What makes a great leader? Their ability to drive their employees to work through lunch breaks and clock 50+ hour weeks on a regular basis without complaint? Perhaps it’s their capacity to micromanage and act as the sole source of creative input in the team?
Leading a team is by no means an easy undertaking, and many of us assume these roles without proper preparation, relying on the examples set by predecessors, many of which are sub-par to say the least. As a result, the same mistakes are perpetuated time and again, creating a vicious cycle that leaves employees exasperated and leaders frustrated by an inexplicable lack of progress.
Ultimately, what today’s leaders need to realise is that there’s no perfect way to spearhead a team. Every set of individuals presents a different, dynamic challenge, and to get the best out of them, you’ll need to understand what makes them tick.
Leadership is an incredibly nuanced art, requiring deft and delicate individual interplay, positive reinforcement and genuine interest in the well-being of the entire team. Sadly, there’s no guidebook for that, as each and every employee you encounter during your tenure as a leader will present new and unexpected challenges, which will need to be overcome on a case-by-case basis.
However, whilst the ‘dos’ of leadership are hard to define, there are a few definite ‘don’ts’ that you need to avoid if you want to up your game in 2016. Circumvent these common faux-pas over the next 12 months, and you’re guaranteed to see an improvement in morale and productivity by the time next year rolls around.
Great leaders know that productivity is achieved by working smarter, not harder. Enforcing strict working hours and giving your employees the evil eye when they guiltily return to the office two minutes late from their already miniscule lunch break will only breed discontent within your walls. And remember, just because your employees are present doesn’t mean they’re being productive – just ask the creators of Angry Birds, who no doubt rake in a small fortune from employees unwillingly chained to their desks. Ultimately, everyone works differently and has times when they’re more and less productive, and the more you’re open to exploring this, the better your business output will be.
IGNORING A JOB WELL DONE
We’re often told not to rely on the approval of others, but let’s face it, it never hurts to get a pat on the back sometimes. Many leaders misconstrue gratitude as a sign of weakness, whereas the opposite is in fact true. Great leaders are those who oversee things collaboratively, relying on the input of employees to generate better, more rounded ideas and outcomes. So don’t be afraid to thank or praise your team members for a job well done – that positive reinforcement will inspire them to continue in the same vein, and to work harder and more effectively to achieve further affirmation in the future.
Being a leader doesn’t mean being the only one with a say in the team. One sure-fire strategy to ensure you lose all your most talented employees is to deny them their creative freedom, so make sure to loosen those reins a little, difficult as it might be. Effective leadership is all about letting go, and providing the support and expertise to enable your employees to flourish creatively and bring their best work to the table. Tempting as it might be to see your own opinion as the only one that matters (after all, you’re in charge, right?), try to avoid this if you want to get the best out of your team and retain top talent.
SETTING UNREASONABLE EXPECTATIONS
If you want your employees to meet deadlines and honour their commitments, it’s absolutely imperative that you hold yourself to the same standard. If you knock off at 3pm every day to take in an afternoon game of golf and expect your employees to pull all-nighters on a regular basis, it’s safe to say you’re probably going to sew seeds of discontent within your workplace. Remember, your role as a leader is to set an example for your team, so while you might be able to enjoy certain perks (after all, you’ve paid your dues), it’s important that your employees see you as one of them, rather than some far-off deity in the corner office.