Leadership is not something that can simply be read from a textbook, or taught in a classroom. It is not easy to describe a good leader with just a couple of words. A desirable leader has that special “something” that just seems to exude from them. Something that makes you want to follow them. So, what is it? What makes a good leader?
I speak from both sides of the coin. I was a corporate office manager for 14 years. I filled both the “employee” role and was also in charge of hiring and firing other employees. I left that job to start my own business, and was thrust into the “boss” role. So, being both an employee and a boss, there are things everyone in a leadership position should know.
First, employees don’t like their bosses. I don’t mean personally, I mean professionally. No one likes someone to tell them what to do, but if you want to buy groceries on Friday, you have to work for someone. Second, employees watch you like a hawk. Employees talk freely to one another about everything you do. If you treat one person different than another in the same position, all will know about it. So, above all, be fair.
There’s a saying, “You don’t care how much someone knows until you know how much they care.” This is so true. Respect as a leader isn’t demanded, it is earned. If you show your employees you are a kind, caring person, it carries a lot of weight. Of course, there will always be those employees who will take advantage of your kindness, and when that is the case, you need to calmly and respectfully let them know that although you have extended courtesy to them, they are still required to obey the rules and respect your position as their leader.
It truly means a lot to employees to be recognized for their efforts. Bonuses are always appreciated, but words of encouragement go a long way as well. Thank them for being on time. Praise them for a job well done. Let them know you appreciate the effort they put forth in a project. Let them hear you compliment their work while speaking to someone else. Don’t we all remember getting to put a sticker on a chart for a job well done in school or at home? A sticker isn’t worth much, the the pride you feel is worth a million dollars. Those words of gratitude and encouragement stay with the employees and help them to want to please you, and in turn, be more productive for the business.
As the owner of a small business, it is my responsibility to ensure that everything is done and done correctly. This means that when time runs short and the pressure is on, you roll up your sleeves and work along side the employees if that’s what is required to get the job done. When employees see your passion for the business and your willingness to do whatever it takes to get something done, they realize that you are not just there to boss them around and collect your check on Friday. They see that you are genuinely concerned about furthering the business and ensuring it’s success.
It helps to have a suggestion box somewhere that they can offer their insights for the company. Your employees are on the front lines, and though you will always have a few slackers, there are also many who see inefficiencies in the processes of the business and actually have some good ideas for speeding up production, etc. If this is a new idea being implemented, I recommend a meeting outlining some rules, and a little explanation that though all ideas will be considered, not all will be implemented by the upper management.
Employees who feel appreciated are generally willing to put forth more effort than those who feel demeaned by their supervisors. Yes, you can run your business or department like a dictatorship and get some work out of your employees, but it will be the bare minimum required for them to keep their job. It is a much more pleasant and advantageous workplace when the employees and the supervisors and leaders are all working toward the same goal – advancing and growing the business.
To be a good leader, you must show confidence in yourself without crossing that line in to conceitedness. Confident leaders don’t have to announce their wonderful qualities to anyone- they will be seen and noted by all who know them. Your attitude about yourself, as well as toward your employees is very important. You should assume that your employees want to do a good job, and make it your mission to see that they have whatever they need to make that happen. If you are a supervisor in a manufacturing company, take a few walks into the facility each day. Let the employees see you. Try to remember something about them – “How’s your son doing now that he’s in college?” “Heard you had a new grandbaby – is everyone doing ok?” Just a few personal touches that let them know you see them not just as an employee, but as a valuable person, as well.
The one thing each of us wants is to be respected, to be heard, and to be valued. Once your employees know that you realize the important role they play in your business, they will usually respect your position as well.
At Paradigm Shifters, we specialize in enabling people to commit to implementing meaningful, positive change and achieving goals through alignment. For more information on our consulting services, call us today at (+1) 415-702-0334.