People are not born with the skills to lead others. Forceful personalities may intrigue people, but not everyone wants to buy into the message.
In a business environment, when workers must report to managers or other leaders, the latitude to be original and not follow leadership directives is more constrained. How can a leader step up and be inspirational? Can a leader be built, not born?
To change the dynamic between managers, who are not necessarily leaders, and their direct reports, what is needed to become a leader?
Leadership Approaches That Work
Before someone works their way up the ladder in a corporate environment or completes a degree and enters a business in a leadership role, that person may have qualities and abilities that others respect.
Were they the one who naturally became the team leader in an informal game? As a child, did everyone congregate at their home, even if it wasn’t the fanciest in the neighborhood?
Fast forward past school. Once people entered the workplace, did what they say and do command respect? Are they consulted, even informally, before a decision is made? Natural leaders find others gravitating toward them. With a focus on how they approach people, they ultimately win respect. And, they climb the corporate ladder.
Business skills are often categorized as “KSAs” – knowledge, skills, and abilities. Knowledge can be part of the package, but when someone is promoted or lands a new position, some of the knowledge may be “on-the-job training.”
The essential skills and abilities that leaders need, which can be cultivated and learned, are portable and useful in any environment.
This characteristic has more to it than seen at first glance. It involves being able to weigh options, considering all of the resources, including human resources, time limitations, and other factors available. Making a decision, in a timely and effective way, can change perspective for everyone involved. You can diffuse a crisis, help inspire an employee, or provide motivation for a whole group.
Even if an employee has messed up, which everyone will do unintentionally at some point, find a way to make it a teachable moment. Frame the critique in a way that does not turn off the listener, but shows how you’ve considered their perspective.
Ask them questions that show you care about them as a human being, you’re on a fact-finding mission, and want to resolve how the situation can be corrected. “How can I help?” or “What would you do differently if you could change things?” could be better ways to approach the employee.
Consider Others First
Think about the people you’re working with. While employee performance is important, be sensitive to situations that influence that performance. As long as the employee is working to the best of their capacity, bend a little.
For instance, if an employee has been late several mornings in a row, you would want to take them aside privately and discuss what the situation is. Perhaps they were in a car accident and their car is in the shop and they’re relying on others to get to work. Work out strategies with them so they can get back on track.
Evaluate the Situation Before Responding
Some of the wisest leaders wait and listen. Hearing various perspectives and reviewing available information will result in a better decision. In an office where some personalities demand to be heard or are bullies, knowing the participants in a situation can make all the difference.
Inspire Trust by Exhibiting Integrity
As is often said in film, “show, not tell.” Be the honest person you expect them to be. Your words and actions should be out there as a role model. If you’re demanding overtime of employees due to some company directive, you should be there, too, if at all possible.
Lead by example. If you say you have an “Open Door Policy,” actually be open to talking with people, unless you have a previous meeting.
Employees can tell when someone is not sincere and interested in their success. Those who rise to the top are those that bring everyone up with them. Trust is only given freely when employees see that they matter to the leader and the organization.