A leader is called many different things—from president, to boss, to chairperson.
But being a great leader and an effective leader requires more than earning a high-ranking title—it also means being able to help others realize and more fully develop their strengths. In fact, 50 years of Gallup polls and more than 20,000 leader interviews have found that employee engagement actually increases by up to 73 percent when the company focuses on and invests in individual employee’s strengths.1 This involves motivating, inspiring, and empowering those you lead to be the best they can possibly be.
Lead by example
Anyone can tell other people what they need to do in order to excel, but an effective leader leads by example. This means walking the walk in addition to talking the talk. In other words, you have to be doing the things you recommend to others because, if you aren’t, your suggestions will carry no weight and likely fall on deaf ears.
Application: If you’re always telling patients that it would benefit their health to lose some weight, then you would be leading by example if you were fit and had a regular exercise routine yourself. And if you expect your employees to be on time for work, then you should be at work and ready for your day on time, as well.
Make yourself trustworthy
When people trust you, they will heed your advice more readily because they know that you aren’t going to steer them wrong. While many people do not like to hear criticisms, they generally respect a person who can share them in a tactful way. This means being respectfully honest with those around you, even when it is difficult to do so. It also means honoring their trust by not talking about them to others and respecting their privacy and confidences.
Application: If others around you are talking about someone else, and you have personal information about the subject that would be considered “juicy office gossip,” choose to not share it. And if someone asks your opinion about how they should handle a certain situation, deliver it in a way that is respectful, yet truthful.
A Psychology Today article that researched 100 years of leadership found that “the very best leaders also care sincerely about their followers, their well-being, and their personal development.”2 This means being genuinely compassionate and looking out for others’ welfare when offering suggestions or advice. It requires setting aside your own personal beliefs in an effort to help them do what is right for them.
Application: When you ask someone how they are doing, actually pay attention to the answer. Additionally, if offering advice, make it a point to consider whether the advice you are inclined to give benefits them or you. Aim to provide guidance with their sole interest at heart.
Hone your communication skills
You may be the best leader in the world with fantastic ideas that can take a team to victory. However, if you cannot effectively communicate those ideas, that victory may be pushed out of reach. Acknowledge that not everyone communicates in the same way, and ask those around you how they think you can improve your own communication skills. Choose your words carefully and find a method of communication that works well for both you and your team.
Application: If you are speaking to employees about new office protocols, specifically ask if they understands what you said and look for non-verbal clues, such as confused facial expressions, to determine if you should go into more detail. Likewise, when listening to someone speak, paraphrase what was just said to you and ask if you understood them correctly.
1 Gallup. “Gallup’s Leadership Research” Strengths.Gallup.com. http://strengths.gallup.com/110251/gallups-leadership-research.aspx. Accessed April 2015.
2 Riggio R. “What 100 Years of Research Shows About Effective Leadership.” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200911/what-100-years-research-shows-about-effective-leadership. Published November 2009. Accessed April 2015.