When you think about the top companies in your industry, chances are that effective leadership is what helped get them there. If you’ve ever been around a great leader (and if you’ve ever worked for a terrible one), you know the difference.
I remember a college summer job I had at a small motors shop. If you know me, that’s immediately laughable. I used to be just about the least mechanical person you’ll ever meet. I could change lightbulbs, but even then it might have been worth me leaving it up to the pros. Despite my ignorance, I learned and improved during my time there. But it didn’t matter. My boss belittled me relentlessly and had no second thoughts about humiliating me in front of customers.
The funny thing is, at the end of the summer, he offered to give me a promotion and a raise if I would stay on at the shop.
No thanks, pal.
Leadership isn’t telling someone what to do and then counting your money. It’s about helping your team achieve their goals and, in turn, achieving yours. And here’s the best part: anyone can become an effective leader (even that small motor shop owner).
Here are five key steps to becoming an effective leader:
David Cottrell, author of Monday Morning Leadership, calls leading with integrity “the do right rule.” Leading with integrity is essential to building trust with your team. And believe me when I say that your team is watching—they’ll notice your commitment (or lack of commitment) to ethical business practices. Cottrell goes on to say that if we can’t build trust with others, then there is no hope of developing people. Employees will simply clock in and clock out for a paycheck until they find something or someone better to follow. Effective leaders recognize that integrity is vital to building trust and developing those around them.
2. Training and Resources
Think back to an experience where you didn’t feel well prepared for a task that was delegated to you. Did you feel anxious? Did you do your best work? Were you confident that you met expectations? Providing your team with the right training and resources is like giving them a road map and showing them how to navigate with it. This level of care helps your team operate autonomously, enabling good decision-making without involving you at every turn.
3. Setting Goals
You’ve built trust with your team. They understand the process and understand what needs to be done. The road map has been provided, but there isn’t a destination. Set your goals. The process begins with creating a vision—picking a destination on the map, determining the best route, and then scheduling frequent check-ins to gauge your progress. In the end, success is built upon regular, focused action. (For a deeper take on goal setting and achievement, this is an excellent resource.)
4. Growth Mindset
Having a growth mindset means you’re willing to accept that there will always be work to do—we never “arrive.” Whether we’re talking about personal growth or growing your business, there will always be opportunities to improve. This leads to humility. And while having a growth mindset and humility really could be their own separate topics, they can go hand in hand. I believe humility may be the most under-appreciated quality of strong leaders. The good news is that, as leaders, we can learn. We can grow.
Motivation is the process of identifying what makes people want to succeed. In the context of business, it’s convincing your team that they can achieve their goals by helping you reach yours. As a leader, when you leverage the four keys to effective leadership listed above, motivating your team becomes easy. Done right, they trust you. You’ve given them proper training and resources to accomplish the job, helped them set goals, and are maintaining a growth mindset. Motivating your team in this environment can be as easy as asking them.
I’ve just listed five keys to effective leadership, but let’s take a moment and visit the honest planet: most of us are pretty good at two of these things, maybe three. Mastering all five is work.
But when you distill effective leadership down to its core, we’re really talking about helping those around us grow and accomplish their goals—and realizing our vision for success in return.
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