How to Become a Better Leader

Being a great leader takes hard work and dedication, but most of the necessary skills can be learned if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Here are 12 ways to help transform any manager into becoming a better leader.

blog061114Find a Good Mentor in Your Organization

If you want to understand what it means to be an effective leader in your company start by seeking out a mentor. Finding an internal mentor is a great way to improve your leadership skills and provide a roadmap for success in management in your current company. Internal mentors are there when you are dealing with unfamiliar territory or when you want to bounce an idea off of someone, and are normally more senior in the organization and can help guide you through the internal politics of the company. This type of insight can save you many years of tears and wasted effort.

Empower Your Team

There are a few key ways to empower your staff according to experts. Create a Safe-to-Speak-Out environment in your department. This concept comes back to adjusting your corporate culture for empowerment.

Employees need to and should feel encouraged to understand that if they have issues or concerns they won’t be laughed out of the room or simply ignored by addressing them.

Communicating to your team the importance of their positions and roles and how they fit into the big picture is another way to motivate and empower employees. While our natural inclination as leaders may be to shield our employees from the all the internal politicking that goes on in most companies, we can in fact empower people and promote bonding by letting them in on some of managements internal discussions and becoming part of the decision process.

Develop Your Strategy Skills

Michael Porter’s book entitled, Competitive Strategy and Competitive Advantage, gives the reader a better understanding of what strategy is. “If you accept the fact that some of Porters examples will be dated and you focus on the key concepts, these will be great resources. These are timeless strategic concepts that will help someone to get their arms around what they should be thinking about when thinking strategically.”

Take Classes – Even if you are only able to pursue part of an MBA or equivalent these types of business classes will help you improve your business strategy.

Work on a Business Case Study – Another tip that is a great way to improve strategic thinking is to participate with a team on a reality-based case study. If you can’t do this in your workplace then find a non-profit to volunteer your time on order to get your case-study experience.

Develop Your Communication Skills

You can’t be a great leader if you can’t articulate your point effectively to people. If you are constantly using negative reinforcement or you don’t illustrate the importance and relevance of what your team is doing and how it fits into the big picture then you aren’t leading right and you will find your team member turnover increasing.

What’s the best way to improve your communication skills? According to our experts the items below are examples of a few ways to improve your communicative prowess.

Practice, Practice, Practice – If you want to practice verbal communications outside the office, try Toastmasters or an acting class. If the classroom setting is where you do your best learning, then check out schools in your area, colleges and universities offer public speaking courses as well.

Work with an Expert – Expert help is available in all areas from expert individuals and companies that specialize in coaching people in better communication techniques.

Become a Better Listener

As Stephen R. Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Most of us have dealt with colleagues or managers who don’t hear a word they have heard or may think they know it all. For anyone in business, feeling like your voice isn’t being heard is a motivational killer. Here’s what our experts had to say on how a manager can learn to become a better listener.

  • Stop thinking that you have the best or a better answer. When you do this you start thinking about your answer and not theirs. Keep an open mind and listen.
  • Remind yourself how important it is for an employee or a colleague to know how much you value what they have to say.
  • Don’t Interrupt. Sometimes we may know or think we know what someone else is going to say before they finish the sentence. Let them finish it anyway. Let those around you express themselves completely, and then pause before responding. Don’t cut people off.
  • Engage them by asking open ended questions, like, “Tell me more about the reporting package,” and allow them to elaborate on the topic.
  • And of course make eye-contact, lean-in and ignore the distractions around you. If you can’t fully focus then move the conversation somewhere more quiet and appropriate.

Be Consistent and Honest

Part of being consistent and honorable is managing by the age-old adage, lead by example. Your workers will emulate what you do and put out there for others to emulate. Being a consistent and honest leader lets those who work for you and around you know what to expect in any given situation. This in turn gives them a baseline for better decision making when you aren’t around.

Know Yourself/Be Authentic

Employees don’t respect phonies and being respected by your employees is something a leader can never lose. If he does watch productivity and quality fall like granite.

Authenticity on the other hand allows you to better connect and build trust with your team and coworkers. It also allows people to better understand who you are and what you expect from them.

Don’t Micro-Manage

“If a leader is micro-managing they will fail because it is impossible to focus on the bigger picture and to micro-manage at the same time. You are either in the weeds of detail or you are managing a department. Also if you have an employee that needs to be micro-managed you should be contemplating how your success can be limited by this relationship. If you don’t want to drive your talent out the door, don’t micro-manage.

Surround Yourself With People Smarter Than You

Always being the smartest person in the room is hard to maintain in the world of technology, there is so much moving at a break-neck pace. There aren’t enough hours in the day to know and keep up with it all. This means you need to build your team with people who complement your skill set.

Always Be Learning

If you aren’t regularly educating yourself in your market and specialty, you will quickly be left behind. Take stock of your skills, decide where you need work and go after it. Maybe you need to learn more of the business-side of your organization or you want to improve your public speaking skills. Whatever it is, don’t wait. People often say lead by example, many of your subordinates and coworkers will take their cues from you. If they see that you take learning seriously they are more likely to as well.

The list here isn’t all-inclusive and we’d love to hear how you facilitate better leadership in your organization or your personal career. Tweet us @abetterleader.

Chris Craddock

As the leader of Projections' production team, Chris loves to inspire others to perform at the highest levels! From the most challenging leadership opportunities to brainstorming the latest topics leaders want to learn about, Chris provides clear direction and vision.