“Leaders are made,” legendary football coach Vince Lombardi famously declared, “they are not born.”
If you’re a manager seeking to take your leadership game to the next level, adopting these five simple-yet-profound mindset shifts can pay major dividends.
Check Your Ego
A good manager must be able to offer and receive feedback well. An employee who knows you are willing to graciously receive and integrate feedback from the team is an employee that will be more likely to themselves graciously receive and integrate the feedback you provide. Effective leaders understand that fueling synergy rather than enmity can create a positive, self-reinforcing dynamic that has the potential to enhance every aspect of your business and team.
Bonus hack: At an interval of your choice, write down three aspects of your personal leadership style you would like to improve – and then invite a small spectrum of employees to meet with you to discuss how you might meet those goals. The benefit will be twofold: First, you’ll get a sense of how it feels to receive criticism in multiple ways. Which should help you hone your own technique. Second, it will provide you a very real understanding of how you are viewed as a leader. It might not all be flattering, but it should be revealing. And in business knowledge is power, always.
Adopt the Eye of the Beholder
Employees view things through a different lens than company leadership. That’s just natural. If you want to be an effective manager – that is, someone who can successfully unite and channel those various individual perspectives into achieving collective company goals -- you need to cultivate the skill of looking at things through others’ eyes. Offer constructive feedback not just when an employee struggles, but also when they shine: The best way to get the most from your team is by acknowledging and building upon good work, not through unnecessary criticism. Adopting this attitude will make you a better communicator – which is a huge part of building a team.
Bonus hack: The next time you delegate a task take a moment to imagine you are the employee receiving the assignment. What types of support and guidance would you find most inspiring, uplifting, and helpful? Offer that. By the same token, consider how some languages or tones might be demoralizing or off-putting.
Now that you have a fuller, wider perspective on your employees, it’s time to cast that gimlet-eyed stare inward: Take a self-inventory. Observe, from a perspective as far outside of yourself as you can muster, how you behave in response to various situations. The goal here is to recalibrate and move yourself as much as possible from a reactive to proactive style of leadership. That is what will bring the most peace and equilibrium to an enterprise, increasing productivity and effectiveness – for yourself as well as your team. Also, keep your own professional aspirations top of mind: If you are unhappy or unfocused in your own career, it will make it that much more difficult to be a good manager to others.
Bonus hack: We all have those moments of stress and strain at work – and serving in a position of authority, as you well know, can increase that pressure substantially. The next time such a moment occurs once it passes take a few minutes to write down a short memo of feedback to yourself. Allow it to flow without indulging any defensive impulses. This exercise in separation and introspection can potentially provide the sort of constructive criticism to yourself that others perhaps cannot (or will not) deliver. And as a leader any positive evolutions you make personally cannot help but to positively evolve the company culture.
Stand Up for Your Team
There is no better way to build trust in a team than to have each other’s backs. And that begins at the top. An essential part of being a leader is not only ensuring your team meets reasonable expectations but also serving as a bulwark between your team’s interests and any unreasonable pressure from inside or outside the company. If you are a reliable advocate for your team and prove yourself willing to stand up for them when appropriate, they will likely reciprocate that trust when it comes to your asks.
Bonus hack: Be human. You are a representative of the company not the company itself. You are a living, breathing human being with hopes and dreams not so different from those of your team members. If you show your humanity and open up a bit you will likely become more approachable. This, in turn, can build trust and reduce employee stress.
Tap Available Resources
It takes time and concentration to both nurture a team and your own leadership skills. So be sure to weigh the benefits of a business loan or business line of credit. Perhaps you use that loan to purchase a piece of equipment that streamlines your business. Or to hire more employees. Or secure new space that will make it easier to optimize your workflow. The key is to open up space to develop into the manager you want to be, the manager your team needs, and the manager who is capable of growing your business to its fullest potential.
Bonus hack: Approach the search for a lender with the same degree of due diligence you apply to the product or project on which you eventually spend the funds. (Idea Financial, for example, offers fast, flexible financing solutions which you can learn more about here.)
To get more help with your business, check out our other articles in the business center.