In my experience, the ability to lead effectively is based on a number of key skills, which serve as a foundation to be built upon. In Part 1 of our ’10 Key Skills for Effective Leadership’ series, we discussed Honesty, Communication, Delegation, Confidence, and Commitment. We continue the series with the last 5 skill sets and traits every effective leader should work to possess.
6. Positive Attitude. You want to keep your team (and yourself) motivated towards the continued success of the company, and keep the energy levels up. For your team, that may range from providing snacks, coffee, or career advice. It may mean just complimenting a job well done, or providing encouragement when a challenging situation arises. Regardless of how you choose to display it, your attitude as a leader sets the tone. Keep the office mood a fine balance between productivity and playfulness. If your team is feeling happy, upbeat, and motivated, chances are they won’t mind staying that extra hour to finish a report, or devoting their best work to the task at hand.
7. Creativity. Some decisions will not always be so clear-cut. You may be forced at times to deviate from your set course and make an on-the-fly decision. This is where your creativity will prove to be vital. It is during these critical situations that your team will look to you for guidance, and you may have to make a quick decision. As a leader, it’s important to learn to think outside the box; sometimes that means choosing which of two not-so-great choices is the best option.
8. Intuition. When leading a team through uncharted waters, there is no roadmap on what to do. Everything is uncertain, and the higher the risk, the higher the pressure. That is where your natural intuition has to kick in. Guiding your team through the process of your day-to-day tasks can be honed down to a science. But when something unexpected occurs, or you are thrown into a new scenario, your team will look to you for guidance. Drawing on past experience is a good reflex, as is reaching out to your mentors for support. Eventually though, the tough decisions will be up to you, and you will need to depend on your gut instinct for answers. Learning to trust yourself is as important as your team learning to trust you.
9. Inspire. Make your team feel invested in the accomplishments of the company. Whether everyone owns a piece of equity, or you operate on a bonus system, generating enthusiasm for the hard work you are all putting in is so important. Being able to inspire your team is great for focusing on the future goals, but it is also important for the current issues. When you are all mired deep in work, morale is low, and energy levels are fading, recognize that everyone needs a break now and then. Acknowledge the work that everyone has dedicated and commend the team on each of their efforts. It is your job to keep spirits up, and that begins with an appreciation for the hard work.
10. Approach. Not all human beings are the same. No surprise there, right? It’s a basic concept, but something that is often overlooked. There are cultural perspectives, language barriers, different educational backgrounds, personality traits and varying value systems with which individuals come pre-conditioned, that greatly affect how information is processed and interpreted. Some people work well under pressure, others don’t. Some respond best to tough love, others take it personally and shut down. In order to optimize your effectiveness as a leader, you must have the ability to customize your approach on a person by person basis, based on the situation at hand. Your capacity to execute this concept will play a huge role in your ability to get the best work out of your team.
A focused leader is not the person concentrating on the three most important priorities of the year, or the most brilliant systems thinker, or the one most in tune with the corporate culture. Focused leaders can command the full range of their own attention: They are in touch with their inner feelings, they can control their impulses, they are aware of how others see them, they understand what others need from them, they can weed out distractions and also allow their minds to roam widely, free of preconceptions.