7 Characteristics of Leadership

Geoffrey X Lane

Speak up and show up…

We communicate all the time; voice mail, email, staff meetings, planning sessions, outside agencies, special interest groups, and that is before we get to our clients or customers. Those with the ability and skill to communicate and present ideas have a powerful edge as a leader.

1. Strong Communication Skills Are Essential

Regular and effective communication strengthens your ties with your employees and will encourage trust and limit conflict. Encourage people to express their ideas and share yours with them. A healthy team practices open and honest communication. Listening is also an important part of strong communication skills. By being an active listener you learn more about a situation (good or bad), while showing respect for the individual’s ideas and opinions.

2. Be Real

Being authentic is about gaining the trust and respect of your team by being real and genuine. Time and experience usually teaches us lessons in our own limitations and fallibility, which tends to infuse a sense of humor, humility and empathy. Use this to your advantage when connecting with your staff. Always exhibit the behavior you seek and match your actions with your statements.

3. React To The Problem, Not The Stress

As a leader, you will face stressful situations. Here are a few suggestions that will help you get through them:

  • Don’t make things worse. Don’t be panicked into impulsive action. It will make matters worse.
  • Take a breath. Take several deep breaths and try to relax. Speak slowly, even if you don’t feel like it. This instills calm in those around you. It says, “He’s not losing his head, and therefore I shouldn’t.”
  • First things first. Reduce the situation to two or three key points that can be handled right away to lessen the urgency of the moment. This will allow you to process the rest of the issues in a timely, but non-emergency manner.
  • Distribute the load. Assign three or four major elements to members of your team to process in parts and then be combined into the whole.

4. Essential Feedback

Providing regular feedback is one of the best methods for motivating individuals and building a positive work environment. Give continual feedback (both positive and constructive) to each team member and to the team as a whole. Always remember that you can give positive feedback in front of others, but constructive feedback must be given in a closed one-on-one meeting.

5. Clear Goals Matter

Always set clear and realistic goals and expectations, so that your team knows what is expected of them. Clear goals keep everyone moving in the same direction. They allow your team to make more of their own decisions and fewer issues will need to be escalated to you to resolve. After you’ve clearly laid the tasks and expectations, trust your staff to do the best job they can. You are their leader and to acquire their trust, you must lead by example.

6. Managing Change: Leading with transparency and honesty

As a leader, you will be required to adapt to change regularly and without warning – how well you adapt to this change is what is important.

  • Whenever possible, update your team on anything from small successes/concerns to large restructuring possibilities so that they are aware of what’s going on at all times.
  • Share the vision of the organization and realign your team’s goals accordingly.
  • Support your employees with clear direction and remove any roadblocks for them.

7. Say ‘No’

People should always be encouraged to share their ideas and opinions and as a good leader you must be flexible and open to different points of view. But, ultimately, you are the decision maker. When one of your team members’ comments or actions conflict with the vision of the organization or with the expectations that you have set out for them, you can say ‘no’.

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