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The Characteristics of Effective Workplace Leaders

Updated on February 16, 2017
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Sally Hayes is a business communications coach who teaches speaking and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

As a supervisor, is your time spent trying to keep people in line or do you see everyone on the team as having a vital  role to play in the company's success?
As a supervisor, is your time spent trying to keep people in line or do you see everyone on the team as having a vital role to play in the company's success?

Stop Managing and Start Leading

Do people only listen to you and do what you say because their job description requires them to? Wouldn't you rather be the kind of person who doesn't have to rely on a job title in order to effectively lead your team? To be a true leader in the workplace, and not just a manager with a name tag, you need to develop a leadership mindset. Winning the respect and approbation of your staff and colleagues involves a keen self-awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses, an ability to inspire and motivate others, and a willingness to get your hands dirty and work alongside your staff when needed.

Here some tips and suggestion on how to be an effective leader who has earned the trust and respect of the people you work with and supervise.

Don't Push Employees Down, Help Lift Them Up

When you help others win, you win too. That's why one of your number one jobs is to help set your employees up for success, not failure.
When you help others win, you win too. That's why one of your number one jobs is to help set your employees up for success, not failure.

Leaders Want Others to Be Successful

People who set their staff up for success are naturally strong workplace leaders.

Effective leaders know how to maximize other people's strengths in healthy, non-exploitive ways. If you want to improve your efficacy as a leader, try to assign tasks that are a good fit with each employee's personality, aptitudes, and interests. If you feel your team members aren't being challenged enough, then go ahead and give them work that is stimulating—if they rise to the challenge they will learn and grow. But if you set the bar too high, your staff will never feel that warm rush of pride that comes when a task has been successfully completed.

Strong team leaders value participation and input from their staff. They recognize the value in having team members involved in the decision-making process and they have the skills to facilitate staff involvement in healthy and productive ways.

When you need a solution to a vexing problem, do you stand over your staff and demand answers, or do you roll up your sleeves and work alongside them?
When you need a solution to a vexing problem, do you stand over your staff and demand answers, or do you roll up your sleeves and work alongside them?

Leaders Know How to Ask the Right Questions

A smart leader knows how to ask questions without putting their staff on the defensive.

An effective leader is always curious about the way things work. They know how to make inquiries without being intrusive and putting staff on the defensive. As a supervisor, there may be times when you need to know the steps that led to certain results, good or bad. But try to avoid asking questions of your staff that begin with the word 'why.' Rather than conveying your sincere interest in what's going on, questions that start with the word ‘why’ have a tendency to sound like accusations. Being asked, "Why did you do that?" often makes people feel the need to defend and justify their actions. Instead of starting a question with 'why,' try to ask process-oriented questions that start with phrases such as "How do we" or "What can we do to...?" By using collective nouns such as ‘we’ and ‘us’ you are letting your team know that you're there to support and assist in the problem-solving process too. Also, when you ask questions that challenge the whole group, rather than just one person, you’ll have more creative solutions to chose from.

Leaders Know How to Laugh at Themselves

Are you the kind of person who can laugh at your own mistakes, or would a spilled coffee put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day?
Are you the kind of person who can laugh at your own mistakes, or would a spilled coffee put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day?

Influential workplace leaders know that a healthy sense of humor is a valuable asset.

Good leaders know how to use humor to diffuse conflict and reduce friction between staff. Self-effacing humor can help reduce tension by showing that you are a leader who doesn’t take yourself too seriously. One of the hardest types of people to work with are perfectionists, not necessarily because they want others to perform perfectly but rather because they're so hard on themselves when they make mistakes. And that frustration tends to come out sideways, landing on other people.

If you want to be an effective leader, avoid using humor that is negative, oblique and sarcastic. Singling out someone as a target of sarcasm or ridicule will increase workplace conflict, not deflect it.

Laughter is America's most important export.

— Walt Disney

Truly successful leaders know that their job isn't to serve themselves, but to serve others. They step aside when needed and give others the chance to lead and learn. Leaders know how to recognize the skills, talents and aspirations of their staff and are committed to making sure those skills and talents help both the individual and the entire team reach their goals. When you are committed to helping individual team members grow and thrive, the company as a whole tends to grow and thrive too!

© 2017 Sally Hayes

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