Everyone remembers the great leaders they’ve had in their lives—those who inspired and motivated them, and gave them the confidence to feel that maybe, one day, they might become a great leader, too.
They also remember the bad leaders.
I’ll never forget sitting in my cubicle, nervously anticipating my manager’s arrival. If she said good morning and smiled, I knew the day would be tolerable. If she walked in without so much as a glance in my direction, I knew I’d better not be 30 seconds late coming back from my break—or that I should skip it altogether.
British business consultant Marcus Buckingham nailed it when he said, “People leave managers, not companies.” There are stats to back this up, like the study from staffing agency Robert Half that found 49% of those surveyed have quit their jobs due to having a bad boss.
It was certainly the case for me, when I decided I couldn’t stand another day of trying to read my manager’s mood (and her mind).
Companies need leaders to promote their organization’s values and purpose through clear direction. Whether this comes through formal leadership development training, exhibiting leadership qualities like emotional intelligence has become especially important during the pandemic.
With many thrown into situations they weren’t prepared for, some are working remotely, others aren’t working at all (thanks to restrictions, supply chain issues, or complete shutdowns). They’re unsure what the future holds. They’re rethinking their careers and working conditions and, in some cases, walking away from it all (aka, the Great Resignation).
When I took on my first management role, in the middle of the pandemic nonetheless, I knew the kind of leader I wanted—and didn’t want—to be. I also knew that if I wanted to progress in my career, I had to be better than great. I had to learn the traits of a good leader and what separates the great, effective leadership from the transactional, autocratic, authoritarian leaders we see and know.
Based on my own experiences and some good, old-fashioned research, these are the qualities of a good leader and tips to enhance your leadership style.
If you want your team members to work towards a goal, they have to know what that goal is. They also have to know how they’re expected to achieve it, and have the appropriate time management to get there.
Tip: Be clear in your goals and expectations and revisit them from time to time, to help your team stay on track.
You want your team members to feel they can talk to you, whether they’re having an issue in the workplace or an issue at home that could affect their abilities in the workplace. Communication skills help us develop a better understanding of one another, a key skill separating transformational leaders from transactional leaders.
Tip: Make yourself available when your team members want to talk, and listen and ask questions when they do.
“The best leaders never stop learning.” – Donald T. Phillips, author
Leaders are always looking to improve—that’s how they get and stay ahead. They also encourage others to do the same, as it builds a stronger and more skilled team.
Tip: Create opportunities for you and your team to learn. Plan a virtual lunch and learn or ask team members if they’d like to sign up for an online course. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are lots of free resources out there (check out Coursera, Ted Talks and of course, Vexxit).
People want to feel valued. By connecting with your team members, you’re showing them they’re more than just numbers to you (as they should be).
Tip: Get to know your team members’ personalities, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals. Learn their workplace love language, so to speak, and interact with them in a way they’ll respond to.
If you can dish it out, you’ve got to be able to take it in return. Constructive criticism is how we learn and improve, no matter our job title.
Tip: Don’t wait for a performance review to let a team member know how they can improve. Who wants to feel like their boss has been keeping a list of their wrongdoings without letting them know?
Give constructive criticism as you need to, while recognizing the important tasks that person has done right. And don’t shy away from receiving constructive criticism, either. Improvement goes both ways.
“The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity.” – Unknown
You don’t have to be an eternal optimist to be a leader. You just have to look on the bright side (and there’s always a bright side). A positive attitude will also help you develop soft skills, essential to effective and transformational leadership.
Tip: Reframe your thought patterns. If you start looking at challenges as opportunities (and not just in a cheesy, motivational quote kind of way), you’re both problem solving and keeping a positive attitude.
According to New York Times Bestselling Author, Kevin Kruse, employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. You can’t force employees to care about their work, but you can motivate them by showing you care about them.
Tip: Provide value in ways that go beyond the work day—like the company that reached engagement levels in the 80% range by offering workshops on topics like home buying and retirement.
Bonus tip: Use this free, temperature-check survey to learn how you can boost employee engagement and better lead your team.
Leadership skills take work and practice, but that’s what will take you to the top of your game. Check out how Vexxit is helping leaders take action in their organization.