Are we born to lead or follow? Are there any certain, genetically determined traits found in some people that naturally puts them in a leadership position? In today’s post, Dr Monika Stuczen shares her thoughts on what it takes to be a good leader and simple tools that make for effective leadership. Enjoy reading!
I was born into an average working class family and grew up under communism in my country. I can’t say that my parents or the society helped me to become a confident child. I was rather treated like someone without any rights to speak, especially at school. If you spoke out loud, it was seen as a lack of respect towards adults and teachers so we always kept our thoughts and opinions to ourselves. As a young person, I was so shy that even a trip to the shop was a challenge because I had to speak and ask for what I wanted. I so hated this feeling of shyness and over years was trying to do everything to overcome it by exposing myself to many challenging situations which required me to be more open and take a lead.
As they say good leaders start off as followers so I was always looking for inspirational leaders. At school I never heard words like leadership, motivation or effective communication. It wasn’t in our curriculum. I can now say I am pleased that this has changed over time and younger kids have more opportunities. There are so many articles and books available with advice about how to become a good leader and what are the most important qualities that great leaders should possess. We also have access to different training courses and excellent business coaches. Most of them talk about the importance of strategic thinking, a vision we should have of where we want to be and how to work in order to achieve that vision.
They say that a good leader needs to have the ability to make good decisions, be an effective problem solver and possess great communication skills. All these qualities are highly desirable, but are they really the most important?
The moment you become a leader I always compare to the moment when you become a parent. There is no more “I”.
If you lead or are responsible for a team, your team becomes like your child and you need to take care of the members, but you also need to ensure that you teach them to become highly independent. You need to think about the needs of the individuals in the team and ensure you build them up. If they fall, you need to give them strength and courage to get up. Your achievements become their achievements and vice versa. Like you see the best in your children you need to see the best in your people. Concentrate on their good qualities, their strengths and if they have any weaknesses provide them with appropriate training in order to turn their weakness into strength.
Do not criticise or put them down, use constructive criticism instead. We all need feedback as it is the only way to improve, but this feedback needs to be delivered in such a way that it doesn’t knock down their confidence but gives them the courage to improve. In this way they will see the need for improvement not as an obstacle, but as a goal to achieve and they will do it with a big smile on their face.
Another important aspect is trust. Your team needs to trust you but you also need to trust them! Don’t think you know it all because you will never realise that you actually don’t. Give them a chance to express their opinions and ideas. Let them implement it from time to time even if you think they may not be successful as we all learn from our mistakes. A good leader will take into consideration all points of view and will be willing to change a policy, protocol, program, cultural tradition if it is no longer beneficial to the team as a whole. Delegate some tasks and make them feel responsible as this is a good way to make them feel trustworthy and valuable. As a leader of a team, be always open to change.
Good communication on every level is a key to building any successful relationship. Don’t talk about communication just do it and expect clear and direct communication from others.
Regardless of the situation, always stay positive as the positivity is essential in order to provide good and healthy work environment, productivity and employee happiness. Even if serious mistakes are made it is important to look at the bright side of things. Most mistakes or problems lead to improvements so we should rather see them in a positive light. There are no problems that can’t be resolved. Unfortunately some people instead of trying to concentrate on finding a resolution to the problem, find problems in every possible resolution….
Be friendly and open. Simple actions such as taking snacks in, giving compliments to your team and even showing an appropriate interest in an employee’s personal life can have a very positive impact on their work day. Laugh and let them laugh. A sense of humour goes a long way in leadership as it helps to create a positive work environment. Your sense of humour and unique personality shows your team that you are more than a leader.
A great leader is like a coach – someone who has the ability to inspire, educate and encourage, someone who leads the team by example. If you expect your team to work hard and produce quality outcomes you are going to need to lead by example.
Always remain calm even in very stressful situations. Showing emotions is a good thing but only if they are positive or in order to express your empathy. Shouting, screaming, expressing your frustration, throwing your negative emotions at people is not a good thing. It will negatively affect their respect towards you and boost similar feelings. Make people feel comfortable in your presence and always show respect as it is the only way to receive it back.
Similar to frustrations at work, never bring your personal problems to the work environment. I’ve seen many managers with quite unsuccessful personal lives which deeply reflected their attitude towards their team members. They treated work environment as a place to get rid of their personal problems by putting people down, criticizing and overall spoiling the relationships between people. Nobody wants to work for such leaders and these leaders rarely build strong teams.
Remember that your business and your team are a reflection of yourself and if you are strong you will make your business and your team strong. If you show honest and good ethical behaviour, your team will follow you.
As a leader you contribute to creating the next generation of leaders. If you are a good and inspiring example, they will always remember you and follow your example in their future careers.
About our writer: Dr Monika Stuczen is Laboratory Manager at Medical Wire & Equipment Ltd where she is involved in Research and Development. Monika previously shared her transition from PhD to industry on the Aspiring Professionals Hub.
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