How to be leader that your team needsBlog, 02/02/18
Leadership is one of the top qualities to have in running a successful business yet it is often misrepresented or misunderstood by many – even business owners!
We often think that leadership is “cool”; suited executives single-handedly turning the company around, making decisions that change the destiny of the company…
…it’s not that straightforward.
You see, it is this misunderstanding that separates great leaders from mediocre ones. Since you are at the top of the hill, it is so easy to lose focus on what a leader is supposed to do which makes you complacent.
In today’s guide we’re going to cover several key aspects in becoming a true leader your business:
At the end of this guide, you’ll have the knowledge you need to positively influence the people around you; hopefully, spurring your business to success.
Developing yourself as a leader
While it is true that leaders have the ability to develop the people around them, it is even more important to develop yourself as a leader rather than just a boss or someone in the board.
Developing yourself as a leader helps you to establish a wonderful atmosphere in your business. Let’s put it this way; have you ever worked at a place where your boss was completely disconnected with you as an employee?
That’s why you need to learn how to become a leader. You need to connect with your employees, you need to make them feel that they are important to the business, you need to make them feel that they are the keys to the success of the business.
The faster that you are able to integrate yourself among your employees as a leader, the faster your company’s success is going to come.
Leadership ability is a metric that determines your effectiveness in the business.
Your leadership ability is literally THE driving force behind the future of your business. Sure, other factors may play a role but you are the one who’s going to make or break your career.
The more success that you want to achieve, the more leadership abilities you need to have. That rule is applied to your influence too; more influence = more success but don’t become a dictator.
A good rule of thumb to remember is this: to change the vision and direction of your company, change your leader.
If you want to achieve exponential success, however, you must increase your leadership abilities which is directly proportional to the success of the business.
Key aspects that you need to learn to grow as a leader
An important thing to understand is that becoming a good leader does not happen overnight – just like everything in life.
You’re going to have to put in a lot of effort in improving as well as taking in as much knowledge as you can about the topic. It doesn’t matter if you struggle along the way, what matters most is you do it day by day until your career ends.
With that being said, there are several key components that define a great leader.
You have to learn to respect everyone; not just your employees, or the office cleaner – everyone!
Being respectful goes hand in hand with being humble. You’ll learn that the more humble you are, the more that your employees are going to respect you.
Aside from being humble, there are several things to do that displays respect to your people:
- Listen to them. Listening to people means that you are paying attention which is a form of respect. You may or may not agree with what they’re saying but there’s nothing more disrespectful than someone who talks all the time instead of bothering to listen.
- Appreciate their efforts. Many employees complain they don’t feel appreciated at work; that’s because many bosses only care about KPIs rather than the effort that is put in by their employees. Stop focusing solely KPIs – focus more on making your employees feel appreciated.
- Take care of them. Your employees have to feel that you care about their life. If they’re expecting a child soon, give them a bunch of flowers as a gift. If you know that tomorrow is their wedding anniversary, let them have a day off. If you know that they love a certain singer, buy them a ticket as a work-related bonus. The more you care about your employees, the more respect that you are going to get.
2) Emotional strength and intelligence
In times of troubles, your team has to know that they can rely on you, the rock of team, to make it through together.
When you have very good emotional intelligence, you are able to understand yourself better and stay in control in stressful situations. You are less likely to rush into hasty decisions or let anger take over your behaviour and rationale.
In the workplace, there’s always the risk of conflicts among your employees (maybe even with yourself!) that can threaten and disrupt efficiency as well as productivity in the business.
However, leaders with emotional intelligence are equipped to handle conflicts and provide resolution effortlessly without sacrificing the priorities of the parties involved.
With this skill, you can quickly resolve any disagreements that arise between employees, customers, and other individuals. As a result of that, the workplace will become a better environment for work efficiency.
It is extremely vital that you keep your emotion in check all the time.
3) Learning through experience
A great deal of leadership development comes from facing uncomfortable and difficult experiences – good leaders are essentially the product of a never-ending process of learning through experiences.
You have to relish and really endure the process of taking calculated risks and pushing beyond your comfort zone in the business. You should treat mistakes as opportunities to learn about your strengths and weaknesses.
You should also know that leadership and responsibility is a pair that will never be separated. When the company succeeds, you and your team should bask in the limelight, but if you fail, you have to prepare to step up and take one for the team – that’s your job as a leader.
The power of experiences to shape a leader’s ability is so strong that they can have the opposite effect; just as experiences can make you a better leader, they can also bring fear and doubts to your life.
To develop as leaders, you have to respond properly to your experiences:
- Bad experience + Poor response = You don’t learn anything and you become afraid of becoming a leader
- Bad experience + Good response = You learn and grow from your mistakes
- Good experience + Bad response = Overconfidence and arrogance
- Good experience + Good response = Repeated success
This leads into two very different outcomes:
- Leaders who respond to their experiences develop biased views and lead out of fear; they abuse their powers, are very controlling, and seek leadership positions just to exert their influence.
- Leaders who respond well to experiences look for opportunities and lessons to be learned. They are open and vulnerable to failure and mistakes. They lead with honesty and authority as well as exerting influence through building relationships and managing the business effectively.
Learning through experience can also be summed down into the four phases of leadership growth, a series of phases popularised by the amazing John Maxwell.
The Four Phases of Leadership Growth
- Phase 1: I don’t know what I don’t know
- Phase 2: I know what I don’t know
- Phase 3: I grow and know and it starts to show
- Phase 4: I simply go because of what I know
To become a successful leader, learning is something that will never, ever stop in your life. It is a mixture of seeking knowledge, self-discipline, and perseverance.
Boxing is an excellent example for leadership as it is all about preparation and training rather than actual talent. The best boxers train constantly without much downtime because all it takes is one moment of complacency to lose everything in the ring.
Becoming more self-disciplined as a leader
We’ve mentioned this earlier but it’s worth a second mention; to lead a team, the first thing that you have to do is to lead yourself.
No matter how talented you think you are as a speaker or a thought leader, you will NEVER reach your maximum potential without self-discipline.
A self-disciplined leader:
- Does not make up excuses for failures or mistakes
- Does not reward himself or herself until the job is properly done
- Is focused on activities that actually brings in results
If you know you have talent, and you think that you’ve put in a lot of work but nothing happens — you may lack self-discipline or you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
Here’s a tip: try to remember what you did last week and come up with a schedule. How much of your time did you devote to actual activities that brings in benefits?
You’d be shocked at how much time you spend off your business which is seriously limiting your growth and potential.
Prioritising your life and maintaining a good work-life balance
The discipline to efficiently prioritise your efforts as well as the ability to work toward a certain goal is extremely important to a leader’s success
The Pareto principle (a personal favourite of ours) is at work here again, just like many aspects of your business: 20% of your efforts will give you 80% of your results.
Examples of where the Pareto principle comes into play:
- Time: 20% of your time produces 80% of the results that you desire.
- Consultation business: 20% of your clients take up 80% of your working hours.
- Products and offers of your business: 20% of your products bring in 80% of your business’ revenue.
- Reading: 20% of whatever book contains 80% of the content that is actually important; this is why book summaries are so popular.
- Your work responsibility: 20% of what your responsibility is at work gives you 80% of your satisfaction and happiness.
- Leadership and responsibility of a business: 20% of the people in a business decides 80% of the company’s decisions. The same thing can also be said the overall success of a business.
Now, how do you utilise the Pareto principle to bring in maximum results to your business?
- Determine the things that produce 80% of the results in your business. This could be anything from the last step in your sales funnel, your website landing page, your core offer – identify the one thing that contributes the most to your KPIs.
- Spend 80% of your time with the most valuable 20% factors. For instance, if you’ve been spending too much time on chasing leads, it’s time to move your efforts into upselling current clients which brings even more value than generating new clients.
- Spend 80% of your money that brings on the 20% factors. It could be more money on marketing, more money in hiring talented salespeople, or even more money in attaining knowledge (courses, books, etc.)
- Determine what 20% of your work returns 80% of your results. The remaining 80% of your initial work can be delegated to someone else.
The one trap that kills leaders every time
If you’ve read everything above, you’ll probably think that the answer to your problems is just to work harder.
That’s partially true, putting in effort or the sexy term, hustle, is important in any kind of business. What you have to know is this:
Working smart is much more important than working hard.
You’ve got to set out your priorities and focus on the ones that actually matter. So many business owners think that “hustle” is the most important thing in a business which leads to to crazy things like 18-hour work days or a month with no day off.
You know what happens when you do that every time?
You get burned out. Quick.
Calling 1,000 random people and trying to pitch a sale everytime is not hustle. Going to work and checking e-mails for the whole day is not being busy nor is it hustling. Watching YouTube and reading marketing blogs every day is not hustling.
Those are work that is not smart – you are essentially wasting your time.
Setting a target of having 10 genuine conversations with people on the phone is hustle. Going to work and spend an hour or two (not too much time!) prospecting decision makers to cold e-mail is hustle. Reading marketing blogs AND taking action is hustle.
As a leader, you have to set your priorities right and sort the workload from most imporant to least important. Often times, you’ll have more than one priority to take care off; thus, the ability to juggle three or four high priority projects successfully is a must for every leader.
As a rule of thumb, here are the things that you should always remember as a leader.
A good leader:
- Initiates the process of anything that is business-related. This can be as simple as suggesting a idea or suggesting changes to the company.
- Leads the pack and takes action. You are the first person who is expected to pick up the phone and make that important call to that CEO. Remember, it is your responsibility to take the first step and get the ball rolling.
- Spends time planning ahead and anticipating problems. You can never anticipate every single problem in the universe, but it doesn’t hurt to have a plan in case something bad happens.
If your business runs into a cashflow issue, do you have a backup plan to generate fast cash? If two or more of your important employees fall sick, do you have a backup plan to run the business smoothly temporarily?
- Invests his or her time with people. You should spend some time with the people who matter; your employees, your clients, and your loved ones. The more relationships that you can build, the more trust and respect that you are going to earn.
If you ever get stuck, these steps (once again, by John Maxwell) can help you get back on track.
The three E’s: evaluate, eliminate, and estimate.
- Evaluate: Every month or every week, evaluate what was done by you and your team.
- Eliminate: Eliminate the unnecessary things or activities that were identified in the evaluation stage. Is there something in your schedule that can be done by your employees? Is there an activity that is taking up a lot of your time without much results?
- Estimate: Estimate the time or effort needed to implement a change in your business. How long before the new KPIs can be integrated into the team? How long before your employees can handle sales calls without your help?
Developing trust as a cornerstone of the company
Since you are a business owner, the office is in some ways your home. If bricks are the foundation of houses, then trust and integrity is the foundation of offices.
Weak houses crumble in bad weather, the same principle applies to your office; without trust, your team can fall down easily which is devastating to the business.
When trust is lacking, so is happiness, and when employees lack enthusiasm about their jobs, their work suffers – a lot.
Trust is very, very important in the as it makes everyone feel they are there for the right reasons and not just another brick in the wall. They need to feel that they are working towards a common goal(s) that are made transparent.
Without trust, relationships in the office suffer or end in the worst of cases. You don’t want to lose your employees because the cost of employee turnover is expensive; you also have to factor in the money and time that you need to invest to train and teach new employees – that’s a lot of money.
Trust is a two-way street. You need to have trust and faith in your employees’ abilities, decision-making skills and judgment; this is an excellent way to build trust with them.
Leadership is not just about you being an awesome leader, it’s about pushing your team to their maximum potential to help them become the best that they can be. Your success is directly correlated with their success.
1) Showing employees that you trust them
Give them the responsibility of spearheading projects, leading presentations to executive-level individuals, and proposing new ideas and suggestions.
If it’s possible, give them the freedom to act creatively. Sometimes, you may not realise that you are limiting their potential by controlling too many things at once.
2) Keep Your Promises
As you were told over and over again don’t make promises that you can’t keep. The same goes for your business; don’t overpromise and under-deliver.
It sounds simple enough, but as a leader, it can be very tempting to want to gain the respect and admiration of your team with over the top statements. The truth is, respect comes from actually executing what you’ve said – remember that.
You will realise quickly that false promises are very hard recover to from. All it takes is one false promise to quickly turn that admiration into doubts.
If you promise a guys night at the bar after a massive project – do it. If you promise to give your employee a raise after an excellent project – do it. If you ask your employees for feedback and suggestions, do it!
3) Be Transparent
One of the most powerful ways to build trust is by simply being open and transparent in all of your communications.
Transparency is especially important in turbulent times. When and if the business isn’t doing well, you need to tell your employees the truth and explain to them what’s going on. Don’t hide your problems.
Transparency is key to building trust on your team because it makes employees feel they are part of the larger picture.
Understanding influence, the most important part of being a leader
While the other key aspects that we’ve mentioned above are things that you need to learn to become a leader, influence is the most important out of them all.
To become a leader, you not only have to be the one leading the front, you also need to have enough influence to bring your team with you through thick and thin.
There’s a reason why some high-ranking positions like CEO’s fail regularly; having a position in the board is one thing, having influence is another – and influence wins out every time.
The following quote sums up this elegantly:
“He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.”
Understanding how influence works in a business environment
To convey influence effectively, you will have to start communicating effectively. You need to speak up when trouble comes, you need to speak up when two of your best employees hate each other, you need to speak up about how the recent tax changes have affected this business model.
The ability to communicate effectively leads to recognition and recognition which in turn leads to influence.
John Maxwell states that there are 5 levels of leadership which are (in ascending order):
Level 1: Position (Rights) – At the first level, people follow you because they have to – not because they respect you. Your influence comes purely from your job title instead of your actual ability as a leader.. The longer you stay here, the higher the employee turnover is going and the lower the morale of the team.
Level 2: Permission (Relationship) – At this stage, people follow because they have the desire to do. Your team will follow you because you have built a relationship with them. The downside to this is that some of the highly-motivated members of your team will struggle with adapting to this environment.
Level 3: Production (Results) – Your team will respect you more as a leader at this stage because of what you have done for the business as a whole. Simply put, your success is a key factor in pushing your status as a leader. They will like you and what you are doing. Problems are fixed with very little effort because of momentum.
Level 4: People Development (Reproduction) – Your team follows you because of what you have done for them. This is where exponential growth occurs in the business. You are now committed to the business not only by growing, but also by nurturing your team into potential leaders.
Level 5: Personhood (Respect) – Your team respects you because of everything that you’ve done and your identity. When you’ve reached this step, you are the epitome of a leader; the business is literally running with your mindset and influence.
It’s an interesting fact but people don’t really care about how much you know at first; they care about how much you care for them.
Leadership begins with building relationships and that comes from a genuine and honest approach from you – an approach that aims to transform your team into world beaters.
Leaders who are unable to build solid, lasting relationships with their team will soon discover that they are unable to attain or even sustain a leadership mentality in themselves.
Aside from that, there are also several things that good leaders do to convey influence:
1) Show and express genuine love for the people involved in the business
Your clients and team need to know that you truly care for them. We’ve mentioned this earlier so we’re going to keep this short: listen to what they’re saying and show appreciation for their efforts.
It can be as simple as giving that employee who you know is having a tough time some time off or sending a thank you card to your most valuable client. It seems like small things but the small things are the ones that make your people feel that you care.
2) Make those who work with you more successful
Once again, leadership is not an ego race. You improve yourself as well as people around you.
Your goal is to not only establish yourself a leader in the business, but also to nurture your team as potential leaders. That can only happen if you allow yourself to trust your team and be confident that they can achieve their personal and business goals.
3) Include others in your journey
This is a piece of advice that is very rarely applied. Your team wants to feel that they are an important part in reaching for the ultimate goal.
The best way to do this is by taking them under your wing and let them experience what you experience. Bring them to important meetings, let them handle some of the tougher parts of the job and guide them through it – let them know that you want them to come with you along the journey.
This helps to eliminate situations where employees are disconnected with the higher-ups of the company which may lead to decreased productivity and efficiency.
4) Practice accountability and responsibility as a leader
Don’t be like this guy.
It is extremely important to know that as a leader, you need to STOP passing blame. Instead, take responsibility for difficulties in the business, even when random factors are the cause of those difficulties.
When you pass blame, the industry does not believe that. And if the industry is not buying it, your stakeholders, your clients, your leads, they are not going to trust you.
Leaders who take responsibility for their failures are sending an important message to the people around them. They’re conveying the fact that they are aware of a sticky situation and they will try their best to solve it.
The leaders who blame others give the impression that they are not in control, that they are easily influenced by external factors, and that they can’t accept the consequences of failure.
5) Make the difficult decisions for your team
Making difficult decisions may be something that is causing you issues but remember; nothing is ever as bad as it seems. If you can maintain a high levels of emotional maturity and a positive mental attitude in tough times, you’re good to go.
This also ties in with the advice of taking responsibility in the previous section. If you make a mistake, you must admit to it even if it was the team who brought you down.
If you make a good decision with great results, give your team the credit and let them enjoy the moment. If you make a bad decision, take the blame and move on to the next chapter in your business.
Learning how to empower your team and turn them into leaders
The power of empowering your team is something that you need to keep in mind. Think of it this way; a great alchemist can turn paper into gold – you are that alchemist.
Don’t worry about delegating a tough task to someone in your team. When you delegate a challenging job to an employee and give them the authority that needs to get it done, you have essentially empowered them.
Many leaders think that by delegating their work, they are losing their authority – hell no! It has exactly the same effect as sharing information: you are giving value to someone else. So, stop being insecure about your employees being better than you – it will happen one day, anyway.
You need to believe in others enough to give them all you can and in yourself enough to know that it won’t hurt you.
To make delegating as effortless as possible, follow these steps:
1) Evaluate your team members
Giving your employees some exposure is good but if you give inexperienced people too much pressure at the start, they can buckle under the pressure and fail.
Knowledge and skill are two of the things that you’d want to evaluate in a team member before delegating your work to them but the most important thing to know is their desire.
Cristiano Ronaldo was not the most talented player in his team when he was a teenager but he is everywhere now?
Because he had the hunger and drive to succeed. That’s what you want from your team members; not pure talent but a strong drive to learn and achieve success.
2) Be a role model to them
Show them work ethic and attitude that you would like them to learn. Anytime that you can include them in your work, take them along with you.
The more that they are exposed to your work ethic (make sure you have a good work ethic, though), the faster that they will learn and apply that mindset of yours.
3) Allow them to succeed
Allowing in this sense doesn’t mean that you are literally turning an on-off switch for success, it means that you need to help them set up a platform to launch their growth.
It can be as simple as leaving an encouraging note on their desk or by giving them advice before a scary presentation – help them.
4) Express your utmost confidence in them
Your team needs to know that they have your confidence in whatever they do. You can do this in public, or you can, again, give them a pep talk every now and then.
The more confidence that you can instill in your team, the better that they are going to be in achieving your business goals. Your feedback is also important as they need to know what’s wrong or right in their approach.
5) Give them the freedom to act
Finally, when you know that they are ready to act on their own, give them the freedom to do so.
We’ve mentioned this in an earlier blog post that there comes a point where you are the one who’s holding back the company; you will need someone to perform the genius-level tasks for you.
Empowering others can give you the time to do more things in your life as well as increasing the effectiveness of the business as a whole.
Food for thought
As a leader, success comes in many ways but is primarily focused on empowering your team members. You will leave behind a legacy that is only attainable when you put your team in a position to lead in the future when your career is over.
In the end, your success as a leader will be judged by others NOT by your personal achievements; instead, you will be judged by the work that your business and team continues even after you’re gone.
Start an empire, leave behind a legacy.
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