Leadership isn’t a skill you’re born with. It takes time to learn and even more patience to master. A team leader should guide the group, not manage it. If you have your team’s and the company’s best interests at heart, you are already one step closer to becoming a great leader.
What can make you stand out as a great team leader is your commitment to developing your leadership skills. Here are six key areas you can focus on right now to develop as a team leader.
1. Have Confidence in Your Employees
New business leaders don’t always place enough trust in their employees. Often, they either micromanage teams or take on most of the workload themselves. In both scenarios, the lack of confidence in your employees is unfortunate for them, you and the business.
Instead, learn to delegate tasks and focus on results. Step back a little and trust your team to make the right call. Be present when they need assistance, and establish regular evaluations of their progress to ensure maximum performance from each team member.
2. Beware of Remaining Connected and Available 24/7
The Internet of Things and technological development has enabled modern society to connect with everyone and through almost any device, at any time. Many business leaders have a hard time switching off.
Connectivity and mobility allow you to manage operations on the go, but it also allows your employees to contact you at any time. It is a challenge for both sides, because it can quickly create an overly hands-on approach to management. This management and leadership style is unsustainable for managers and can become overwhelming for employees.
Instead, look to empower your team to be decisive and create a self-reliant culture. Set clear boundaries for connecting and communicate them to your team. Have faith in your team, and the team will have confidence in itself. Over time, they will become more resourceful and rely less on your feedback to solve problems. Instead they will create solutions and overcome problems on their own, so you and your team are not tethered to your devices.
3. Embrace Innovation and Growth
Most employees get comfortable in their own systematic ways of approaching their daily tasks. They become comfortable with their daily or weekly routine. But team leaders don’t have that luxury. Team leaders are always under pressure to drive the business forward. And that means you need to be flexible in your support of your team to be able to drive innovation.
When you invest energy in supporting your team’s efforts and personally focus on innovation, the company grows and moves forward. However, if you become static, comfortable in your routine and lose interest in improvement, you can expect your team will do the same. In the long term the company starts regressing.
It’s critical that you embrace and support change and consistently adapt the business and your team processes to proven trends and innovations. You need to constantly encourage your team to be responsive to looking at the present moment with fresh eyes.
4. Avoid the Need to Be Liked
It’s a natural desire to be liked by people who work for you. This is especially true when you are new to a leadership position and especially true if you have been promoted from the existing team to your new position. After all, you are human, and people are psychologically wired to look for approval from the people in their close community. But, the workplace isn’t naturally constructed, so needing to be liked by everyone can seriously impede judgment.
Avoid the trap many new managers fall into. Many new and first-time managers want to make an excellent first impression and conform to what they perceive as popular behavior. This can create a whole host of problems, as employees might look to take advantage of that pattern in behavior leading to bad decision making that reflects poorly on the business.
A manager is a leader first, and a colleague second. Aspire to win over employees through mutual respect and understanding, clear communication, and setting expectations and goals. When you must make an unpopular business decision, be open, direct and explain the reason behind it.
Knowing how to communicate regularly and openly with employees is a sign of a great leader, and will help you become a better boss.
5. Lead by Example
Great leaders lead by example. Anything else can be toxic to your work environment because it makes you seem hypocritical.
People in the workplace mimic the behavior of their superiors. If a team member sees you doing something not in accordance to the rules and established processes, they will see it as acceptable and mimic the behavior. When you tell them to stop, it shows them that once you get to the top, it’s okay to do whatever you want.
But no manager is above the rules. Instead, it is your duty to uphold the established rules and processes. That’s why you need to abide by your code of conduct and the culture you want to establish to ensure the same level of integrity in your team. For example, if you want to create a collaborative company culture, collaborate with others on your team and request assistance when you need it. Set an example for others by being honest and truthful in all your communications.
However, you don’t want to isolate yourself through your behavior. Acting superior to your staff generates friction and frustration in your relationship. It’s important to be truthful in communication and open about your shortcomings. After all, employees know you have flaws, and being transparent makes you more authentic in their view.
6. Failing to Set Clear Expectations
The best managers always set clear expectationsto get maximum performance and to drive solid results from their employees. Mission guidelines leave no room for misunderstandings and establish the direction that keeps your team focused on what they have to do in the shortest amount of time.
When employees know precisely what to do and how to do it, the progress reports you receive are more concise and goal-oriented. Employees either completed their tasks or they didn’t; they either performed according to your standard, or they didn’t.
Teams are also highly motivated when they clearly understand the expectations of them and how you will keep score. It's much simpler to execute your day-to-day job when you have a clearly outlined set of tasks that drive you towards your ultimate goal.
Teams don’t always need to understand how their efforts are contributing to the big picture – that’s your job. But they do need to do understand how to meet your expectations and provide you with the means to achieve the central vision you are tasked with for your organization.
Learn more about how to improve the leadership skills of your best employees and create a successful strategy for a new style of leadership that will drive your business forward.
A lifelong serial entrepreneur and community leader, Mark Stagen, Founder of XLN, started his first company at age 15 and hasn't looked back. Since then, he’s founded, and later sold, several successful companies, including Telecore and Emerald Health Services, which have generated over $1 billion in combined revenues. Mark also founded the Youth Business Alliance, a non-profit organization that works with High Schools in economically challenged areas to educate, motivate and inspire the students on business, entrepreneurship and career development.
Mark has received numerous business and community awards including: EY Entrepreneur of the Year and Inc. 500. He is actively involved in YPO and has served in many leadership roles including Chapter Chair and Regional Chair. Mark received his BA in three years from Yale University, was a member of the Yale Football Team and is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the USC Marshall School of Business.