The best leader organically shapes the workplace culture by exemplifying the habits he or she hopes to inspire in the team.
A leader’s skills are developed through leadership training and experience. Good leaders learn to conduct business communications, solve problems, organise, motivate, elevate quality and make myriad good small and large decisions under pressure in any given day. They bring all they’ve learned formally and their experience in trials, errors, failures and successes to bear on the weighty responsibilities of team leadership.
Good leaders are prepared for common management problems, and they anticipate emerging obstacles. They recognise and welcome complex challenges as exciting opportunities to learn, teach, and to create solutions. They’re focused on building a cohesive, strong, fully-engaged and inspired team of high performers. Here are some key things that good leaders do from day to day in their workplaces:
1. Clearly Communicate Expectations
Good leaders communicate clearly and thoroughly. They know that communicating with employees is a two-way interaction. They encourage questions and confirm understanding of answers. When discussing the expectations, they explain the connections between the company’s expectations for the employee and the company’s core mission and vision. At all times, constantly alert for learning opportunities, the good leader understands the best ways to give feedback and provides a fair and kind assessment of progress and shortfalls and a lays out a clear plan to achievable improvement goals and a timeline for reaching milestones along that path.
2. Make Timely and Effective Decisions
Observing a good leader’s impressive decision-making skills can be pretty amazing. Their processes are so efficient. They make it look so easy that it may seem like a natural power inherent to the individual. But, leadership decision-making is the execution of a combination of formally learned skills and applications of learning from various applicable experiences. The leader may engage front-line employees, managers and other knowledgeable parties to collaborate on problem solving in larger challenges. Yet, he or she can be counted on to make quick and seamless determinations on smaller daily considerations on the go. A good leader can tell the difference between magnitudes of problems, cut through distractions by minor issues, and get things done.
3. Promote Mutual Accountability
Good leaders do not attempt to rule over employees and sustain a dynamic of one-way communication from management and one-way accountability from employees. Savvy leaders have greater depth in their way of thinking about accountability. They know that making themselves accountable to their employees as well as having employees accountable to them fosters a culture of two-way trust and commitment to habits of honouring promises. Leaders who make known that their understood arrangement is one of mutual accountability with their team members exceed many employees’ expectations for job satisfaction. They instil a sense of mutual respect and strong desire in employees to be a part of a company in which people keep their word and support one another as part of a well-bonded team.
4. Exemplify Standards
Effective leaders serve as role models for their organisations’ values. Good leaders set the pace and lead by example, consistently demonstrating a strong work ethic, commitment to quality, and professionalism in the workplace. In fact, the single most influential thing a leader can do every day is to set an example of what it is to live by core principles that are conducive to success and maintaining a good place to work. Behaving with integrity, treating others with respect and dignity, and exhibiting a sense of urgency in the work ethic are contagious ways of acting. People intuitively want to be a part of an honourable company of positive, motivated people with inspiring leadership. They want to belong to something that is worth devoting their working life to helping succeed. Being a leader who appeals to these normal human sensibilities is half of management of an ideally motivated, consistently high performing team.
5. Build Relationships and Supportive Culture
There’s no substitute for working in an environment that is empowering, positive and engaging. People realise that their time is precious, and the fact does not escape their notice that they spend most of their time at work. Everyone wants to work with people whom they sense appreciate their contributions and are supportive of their goals. Good leaders are acutely aware of the need to provide the support workers need in order to do well in their roles, develop their skills and potential and stay fully engaged with the company and with their work. They understand the need we all have to be recognised for our achievements, and they also know we need to fit in as part of the group. Good leaders are sensitive to individuals’ needs to both stand out at times and blend in from day to day. They proactively work to ensure that all team members receive the support they need and deserve, to both be specially recognised when appropriate and to fit in all the time.
6. “Praise Publicly and Criticise Privately”
The old cliché is actually, “Praise publicly and punish privately,” but, of course, good leaders are never found in the business of punishing employees. However, for an employee, being criticised publicly is sure to feel like a punishment. The majority of today’s employers know that a quick way to lose good employees is to make them feel unappreciated. The distinction between criticising and showing a lack of respect and appreciation is quickly blurred in workplaces in which bad managers openly criticise workers, instead of taking corrective discussions to a private location. Good leaders always save their criticisms for one-on-one discussions, and use public opportunities to “catch people doing something right,” to quote another timeless business training cliché.
7. Encourage Workers to Speak Out on Issues
Skilled leaders are approachable. Their open demeanour helps employees speak out about their concerns and empowers them to assert their opinions. Less well-developed managers may create an atmosphere of uncertainty by displaying inconsistent and daunting moods, or they may generally discourage workers from communicating directly with them at all. The good leader understands that the success of the organisation depends upon the motivation level of the people who work in it. Their priority is to help the team succeed in its mission to help customers. They recognise employees’ expressions of concerns as opportunities to identify and solve problems that can impact the team’s objectives if suppressed or ignored.
8. Share Strategic Plans and Implementation of Road Map
Employees working without a clear grasp of what the company is striving to accomplish and how they fit into that big picture have little reason to feel inspired to want to be a part of it all. People need to understand their role in the mission and exactly how their work furthers the cause. Team members who have the benefit of being shown the clear path toward success and who fully understand their part of the larger team effort are much more likely to go above and beyond expectations to contribute to the success of their immediate team and the company.
9. Seek Employees’ Creative Ideas
Beyond just announcing their own goals and plans for their groups, good leaders are eager to hear other people’s concepts. They seek employees’ ideas and value their insights. They know that the richest pool of ideas is one in which there is a diversity of backgrounds and experiences and perspectives. They also understand that the most dynamic and productive collaborations are most likely to occur within such groups. Further, discovering the creative strengths of the team, help a leader to better comprehend the innovative potential of the team and its individual members to generate effective solutions together, and independently when needed.
10. Bring the Team Together
Depending on the nature of your team’s work, it may not be necessary to huddle daily, or even weekly to check in and regroup, but it is necessary for the whole team to communicate routinely, to provide status checks and updates on changes in the tactical plan. It helps make sure that everyone is staying on the same page and is moving in the same direction in the most coordinated way possible. Coming together, if only by Skype or standing in the hallway for 15 minutes weekly can serve as a constant that helps a team stay bonded, confirm group engagement and ground a team caught up in a perpetually hectic swirl of activities in a greater sense of reliable order.
11. Prioritise Coaching and Development
Good leaders are always seeking ways to benefit the organisation’s customers and all of its external and internal stakeholders. They have a deep understanding of the need of the business to maintain continuous development of current employees and to promote from within as much as possible. Management team members who do not strive to cultivate employees who report to them may fail to appreciate their fundamental responsibility to do so, or some may actually fear having to find an equally talented replacement, or may even fear being replaced by the employee that they work to develop. Good leaders assign projects that challenge talented employees to learn and grow, and they find opportunities to have them manage more responsibility.
12. Continuously Seek Learning and Self-Improvement
The best business leaders are people who always seek self-improvement and learning. They take notes, read, study, ask questions and seek others’ consultation frequently. They’re eager to absorb new knowledge. They’re courageous in leading the team to experiment. They like to challenge themselves and enjoy mastering new skills. They’re not heard to resist change with arguments such as, “But, we’ve always done it that way.” They welcome new and better ways. The good leader embraces new methods and tools that serve to advance the company’s mission by improving efficiency, increasing customer and employee satisfaction, and preserving resources.
The Observable Effects of Good Leadership
Ultimately, daily habits for successful organisational leaders come to characterise the entire team’s attitudes and behaviours. As the best leaders build their ideal teams, they inspire top talent to thrive and grow within the company and minimise losses from under-utilisation and underperformance. The team comes to reflect the mindset and performance standards of the leader, for better or worse.
In other words, where there’s a good leader, there’s normally a good team. So, to understand what leaders do, from the best to the worst, observe the most and the least effective teams in any given industry, and you will find clear and abundant indicators of their good or bad leadership reflected in those teams’ everyday habits and performance track records.