Being seen as a leader is something many of us strive for, whether we are the owner of our own company or a frontline manager/supervisor. We want to be the one that people come to with questions. We want to build skills in others so they can succeed. And we like to problem-solve and do our part to help our companies grow.
But how do you become a leader? Is it something you were born with or can you learn it? I think leadership is a choice – a set of skills and behaviors you can learn if you’re willing to put in the effort and are humble enough to learn from your mistakes. I think there are several components to leadership, but let’s look at a few key ones – inspiration, communication, action, and representation.
1. As a leader, you need to inspire.
You set the example for behavior you expect from your staff. You should treat all of your employees respectfully, professionally and with kindness. If you want employees to cover for each other, you should cover more for them. Even as the leader, you are part of the team. They will look to you for direction. Your behavior should model the expectations you have for all the staff members; therefore, you must act, speak, and be the person you want your employees to be.
2. As a leader, you need to communicate (honestly).
You must be accessible and available for your staff. This allows information to flow freely between you and them. Your employees have a stake in the company’s success, just like you do. They may not have ownership interests, but their financial well-being is tied to the financial well-being of business. Therefore, they will want to know what’s coming down the road. Whether it is purchasing software, implementing new procedures, or hiring new staff members, keep them informed. If you don’t provide them with the information, they tend to fill in the blanks for themselves. Often, the end result is more fiction than fact, which can create tunnel vision and acts of self-preservation.
3. As a leader, you need to act.
As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. If you say you are going to do something, then you have to do it. Follow through with your promises to get the respect you need to influence others. Provide staff with opportunities for development, both professionally and personally. Dedicate yourself to their growth. If you’re the owner, don’t be cheap. Provide and pay for their training, because their development benefits the business as much as it benefits the individual.
4. As a leader, your team is a direct extension of you.
Their behavior and performance is a reflection on you and the company as a whole. So, to improve these areas, you must first identify the weaknesses in your own leadership skills and work to enhance those. It begins and ends with you. You must create an environment where all people feel safe and where cooperation is rewarded.
Contributed by Jodi Schafer, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Human Resource Management Services, LLC.