Professional Education and Career Blog

Five Practices That Demonstrate Outstanding Leadership

kingWhat is the different between a successful company or department and one that never seems to completely have everything together? Often the difference comes down to leadership at the top of the chain. Good leaders can foster innovation and an efficient, high morale workplace, while poor leaders can destroy unity, bring down sales and sometimes even kill the company. But top managers at some of the best companies know how to not only keep a tight ship, but keep everyone happy to be part of the crew.

Give Others Power to Act

The best leaders don’t feel the need to control every aspect of the business. They trust their employees to make decisions and work their way out of trouble. When employees feel like they’re not trusted to make decisions, they will attempt to deflect responsibility and not try and fix things, on the assumption that they’re going to be second-guessed and end up looking bad. If you find your employees are afraid to make a decision and don’t seem to want to take action, it may be time to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re properly enabling and encouraging them to act.

Convey a Clear Vision for the Company

People need to know what direction they should be pulling. Don’t assume it’s obvious what the goals are. Just because you’re selling widgets, that doesn’t mean a goal of “sell more widgets!” is helpful to everyone else. Articulate a clear idea of where you want the company to go, and how you see it growing. Don’t just say it once, make it a continual conversation in meetings, and often ask how a particular task is going to meet the vision for the company. And if a goal doesn’t meet the vision, everyone should understand why it’s not being pursued.

Lead By Example

Unfortunately, many poor leaders have a habit of exercising a principle of “do as I say, not as I do.” The intrinsic hypocrisy of saying one thing but doing another fosters an environment of cynicism, as if everyone is just going through the motions of pretending to believe in the vision. If you believe that the vision is important to the company, then model the behavior you want others to have.

Challenge Everything and Everyone – Especially Yourself

Related to the idea of leading by example, be the one who asks uncomfortable questions, not only about the ideas of others, but your own ideas. By modeling the idea that asking difficult questions is okay, you encourage other people to question the assumptions of the company, even the “emperor’s clothes.” Encourage people to take risks and search for opportunities, and make certain they know it’s okay for not every idea to work out. It’s often the case that biggest wins at a company come from people asking fundamental questions about “why” things are being done the way they are.

Celebrate the Accomplishments of Others, Even at Your Own Expense

Did one of your employees have a great idea and brought great value to the company? Make sure they are rewarded through recognition and appreciation. But especially reward those that went up against you and were proven right. It takes great courage to stick to one’s beliefs when the leadership thought they were wrong, and courage should always be rewarded. Great leaders can admit mistakes and can publically “tip their hat” to someone who made the right call. By being willing to admit your own mistakes, you send a message to everyone else that it’s okay to recognize the work of others. Too much egotism can lead to an organization with petty jealousy and one-upmanship.

spyglassBring Out the Leadership in Others

By following these tips, you can improve your leadership skills and develop the leadership in others. Ultimately, the best companies have every employee feeling like they’re leading the team in their own and in their own space. When ordinary people feel like they can achieve extraordinary things, the whole organization benefits.