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HOW TO BE
A GOOD LEADER
- Remember: leadership skills and techniques can be learned. You don't have to be a natural leader. Very few people are.
- Care for your team. That means knowing what matters to each member: their health, their partner, their children, their relatives, their interests, their hopes, their fears.
- Stay close to your team. At some point, every day, walk around the office and say "Hi" to everyone who works for you. If you're not in the office that day, call and see how people are. This gives you a chance to enquire or encourage and gives them an opportunity to raise issues or make suggestions.
- Meet your team. Regularly - daily, weekly or monthly, depending on your place and type of work - have meetings of all the members of the team. Keep these meetings short, focused and action-orientated. Make sure every member of the team contributes in some way and acknowledge that.
- Train your team. Every team member should have at least two days training a year. Newer and more senior colleagues should have more. If they don't ask to go on training sessions, suggest some suitable courses.
- Grow your team. Through varied experience and regular training, you should be developing each team member to be more and more confident and more skilled.
- Inspire your team. Consider making available a motivational quote or story every week or month [for lots of good quotes click here].
- Celebrate with your team. This might be a personal event, such as a member's birthday or anniversary, or a professional occasion, such as completing a project or winning a contract.
- Socialise with your team. Have lunch or an after-work drink with them, especially when a member has a birthday or there's another reason to celebrate.
- Set objectives for each team member. As far as possible, these objectives should be SMART - Specific Measurable Achievable Resourced Timed.
- Review the performance of each team member. At least once a year - at least quarterly for the first year of a new team member - have a review session where you assess performance, give feed-back and agree future objectives and training.
- Thank constantly. The words "Thank you" take seconds to say, but mean so much.
- Praise constantly. The words "Well done" take seconds to say, but will be long remembered and appreciated.
- Communicate constantly. Don't assume that people know what you're doing, still less what you are planning or thinking. Tell them, using all the communication tools to hand: team briefings, electronic newsletters, organisational newspapers.
- Eliminate. Too often we do things because they've always been done. Life changes. Consider whether you could stop doing certain things altogether.
- Delegate. You don't have to do everything. Develop your team members by training them to do more and trusting them to take over some of the things you've been doing.
- Empower. A really effective leader sets clear objectives for his team members, but leaves detailed implementation of these objectives to the discretion and judgement of individual members of the team. As Second World War U.S. General George S. Patton put it: "Don't tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results”.
- Facilitate. A confident leader does not try to micro-manage his team, but makes it clear that, if team members need advice or assistance, he is always there to facilitate and support.
- Be on time. Always start meetings on time and finish them on time. Natural breaks keep people fresh. Short meetings concentrate the mind.
- Be seen. Don't just talk the talk, but walk the walk. So visit each unit or department for which you are responsible on a regular basis. Don't do this unannounced - you are not out to undermine other leaders or catch out staff. So arrange with the unit leader or departmental head when you'll visit and ask him or her to walk round with you.
- Make time. Managers are often very busy and this can deter people from approaching you, so make time for people and be approachable. People will appreciate you taking five minutes out of your busy schedule, especially if you act on/listen to what they say.
- Really listen. Many of us - especially those who think they are important - don't really listen, but instead think about what they're going to say next. Give the person speaking to you your full attention and really take on board what they are saying. [For more detailed advice on listening click here]
- Accept honest criticism. Criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger (that covers all bases!) - but it's a powerful tool of learning. Above all, assess criticism on merit, without regard to its originator.
- Think strategically. The doers cut a path through the jungle; the managers are behind them sharpening the machetes; the leaders find time to think, climb the nearest tree, and shout "Wrong jungle!" Find time to climb the trees.
- Have a mentor or buddy, someone doing similar work in the same or a similar organisation with whom you can regularly and frankly discuss your progress and your problems as a leader.
- Have a role model, someone who can inspire you to be a truly great leader. If you can't find one, study Jed Bartlet as the American President in any episode of the television series "The West Wing".
- Constantly revisit and review these tips. In his seminal work, "The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People", Stephen Covey puts it this way: "Sharpen the saw".
- Plan your succession. You won't be there forever and you may not be in control of the timing and circumstances of your departure. So start now to mentor and train at least one colleague who could take over from you.
Last modified on 3 June 2010
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