Lead with Transparency and Empathy
The best leaders are those who are somewhat of a chameleon and can lead with transparency and empathy. They are capable of adapting their leadership style. They are skilled at choosing the right tools to fit the environment and personalities of any given situation best. A leader may want to be highly task focused and provide clearly defined expectations towards staff members. Or, they might be highly relational and provide freedom to dream and create to a newly formed team.
Some leadership situations may require you to act more as a coach than a boss or more like a friend than a taskmaster. Ultimately, leadership is all of these things combined to one degree or another. I honestly believe that being knowledgeable and humble enough to utilize multiple styles and tools should be the goal of every leader. However, some tools and traits of leadership never go out of style and should always be present, regardless of the situation.
We’ll by no means compile a complete list here, but instead, focus in on leading with transparency and empathy, two essential traits of leadership that should exist independent of environment or personalities.
Note: for a great base to build from, I would suggest Introduction to Leadership by Peter Northouse
Leading With Transparency
The days of transparency being an optional leadership quality are gone. Employees are already skeptical of those in authority. Lost trust can be tough, if not impossible, to regain. To show transparency, a leader must communicate honestly and quickly. In some cases, delayed information can be just as damaging as wrong information.
The method of your communication is also essential. Be aware of the pitfalls that can come from using the wrong method of communication. If your team member lacks trust or has had negative past experiences, a correction sent through text can cause unintended insecurities. Understand that your choice of communication channel can play a role in creating a feeling of transparency. Sometimes in-person is best! Be sure you are building trust by sharing your failures, struggles, and weaknesses.
When a team member is stuck during a project or recognizes they will fail to reach an expected outcome, if you are the kind of leader who can acknowledges their own imperfections, you’ll be more approachable. If you find yourself continually discovering team member mistakes on your own or finding out about failures at the last minute, then it’s likely that you could better utilize transparency in your leadership.
Leading With Empathy
If seeing empathy listed as a necessary leadership skill brought up images of battle-hardened Army Veterans then you’ve likely either served yourself or read The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual. If the concept of soldiers leading with empathy seems odd, I suggest you add it to your reading list!
The Leadership Field Manual is an outstanding way to get started leading with transparency and empathy. Forbes recently declared it “one of the best resources on leadership.” In the article, author Prudy Gourguechon describes empathy simply as the ability to walk in another person’s shoes. To feel what they feel and think what they think. Empathy is a critical skill for a leader to be able to make effective decisions for their team as well as to be able to communicate to their team effectively.
To grow in this skill, make sure you are spending time with your team members, and do your best to follow the Toyota principle of “going to the real place” to make decisions. Ask yourself or other team members how a decision will affect them before pulling the trigger. Gather input and perspective as often as you can. You and your team members will ultimately thank you for it.