Five ways to become the leader your team needs

In today’s competitive business environment, a great team is essential in ensuring an organisation’s success in achieving its business goals.  A great team leader can be the difference between having a motivated team that works together well or a fragmented team of individuals all pulling in different directions. As Mark Sanborn, a leadership development coach, points out, there are not many natural born leaders, but many team leaders train themselves by learning from others and through personal experience, in order to improve their team leadership skills.

Richard Stengel’s book Mandela’s Way – Lessons of Life illustrates Mandela’s leadership style:  “Leadership at its most fundamental is about moving people in a certain direction – usually through changing the direction of their thinking and their actions.  This is not necessarily done by charging out front and saying “Follow me”, but by empowering or pushing others to move forward ahead of you.  It is through empowering others that we impart our own leadership and ideas.”

So how do you become a better leader?  In addition to reading Mandela’s Way (a great read – highly recommended), here are a few more things to consider to help you on your way:

Be the perfect barometer to your team

As a team leader, it is up to you to ensure that your organisational values are reflected in your actions.  The way you treat people is a barometer to your team, so it is unacceptable to expect your team to treat your clients with respect and to adhere to the highest service standards if you don’t treat your staff in the same way.  Simply lead by example!

Mike Lipkin and Eric Parker, authors of You’re the Boss, share this view:  “Depending on your behaviour, you either become a positive source of energy or a negative one.   It’s not good enough being a leader, you have to be a cheerleader. Become famous for your enthusiasm!"

Communication with your team – it’s a 2 way street

Encourage communication between your team and with you as a team leader.  Allow them to give you their input on work issues as well as their feedback on what they need from you as their team leader in order to perform to the best of their ability. Give constructive criticism where necessary and have an ‘open door’ policy which encourages open communication.  Alternatively, have a regular session with team members individually, where they can raise any issues or concerns which may be affecting their performance.

Don’t just pay lip service to personal growth

According to Mark Sanborn, the personal growth of your team member (and your own) ultimately grows your business.  However, expensive training courses are not the only way to ensure personal growth for your staff.  Personal mentoring, encouraging the reading and sharing of business books on relevant topics/skills and working with other colleagues who demonstrate the required skills, are just a few other options to helping your staff grow.

Be creative and see what each team member really needs and find a way of at least partially meeting that need, so that your team feels valued and recognizes that you care about their personal growth as well as your own.  

Keep your promises

It is not always easy to keep your promises when juggling so many commitments at once, but it is essential in order to establish yourself as a leader of integrity and to develop your credibility.  Your team needs to know that they (and anyone they refer to you) can rely on you to do what you have committed to.  This takes great discipline, but will help you to earn a great reputation!

Reward your team for a job well done

Don’t assume that this needs to be a monetary reward. Simple things such as a ‘thank you’ breakfast in the office with coffee and muffins or having lunch together as a team can also make a difference.  Even a dinner or store voucher can mean a lot, as it is an opportunity for team members to spoil themselves or their families.  Of course, if bigger budgets are available or a real milestone has been reached, then an indulgent team activity is a great option!

What other things can you do to become a better leader or do you have a particular role model? We’d love to hear your thoughts!