No one prepares you for a leadership role; it often feels like being handed the reins of a ship in the middle of a storm without prior navigation lessons. The moment you hear the news of your promotion, the realisation hits you that you must transition from being an employee to taking on the responsibilities of a team lead or, perhaps, a second-in-command. The announcement isn’t just good news; it’s a validation that your efforts have been acknowledged, even though you may have considered your work routine, much like any other team member. However, the question looms large: How do you navigate this transition successfully? Whether you find yourself at the helm of an entire department, steering an entire organisation, or coordinating a global team, the journey ahead demands a continuous commitment to learning and adaptation.
How to be an Effective Leader?
Over the years, there have been many examples of effective leadership, each providing valuable insights into the diverse qualities and strategies that contribute to success. Distilling these experiences, here are essential steps and tips for aspiring leaders looking to enhance their effectiveness and make a lasting impact.
- Know yourself
Start by gaining insight into your strengths and weaknesses and find ways to use them to benefit yourself. Embark on a path of self-discovery by developing strategies to overcome your shortcomings. Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in guiding this journey, enabling you to not only understand your own emotions but also to identify them in others. This increased emotional awareness becomes a foundation of self-awareness, shaping your reactions and engagements in the complex dynamics of professional relationships.
- Dealing with fears and anxiety
Experiencing fears and anxiety as you step into a new leadership role is a common and normal reaction. Rather than viewing it as a sign of unreadiness, consider it a positive indication of your commitment to the position. The fear of making mistakes often stems from a genuine concern about being unprepared, showcasing your dedication to the role. Remember, nobody is fully prepared to lead from day one, and leadership is a skill honed through practice.
To overcome these fears, face them head-on. Begin by identifying specific sources of nervousness and learn effective strategies for managing anxiety. By addressing your concerns directly, you empower yourself to navigate the challenges of leadership with confidence and resilience.
- Be direct
Many people have this perception that being direct means being rude, no! Effective leadership involves candid communication while caring for others’ feelings. Honesty, not rudeness, is the goal, and an adept leader navigates this fine line. Recognition and constructive feedback can coexist, fostering an environment for growth. Consider adopting the Radical Candor® approach, pioneered by Kim Scott, which emphasises caring personally while challenging directly.
By adopting this management rule, you foster a culture that encourages open expression, empowering individuals to share thoughts on their colleagues’ actions without fear.
- Understand your expectations
You need to understand what is expected of you, ask what is required, and understand the goals of the department or organisation; don’t presume when it’s not necessary because it can set you up for failure. It’s acceptable that your supervisor, coworkers, and boss have certain expectations for the way you operate and behave. All you have to do is accept that this is how they want you to manage the show while adding your unique touch. If your leadership style is beneficial to the organisation and the general well-being of your team, the ideal organisation will allow you to exercise it.
- Engage with your team
Leadership is a “people’s job” and requires a lot of communication. Regardless of the size of your team, recognising that the bedrock of respect in your role is the cultivation of mutual understanding and trust is not just crucial but non-negotiable.
Engaging with your team goes beyond mere interaction; it’s about fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas, concerns, and aspirations. As a leader, it’s imperative to create an environment where every team member feels not only heard but genuinely understood. This involves active listening, acknowledging diverse perspectives, and appreciating the individual strengths each team member brings to the table.
- Lead by example
While it may sound cliché, the reality is that employees often mirror the actions of their leaders. Imagine, for instance, if you, as a leader, dress in a particular manner, arrive late at work, or frequently use strong language in the workplace. Invariably, your team is likely to follow suit—it’s as straightforward as that. Leading by example isn’t just a phrase; it’s a powerful principle that demands practising what you preach.
As a leader, your behaviour sets the standard for the entire team. Demonstrating the values, work ethic, and professionalism you expect from others fosters a culture of accountability and integrity. It’s not merely about articulating expectations; it’s about embodying them in your daily actions.
In essence, leading by example transcends rhetoric; it’s a commitment to living the values you advocate. Your actions become the blueprint that shapes the collective identity of your team. So, whether in the big decisions or the smallest daily choices, remember that your leadership is a living testament to the standards you uphold—standards that, in turn, influence and elevate those around you.
As you embark on the transformative journey from employee to leader, bear in mind that the reins of your progress and development rest firmly in your hands. The path to effective leadership is one of continuous growth, self-awareness, and a commitment to steering not only your career but also the success of those you lead. Embrace the challenges, nurture your skills, and lead with a spirit of purpose, for in this evolution, the trajectory of your leadership is sculpted by your own choices and aspirations.
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- Pipefy. 5 steps to becoming an effective leader
- Radical Candor. Telling People What to Do Doesn’t Work
- Opt Nation (2023) How to Prepare for Your First Leadership Role: 5 Practical Steps
- Indeed (2023) 7 Strategies To Improve Self-Awareness in Leadership
- HubSpot (2023) Leadership Styles: The 11 Most Common & How to Find Your Style [Quiz]
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- Leadership Skills Developed through a Higher Certificate in Public Management (HCPM) - February 12, 2024
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