t have to listen to others.
One of the greatest tech titans of all time, Steve Jobs, is a person who is known to change his mind. He has a great intellect and talent for innovation, yet he still chooses to listen to people. Through listening to others, he questions his current ideas and refines them.
As Stephen Covey wrote in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ highly effective people seek first to understand. They don’t listen simply out of respect. What you can do is to forget what you want to say and listen to others when they are speaking.
When you do so, you will realise that many of your ideas have great room for improvement. Just this simple act of listening before preaching can cause you to be viewed as empathetic and innovative.
“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.” – Deborah Tannen
3. Think in terms of the team, and not self
One of the greatest challenges leaders face is when they meet someone who is smarter than them. If you were to recall honestly, I am sure you have met many of such people before right? A natural tendency is to shut them out so that you can be viewed as superior.
That may prove to be counterproductive for you. As leadership guru John Maxwell wrote in his book ‘21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,’ secure people are the ones who give away power. These are the ones who encourage rising leaders to step up.
He mentions that by doing so, leaders don’t lose their jobs. In fact, they become even more irreplaceable to the company because of the impact they create.
Should you be facing a similar situation currently, I want to challenge you to work towards the benefit of your team instead. Sorry to say, but your ego isn’t the most important thing. In the end, it is about how well the team performs.
When you think that way, you will, as ironic as it may seem, be seen as an inspirational and confident leader.
4. Have tough conversations, instead of taking the easy way out
In the book ‘The Trillion Dollar Coach’, former Google executives Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg wrote a biography on the life of Bill Campbell. Bill Campbell was known for his exemplary coaching abilities, where he mentored many of today’s multi-billion dollar companies before they became wildly successful, one of them being Google.
One characteristic about Bill was that he never ignored the elephant in the room. There was once in Google where two different product leaders were arguing about which team should manage a particular group of products. The argument was heated and no one wanted to step in.
However, Bill got involved and he made the difficult meeting happen, where one executive won and the other lost. It may seem tempting to ignore these situations, but they can come back to bite you in the future. To lead a high-performing team, it is imperative to resolve such underlying tension as soon as possible.
“Leadership is about recognizing that there’s a greatness in everyone, and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge.” – Bill Campbell
5. Instead of simply explaining, add in useful analogies
When it comes to leadership, the leaders that strike you may be loud and charismatic leaders. Sure, it helps to be charismatic, but not everyone has charisma. Yet, you still have the ability to influence those around you.
In Barry Posner and James Kouzes’s book ‘The Leadership Challenge,’ they describe how great leaders communicate their vision through studies of thousands of leaders. This is what they concluded. Inspiring leaders “use metaphors and analogies; they give us examples, tell stories, and relate anecdotes.”
By using analogies, you can explain abstract concepts in a simple way. You will thus be able to relate to the people whom you are leading.
Leadership may seem difficult at first glance. Fret not, there are 5 simple but powerful steps you can take to become a more inspiring leader. These 5 ways don’t take a whole lot of effort to put into practice, yet the only question is, “Are you willing to become a better leader?”