Being a leader has a lot to do with perception. But perception isn’t the only thing that will make you successful. In my experience in management, your team is always watching you and looking for guidance. You are considered the example in what makes a great employee and in teaching them how to be a success themselves. If you build a great team, it reflects on you as a leader. I found this article to be spot on for ways you can be a good leader. Jeff Boss outlined the 6 ways to practice leadership, but below is my own take on these guidelines.
1. Dress the part. Showing up as a mange in a t-shirt and jeans doesn’t say “I’m you’re boss.” While the kind of job you hold might not be a fancy schmancy business attire, it’s important to present yourself as polished and in control. Make sure your shirts are pressed and clothing looks professional. While working for Toys R Us the dress code was khakis or black pants and a red polo or collared shirt, and sneakers. Most employees opted for the polo shirt and khakis, but I made sure to wear a red button-up top and black pants and black dress shoes. Customers could pick me out from my employees and I was easily identifiable. It shows I meant business and my employees knew that, too.
2. Play the role. Not all leaders are extroverts and out going. I’m on the fence when it comes to extroversion as I have introverted tendencies. I also have a tendency to be shy, but I force myself to overcome my shyness because it means I can’t sufficiently lead. If you want to be in a managerial position you can’t sit back, work hard, and expect people to notice and respect you. You have to put yourself out there and being shy and introverted doesn’t mean you get a pass and your employees will just say “Hmm…Beth’s just a shy, introvert so her lack of leadership is acceptable.” To me, it means you’re not suited for the role you’re in because you’re not an example. Be an example as a leader by playing the part.
3. Shoot ‘em straight — avoid the BS. If you think telling people what they want to hear is going to win them over you’d be wrong. For some people it’s easy to buy into what you’re saying with little effort. For others, you have to work harder to gain their trust and respect in your role. Try being straight with people and delivering on promises to gain trust and respect. This demonstrates your credibility as a manager when you practice communicating this way.
4. Accept difficult questions. To me, # 4 should be, “Be an effective communicator.” I see this mistake over and over again, but it’s easy to overcome if you make the effort. Share what you know. People don’t show up to work looking to fail so it’s your chance to make them a success. Communication between other leaders and your employees is strengthens your ability to lead.
I felt that this portion of the original article says it all (and more effectively than I could). “They know that transparency and inclusion breed trust and innovation, and if they want their people to have the right context when making decisions, then it is critical to communicate the right information.”
5. Just listen. Stop talking! There, I said it. Just because you are a manager does not mean always inserting your opinion or direction into a conversation or situation. This is a rookie mistake, but it’s very important to adhere to this. I’ve been in situations where my employees just needed my ear and it went a long way in building their trust and it built a stronger foundation for our working relationship. Actively listening to what people say to positions you to be someone to rely on and go to.
6. Be candid. Being candid means being authentic in your desire to lead. I feel like this, often times, means taking the diplomatic approach. That doesn’t mean pulling the wool over people’s eyes, but rather understanding how you come across to everyone should be the same. Again, I’m not suggesting putting on a front, but you do have to put on your “leadership hat” as Jeff Boss says.
These 6 tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leadership. I promise that putting these into practice will strengthen your position and build your character in management. So get started!