If You Want to Be a Great Leader
Being in charge of people can be relatively straightforward. In the most general sense, all you have to do is tell others how to complete a task and make sure that they do it within the allotted time frame. Though this is the bare minimum of being a successful boss, it doesn’t necessarily make you a good one. For that, you need to become a leader.
Leaders are much more than just a person in charge. Rather, they are the people that support employees, challenge them to be their best, provide mentorship, and encourage better behaviors. Making these connections with employees doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, but neither does becoming a great leader that many people strive to work for.
If your goal is to become a strong leader within your organization there are some skills you must develop. There are also some habits and behaviors that you have to let go of. Doing so will open you up to greater positive growth and development in your leadership skills as a whole.
Everyone has had a boss at one point or another that was a bit of a micromanager. They were constantly swooping in to tell you exactly how to complete a task. Oftentimes creative new ideas were shut down and if you deviated from the sideboards of your role, you were quickly put back into your place.
Though micromanagers consistently have a bad rap in the workforce, there are still a large number of them out in our workspaces. As you work towards becoming a strong leader, take a hard look at your management style. Are you giving your employees enough breathing room? Do you trust them with the tasks they are hired to complete? If you think you might be a micromanager, try to take a step back and give your employees time to do things their way — it may not be perfect, but it doesn’t always have to be.
As a leader, you will quickly realize that all of your employees have different skill levels and abilities. Some will be super quick at producing results, but they may not be thorough; while others may take forever to complete a project, but it is beyond perfect. As a manager, it is your job to help people improve from wherever they are on the performance spectrum.
Helping people improve at their job is a fine balance of encouragement and constructive criticism. One of the biggest struggles non-leaders have is actually providing constructive criticism rather than just critiquing their work. Working to stop criticisms involves active change such as thinking about the ways you frame things, being realistic about the changes you’d like to see, and depersonalizing reactions.
Throughout much of our upbringing and training in the professional world, we are taught to avoid conflict. Although nobody wants to be the person to force a controversial topic into discussions or start arguments for no reason, there is a time and a place for conflict in the workplace. Fear of engaging in this conflict when it arrives can pose problems such as a breakdown in communication, a loss of productivity, and the loss of the highest quality employees.
A strong leader isn’t a person that goes out of their way to cause conflict, but they are a person that isn’t afraid to address it when it comes up. Addressing conflicts involves things such as listening to make sure you understand the source of the conflict and setting expectations on how it can be worked around. Leaders strive to keep personalities out of the discussion and work towards common goals.
At some point in your career, you’ve probably also dealt with microaggressions whether or not you realize it. Microaggressions are subtle behaviors that negatively impact someone but are so small that they get ignored or brushed off. We often can’t quite put our finger on what exactly is wrong because they are not necessarily outright or malicious and may even be unconscious behavior by the perpetrator. Often they are directed at marginalized groups.
Good leaders must strive to be cognizant of and avoid microaggressions at all costs. If an employee is experiencing a microaggression, encourage conversations that can help resolve it and don’t be afraid to lead the discussions if necessary. Sometimes all it takes is making someone aware of the offense and requesting an apology and change in behavior.
Finally, good leaders should always evaluate the diversity of the workplace and strive for improvement. Plenty of studies indicate that diversity is a huge benefit to workplaces, which includes racial, gender, age, and experience diversities. Making sure to address gender diversity is a good place to start as numerous companies — especially within certain industries — experience a chronic gender bias.
Becoming a good leader is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. As you work to become a stronger leader, take time to perfect the things you should be doing and work towards dropping habits you shouldn’t be continuing. As you identify aspects to work on and improve, keep track of how far you’ve come. You’re well on your way!
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor