"You can become your own boss."
Taking control of your own affairs is one of the most commonly touted advantages of being an entrepreneur or business owner. You don't have to answer to anyone but yourself, while you have the freedom to make your own mistakes without affecting others.
Except, as your business grows and you begin to recruit employees, this no longer becomes the case.
As a boss or business owner, you naturally have power and authority over your employees. Good leadership, however, does not come from your position within the organisation; it is about how you manage, inspire and influence those around you, regardless of your title.
Therefore, if you're going to be a success, you need to develop and improve your leadership skills. After all, when you are no longer "your own boss", but, in fact, everybody's boss, you have a responsibility to be the best mentor that you can.
With that in mind, this is how to be a better leader.
The Importance of Training & Practice
Of course, not everybody is a natural-born leader. Some individuals seem to possess an innate ability to inspire and lead others, while others prefer perhaps to follow. However, that does not mean you can't grow into a leadership role; it's entirely possible to learn those necessary skills and techniques later in life.
To do so, though, you need constant practice. Becoming a better leader is a little like swimming; you cannot learn it from a textbook - you have to be in the water. Likewise, to become a better leader, you have put your leadership role in your organisation to good effect.
Make no mistake, too - this is a continually ongoing process. There is one thing great leaders and entrepreneurs have in common, after all: the constant drive for self-improvement.
How to Improve Your Leadership Skills
While you internalise the essential leadership characteristics, you can also do many things within your organisation to become a better leader. This is what philosophers call praxis, where you put ideas into action. Become proactive and try to make these changes to your leadership praxis:
1. Interact constantly with your team
There is no such thing as too much teamwork. Good leaders do not restrict themselves to their offices, barking orders at their underlings through emails or memos, so make it a point to interact and engage with your employees regularly - especially if your team is small.
Arrange one-on-one sessions as well as team activities, too, so that you can better understand your employees' motivations and goals, as well as create a more collaborative environment.
2. Be diplomatic with praise and criticism
All humans respond to positive feedback with increased enthusiasm and commitment in their activities. If someone is doing a good job, let them know, preferably in the company of their peers. Conversely, if the work needs to improve, try to avoid public criticism or scoldings.
Give negative feedback privately to inspire more trust and confidence among your employees, and always ensure that you offer a constructive solution on how that person can improve.
3. Don't hesitate to ask for feedback about yourself
Feedback in the office should not be a one-way street, though; having an outsider perspective on your leadership style can be invaluable for your leadership development.
Create a safe and secure mechanism for your employees to air their opinions or suggestions about you, should they have any. This is one of the most dynamic ways to improve your leadership skills and performance in the office, while also empowering your employees at the same time.
4. Trust in the ability of others
One of the biggest turn-offs for employees in any organisation is micromanagement. Therefore, you need to understand that some level of autonomy is essential for productivity.
You don't need to be involved in every single little aspect of your business - let people know that they have your full faith and support. Effective leadership is not necessarily about telling people what to do; it's also about delegating responsibility to others. So let your employees do their jobs, and intervene only if necessary.
5. Focus on improving others
As previously mentioned, being a good leader involves being a mentor or a teacher to others.
Speak to your staff and find out what their professional goals are. What can you do to try and help them realise those goals? No matter how busy you are, you should always invest the time to guide and mentor them. Talented and motivated people are always looking for ways to improve themselves, so if you show them that you genuinely care about their growth, they will have no trouble following your leadership.
6. Never compromise on standards
As a leader, you have to set an example for others to follow. If you want others to work hard for your organisation, lead by way of example; if others don't want to buy into that, then don't hesitate to hold them accountable.
Great leaders always set markers for others to follow, but more importantly, they don't ask their people to do something that they wouldn't do themselves. Always remember that you are the benchmark for everything your company - and your employees - will be judged on.
7. Be genuine and authentic in your interactions
People can always sense when someone is not genuine; therefore, unless you are a consummate actor, don't try to put forth a fake persona in the office.
Instead, focus on developing a leadership style based on your strengths, rather than blindly aping others. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't have leaders that you look up to, but you shouldn't confuse imitation for inspiration. You cannot expect others to have faith in your leadership if you don't put much faith in yourself.
8. Always stay positive
To be an effective leader, you need to have strict control over your emotions. Adversity is a constant in business, especially if you are starting fresh.
If you lose control or blow your top every time something bad happens, then your team's morale will go into a death spiral. It's vital to rein in your emotions and stay positive in front of your team, regardless of how bad the situation is.
9. Keep meeting new people
Great leaders thrive in the company of other human beings; people are incredibly diverse in terms of their personalities, characters, and motivations, after all.
The more you learn about different types of individuals, the more effective you become as a leader. Networking with others is not just about building new ties and connections - it is also about learning more about people in general.
10. Don't forget to have fun!
Leadership can feel like the entire burden of the world is on your shoulders; carry it around all the time, and you are doomed to fail.
This is why you should always leave some time aside for fun, both at work and home. It could be something simple, like taking some time out with your family at the park or taking your team out for a picnic. Now and then, it's essential to switch off and give your body and mind some time to replenish that spent energy.
Authentic leadership is not something that is inherited but rather honed over years of learning, training, and practice. You may not see an overnight transformation in your leadership style or skills, even if you follow all the advice here and in the countless books written on the subject.
However, if you consistently adhere to these basic principles and start making proactive improvements in your daily leadership praxis, you will undoubtedly see progress. The key thing to remember is never to give up the fight. Make mistakes and learn from them, as it will only make you a better leader in the long run.
Meanwhile, to see these skills in practice, don't forget to take a look at these prime examples of leadership!
In what other ways can you become a better leader? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.