Many leaders know how to be good managers; they know how to get things done. However, do they understand that the word lead stands for?
You see, an exceptional leader isn’t a dictator. An exceptional leader is a motivator, a person who easily inspires others to achieve the vision. The only way that an exceptional leader can do this is by making the daily decision to L-E-A-D. With these strategies to become an exceptional leader at your disposal, your team will be flying in no time.
Active listening involves paying attention to what the other person is saying. Empathise with them, and put your agenda on the backburner. Many leaders hear, but few actively listen. Think about the leader you most admire. More than likely one of this leader’s most endearing qualities is his or her ability to make people feel like they are being heard.Oftentimes we enter conversations with our own agendas. A good listener puts that agenda aside so that what the other person is saying is clearly understood. In order to do this, the listener has to:
- Look at the person. You can’t truly be listening to someone with your head buried in your electronic device or a pile of paperwork. You have to stop what you’re doing and look directly at the person.
- Rephrase what is being said. Rephrasing ensures that you understand what the person is trying to say. It provides an opportunity for clarification if necessary.
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues and question them. If the speaker seems tense, for instance, try to help that person relax.
- Ask clarifying questions.
Listening also means paying attention to the ideas presented by your team. It is your responsibility as a leader to hear what your team has to say and put plans in place to implement the solid ideas.
Finally, an exceptional leader also listens to the unheard rhythm of the organisation. This leader is so in-tune with what’s happening in the organisation that he or she can get on top of issues before they create massive problems. You have to create a relationship built on trust with your team so that all of them are willing to show you those red flags and keep the organisation afloat.
Best-selling author Seth Godin once said, “Great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate. They establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to commanding people to follow them.” An empowered team will move mountains to make an organisation succeed. Communication and the freedom to make connections are the foundation of empowerment.
Each organisation is filled with diverse individuals who have their own opinions and ideas. Your job is to help each team member find his or her voice in the organisation. Opportunities have to be provided for team members to express and implement their ideas. Creativity and innovation should be encouraged.
Many leaders view creating these opportunities as a threat. They feel like their own voice and their own agenda as a leader will be silenced if they allow this type of freedom. Rubbish! No leader in this world knows everything. There is so much that you can learn from your team when you create the opportunities for them to share and implement their ideas.
Empowerment also involves recognising achievements. Too often leaders are silent about the small ways team members contribute to the success of the organisation. Create a positive work environment where team members feel like they are appreciated. There is no negative cloud that surrounds the space. Any signs of bleakness are quickly pushed away with positive energy.
When it comes seeking strategies to become an exceptional leader, you need to become an advocate. Leaders advocate for their team members’ ideas and stand up for them when the pressure mounts. Throwing someone under the bus is never an option. Therefore, you have to be willing to stand between their team members and the negative criticism and pressure that is thrown at them. Criticism and pressure will come from all angles: customers, board members, and other stakeholders. Exceptional leaders stand the heat and guide their team members towards correcting the issues. Instead of belittling the team member(s) in the wrong. Instead empower this person or team to make the necessary changes.
Driving a Vehicle for Success
Exceptional leaders create a team that is committed to success. Each team member clearly understands what is expected and consistently strives to meet or exceed those expectations.
- Making this a reality for your organisation means:
- Setting clear weekly targets for each team.
- Having consistent performance reviews.
- Facilitating mentorship programs in the organisation.
- Providing opportunities for furthering education.
- Providing opportunities for promotions.
- Creating an open rather than stifling environment.
Living the L-E-A-D Principle
People are always willing to work if they have the right person leading them. You can become an exceptional leader, but always remember that the road will be rocky. Make leading a habit by keeping a daily journal. Write the ways you carried out each of the principles each day. Include one highlight of the day and one thing that you need to work on going forward.
Spend time reading leadership books and connect those principles with what you need to work on going forward. Use what you read to create monthly goals with specific and measurable targets. Your ability to accomplish these targets determines how much you have learned from what you have read.
Don’t forget to embrace your journey. These strategies to become an exceptional leader are merely tools that you need to use and apply. Take the first step in your L-E-A-D journey today by implementing the strategies outlined in this article. If you’ve any tips that you’ve found useful let us know in the comments.