Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
~Warren G. Bennis
Some people are natural leaders. Others find themselves forced into the role. If you feel that you fall into the latter category, don’t despair – you’re in good company. Take heart from the knowledge that obviously someone saw something in you that led them to believe you’d be a good leader. Now your job is to dig deep within yourself, and identify your strengths.
Your Game Plan
Good leaders are made, not born, so let’s get to work. Here are a few tips that will help you develop the skills and techniques you need to become an effective leader.
1. Embrace the Challenge
To be an outstanding leader, you must grasp the proverbial bull by the horns. Be enthusiastic, energetic and passionate. Accept your role as the facilitator in helping your group to achieve its goals. Make this your way of life, and constantly strive for excellence. Be inspiring, empowering and positive – your subordinates will take their cue from your behavior and attitude, so rise to the challenge. Even if you feel disheartened, try to maintain a positive outlook.
2. Remember Commitment Isn’t Just a Word
You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Remember when Barack Obama was running for President of the United States? His campaign slogan was “Yes we can!” Remember if you’re committed to a course of action, make sure it’s likely to be achievable. Don’t think that you can motivate your people with rhetoric like “We’re number one!” when they know perfectly well that the best you can hope for is a solid number two. Be honest – tell them if you’re shooting for second place, and give them guidance on how to get there.
3. Listen and Recognize
The people you lead need to feel that you are approachable and that you care about them. Effective leaders know the value of individual contributions, and understand that good employees who aren’t recognized as such may very well jump ship. Most people who look for greener pastures aren’t looking for more money; they leave because they don’t feel appreciated. Let your people know that you value their input, and when you act on that input, recognize the fact. A simple “Good job” goes a long way.
4. Establish a Leadership Style
You’re not going to suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with the wondrous revelation, “This is how I am meant to lead!” If only it were that easy. You’re going to have to work at developing a leadership style. Go to seminars, talk to colleagues whose style you admire, and read books and articles about effective leadership. Take what you can use from multiple sources, and don’t be afraid to be yourself.
5. Try New Things
Do you go out to supper at the same pub every Friday night, and always order the same thing because it’s what you know, and you’re afraid if you have something different you won’t like it? Carrying this sort of mentality over into the workplace can be stultifying. It’s tempting to stick with what’s worked in the past, but trudging around in the same old rut can be limiting. If you make a mistake, what’s the worst that can happen? Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Your subordinates will respect you for being an innovative leader, one who’s open to new ideas. You’ll grow, and so will they.
6. Finish What You Start
As a leader, your ability to get the job done is paramount. Make a plan and follow through. If you can’t stick with it, your subordinates will notice, and they will lose confidence in your ability to lead. This doesn’t mean that you can’t tweak the process and fine-tune your approach; it just means that you must be in it for the long haul, and you must let this show.
You got this promotion because you earned it, and you have the ability to lead. Now get out there and do it!