Our world is now changing more than ever. It means that leaders are needed more than ever. While in times of stability, we can survive with just managers, when facing the unknown strong leaders are needed that guide us through uncertainty.
So how can you become a better team leader, and what is a leader?
What many leaders do wrong?
A big problem is too many leaders think mostly of themselves and are focused on their own goals and aspirations. They don´t realize being a leader is not about what you can do for yourself, but it´s about what you can do for others.
It is all too common for the ego of a leader to start getting in the way where the only concern is personal success. This will be especially troublesome when a leader has to manage someone of equal status in the organization's hierarchy.
Often these leaders refuse to consider any ideas that aren´t their own. It is the kind of arrogance that will damage the team's morale. They also pretend like they know everything there is.
These team leaders have a strict hierarchy where simply do what the boss says, no questions asked.
But leaders have multiple responsibilities and need to make tough decisions, so they must overcome their insecurity to successfully manage their company and team.
How to become a better leader?
If you want to be a true leader, you need to shift your mind from me to we.
Think about an orchestra where many would-be leaders have the mindset of a soloist, the elite performer that everyone else serves. But true leaders are more like the conductor, which helps everyone else produce a great result. A conductor gives the opportunity to the entire group can show limitless potential.
Making the shift from a soloist to a conductor is that you truly understand the people around you.
Another example would be a show where hundreds of people dance the tango in perfect rhythm and harmony. What is the secret?
Each dance pair leader truly understands his partner to be able to lead effectively; you need to know what it is like to be led. Trust, cooperation, and mutual understanding are required to make the tango look beautiful, which is equally important in the world of work.
Similar to a good conductor or tango lead, your focus should be on helping others to shine. To do this, you need the right attitude toward your people and the relationships you have with them. Ensure you center the leadership around their needs. Listen to your team first before you expect them to listen to you.
Find out what your people do well and compliment and encourage them on it. If you have a big picture of your organization, make sure they are in it. And not only tell them your vision but also invite them to help you archive it.
Your focus should be on helping others to shine; it doesn´t mean you can´t also focus on your growth. You just have to do it the right way.
Experience and understanding of leadership are much more important than hitting a numerical goal. In leadership, you need to shift from a goal mindset to a growth mindset.
- Goal mindset prioritizes achievement and status as well as hitting a target and asking how long it will take to reach it.
- Growth mindset values development and improving themselves while asking, "how far can I get this?"
When you adopt the growth mindset, you may get surprised by the result you can archive.
As an example, if you write books, you shouldn´t focus on the goals of how many sales you get but on how you become a better writer. When you focus on growth, you can archive more than the goals you set.
To get a growth mindset, you need to have a teachable spirit, which means not just saying you want to learn something new but taking action and doing it.
Think about gardening; if you only want to grow beautiful plants, you won´t archive anything. Rather you need to plan, prepare, and plant it.
No matter what you are doing or whoever you are with, you should recognize that there are opportunities to learn and grow. So stay curious and be open-minded about learning.
Surround yourself with people that have a growth mindset. Similar people that have this growth mindset will bring out the fire in you. If you stay near the fire where it is hot, you shouldn´t go away because, after a while, you will get cold.
So stay close to the fire.
Ensure you balance how you lead. It means not to be too aggressive or too hands-off, too talkative or too quiet, too strict or too much of a pushover, etc.
Successful leadership is about creating strong relationships that are based on mutual trust and respect. Only if you do this can you lead a motivated and dedicated team to victory.
It is important that you feel respected and also the people in your team feel respected and protected.
To gain respect, you should own all problems, mistakes a failed plans. Take responsibility for the bad thing without expectations.
If a team member makes a mistake or doesn´t do their job, you own it. So when someone on your team fails, it reflects the fact you may haven´t trained him properly. Perhaps you haven´t effectively communicated the importance of the person's role and how essential it is for the overall team's success.
A failure of a team project should ultimately be resting on the leader's shoulders alone. Blaming others will never be good for anyone on your team.
Leading people can be challenging, especially when you want to ensure that you are as good as your peers. But don´t show that you are the one leading. Let them come up with a plan, and if you are in doubt, ask yourself:" What would I want to see if I were in his situation?"
Give trust and respect your team will give it back.
When you be a micromanager, you send out that you don´t really trust that your team can execute the job. The only time you should check in is when you deal with someone that fails to improve their performance. In this case, set a time of the strict goal and check in if the person archives what you told him.
There are some cases where punishment is needed when someone purposefully ignores directions and doesn´t follow the rules, even if you explained the reason for it. The best way is to clearly state the type of punishment in a policy when someone doesn´t accept the rules and orders.
But always remember that even if something goes wrong, it is a reflection of your leadership. And ask yourself whether you can forgive and remind the person of the rules. If not, you need to follow your policy.
Often leaders think they are too good to take part in menial tasks. But if you want more respect as a leader, you should be willing to do a mindless job that needs to be done.
It doesn´t mean you should always volunteer to do the dirty work; however, it is a good practice, and it is a sign of solidarity and respect. You also get the chance to interact and bond with your team more. If you do this unpleasant task, you can learn a lot about these different personalities and dynamics within the team.
While you may have a higher rank than others, it doesn't mean that you are actually superior to anyone else. Leadership is about building relationships and staying humble, and not pretending you know everything.
People will respect you as a person way more if you show a willingness to learn, asks questions, and for help.
When you are a leader, you can influence the people around you, but this influence doesn´t come from the position you hold. Not all titles equate to leadership; some are not the richest well-educated, or most impressive persons. However, they have moral authority and are good, honest, fair, and hardworking people. They even wouldn´t call themself leaders, but they are.
To be a moral authority, you need integrity, where you align your actions with your word, and living up to your values is important. When you have integrity, it makes you dependable, trustworthily followable. It means your team will know when you say you will do it, you will, and also that your actions have strong moral values.
A moral hero would be Nelson Mandela, whom many saw as someone reliable and someone who stayed true to his values no matter what.
What is also very important is to act with courage, so not only can you reach your full potential but those around you as well. If you combine courage with integrity, your team will be happy to follow you to a new destination.
It is important that lessons and insights come from outside your own group. Similarly, teams that embrace diversity are more effective and valuable because they can bring other perspectives and insights for ideas and knowledge.
As a leader, you want to know everything, so you need to rely on your team to fill in those gaps effectively and bring different people to the table.
Take a look at Abraham Lincoln, who builds his cabinet out of a very diverse group. The members were sworn rivals and not allies. But the civil war required the skills of the best thinker and a diversity of perspectives.
If you want more diversity in your life, you need to look critically at friendship and professional circles. So when you look at friends and contacts, and they are similar to yourself, as if you would look into the mirror, then you may need to diversify your contacts. Get to know new people from different races, ages, and political stands.
You may find it refreshing when surrounded by people with new, diverse, and interesting ways of thinking.
Some people say you are either born with a certain talent or not. But this is not accurate anyone can get better at their job.
Especially when you recently find yourself leading a team or building a new business, you can get easily feel overwhelmed with the responsibility. If you are in this situation, don´t worry, it is way better to feel like you need to improve than to be too arrogant.
Also, when you are overwhelmed by all there is to do, take a step back to see things clearly. Do this literally take a step back from your desk or the conversation and take a deep breath. Lift your head and look around in both directions, allow yourself to let go of whatever emotion is bothering you and try to see and hear what is really going on around you.
It will help you to become grounded in the present moment so you can make a better rational decision that is not as influenced by highly charged emotions.
When you have to make multiple decisions, some leaders have the all-or-nothing mindset. However, it is better to make a series of small decisions and explore a situation further. So you slowly get new information before you commit to anything.
If you are uncertain, make a small move to minimize the risk. After each step, you can move forward and recheck for changes. And when nothing has changed, you continue moving closer and checking again. If something bad happens, you can turn back and lessen the chances that it will horribly go wrong.
You should have a balanced, humble, and empowering approach to leadership and be mindful of being the go-to problem solver for your team.
While solving problems as a leader is a great skill, you don´t need to become too eager to step in, you may take away valuable growth opportunities for your team. So when you know a solution to the problem, don´t blurt it out instead, ask a question that can someone steer you to solve the problem on their own.
Ultimately, it will be far more helpful than being the person everyone asks when a problem arises.
Leaders have to shift from directing people to connecting with them. While in sports, many coaches talk in a half time right away to their team. Other coaches let the team discuss the following three questions:
- What do we do, right?
- What did we do wrong?
- What should we change?
When the team talks and agrees upon its answers, the coach talks to them. The coach hears them out and reflects on their answers, and explains to them a few conversations before sending them out to play the second half.
The problem is many leaders lead based on assumptions. It is better to truly understand your team by asking questions and listening to them than assuming where the people mentally are and only telling them what to do.
Leadership is not based on direction, authority, and talking but rather on connection, collaboration, and listening. To archive this for your team, you need to learn to listen well.
A good solution is every time you meet, someone takes out a pad to write notes. Start by writing a big "L" for listening; it will remind you that as a leader, your job is to talk less and listen more.
Always listen to what your team members say and choose your words carefully.
If you want to improve your listening skill, ask colleagues, friends, or family members how good of a listener you are on a scale from one to ten. Then pay attention to their answers and act on them. And any time they feel you aren´t listening, they should tell you in the future.
When you lead by building a connection, it is better for everybody. You have better relationships, better communication, and gain more ideas.
You need to ensure that your team knows how essential their job is for the success of your projects. If someone fails to meet exceptions or doesn´t respect orders often, it is the case that nobody took the time to explain how important each role is.
When all team members know their goal, they should be able to make decisions that the team brings closer to archiving their mission. A command should be a consistent source of motivation and empowerment.
As a leader, it is your job to clearly explain the objectives of the current mission, but the team needs to be able to come up with the plan themselves. It is a powerful motivator if you give the team complete ownership of the plan.
While a team may develop a less ideal plan, it doesn't mean you should only use your ideas. When the plan is only 70-80 percent effective, then let them go ahead and try their best. If the plan is 50-60 percent ideal, ask some pointing questions so your team sees the problem and can make the right adjustments.
But if there's no real value in the plan, then you can tell them to come up with something better to explain why.
When you, as a leader, want to praise your team, it is better to be specific rather than broad and don´t go overboard. Too much praise can make people ease up on their efforts.
Also, instead of telling the whole team, they did a great job of being more specific. If you deliver praise, mention the projects and missions still ahead. Keep motivation levels up and remind everyone it is just one success on the road to reaching bigger results.
Ensure that everyone knows it when you provide updates. You need to establish clear lines of communication with everyone. No one should be left in the dark because then rumors will start that kill motivation levels and cause all kinds of moral problems. So keep all people updated and be truthful even if something goes wrong,
Give orders where you are truthful and clear, and tell your team why it is important that you follow your instructions. If you don´t have a good reason, it is often a sign there may be better ways to do things.
When someone doesn´t follow your order, you should try and correct the situation by asking," How can I help to understand your role in this project better?
No matter if it is in good times or bad times, your role as a leader is all about the success and well-being of your team. It isn´t about exercising your power but about being calm and collected so you be a good example for everyone else.
Some leaders are self-focused and only ask themselves, "How high can I climb up the ladder?". But true leaders make the shift from climbing up the ladder themselves to thinking about how they can build a ladder for other people.
It is, fortunately, true that you first need yourself successfully climb the ladder so you can help others to do the same. A good rule of thumb is to aim to be in the top ten percent of your chosen field so that you can safely assume that you have a lot to offer to others.
The best way is to use your success to help others. True leader wants more for their people than they want from them.
So now, the question is, how can you build those ladders for others to climb? If you archive the magic top ten percent, you can think about mentoring.
The first task is to decide who you want to mentor. Think carefully; your time is limited, so if you can only choose one or two people, they better be the right ones.
To choose, ask yourself if these people are just hopeful or if they are truly hungry for knowledge and learning. While there are plenty of people who hope for better things, there are only a few who are hungry for it. They don´t say there should be a way but rather, "I`ll find a way. These are the people you should mentor.
Also, ask yourself if the candidate has true leadership potential. A leader will influence other people, so you should invest in shaping their future because it has a wider impact than when you only mentored a follower.
If you select your mentee, you need to offer the truth about the complexity of life and options and considerations for the future. Also, it isn´t enough for a leader simply to tell people what to to do.
Some people only do a job; others have a career, but some are lucky enough to have found their calling in life. When you have a clear reason and purpose for living, you can find your calling.
A calling matches who you are; is it something you could do for hours without and happily do for the rest of your life? It also will be something you are passionate about.
You shouldn´t ask yourself what the world needs but what makes you come alive. The world needs people who are truly alive.
Remember, the calling isn´t only about you and isn´t about your career or job; it comes from giving, serving, and thinking beyond yourself. When you don´t find this fulfillment, you may feel nagging anxiety that your life hasn´t archived its true meaning.
It will make you become a better leader if you find your true calling. You will not also live a more satisfying life, but you can also inspire others in your team and circle to find their fulfillment.