Real-life Tips for Better Leadership

In most organizational settings, the people calling the shots are often identified as the “leaders”, while all others obediently follow. This traditional set-up makes it a lot easier to keep an organization running. The simplicity is much like how a shepherd is to his herd – making sure that each sheep walks only on the trail he has identified.

But leadership is not simple. In fact, companies spend a lot of money to train and educate its existing or potential leaders in the hopes of getting the best out of them. While technical learning is truly helpful, there are times when asking ordinary employees about the subject could be as effective – if not better. In this post, I have summarized into 10 tips the personal observations and years of conversation had with employees who wished their leaders knew what was wrong.

A true leader must have both fully functional

A true leader must have both fully functional

1. reflect the competence you want to see

Your people expect you to be way better than they already are. After all, you did not get there for nothing. If you want your people to be competent, hitting their targets, and delivering above par, then be competent, hit your targets, and deliver above par. The same goes with almost every other value you want them to possess such as integrity, honesty, or trustworthiness.

2. let your people feel that you’ve got their back

Nothing could be worse than a leader who’s first to point fingers when the going gets rough. Your people need to be assured that they have a leader who is willing to stand by them no matter what. When you judge them at the first sign of trouble, you don’t just hurt their feelings, you also lose their trust and support.

3. DELEGATE work, not accountability

Whoever invented the concept of delegation gets repeatedly cursed every time leaders conveniently equate it with abdication. Don’t make this mistake. Your people understand that you are there to give out work and make them feel responsible. Be sure to point out your expected output, stay aware and monitor. This lets them know whether they’re still within your track. No one likes getting summarily rejected when deadline falls.

4. get over yourself 

Everyone understands your place in the organizational chart and believe it or not, most of them respect that. The thing is, that’s about it. Their world does not revolve around you. Stop playing victim, being extremely defensive, or being easily offended even by innocent words or gestures.

5. don’t play favorites

Leadership is much like parenting. If you want to keep the relationship harmonious, you have to control the urge of endlessly praising one person or team, while repeatedly pointing out another’s unsatisfactory performance.

6. when giving feedback about performance, say it to the one concerned- not to others.

Did she do something wrong with that output? Was she acting stupid and unprofessional in that meeting the other day? Does she have a problem with her grammar or pronunciation which sabotages the entire team? Is her work attire too skimpy? Tell her! True leaders don’t gossip about their people.

7. let your people grow

Just because he’s excellent at filing documents or handling supplies, does not mean that’s all he can do. Let your people discover their full potential by gradually giving them challenging responsibilities. If they deserve that promotion, give it. When you see that your team can no longer offer further growth to a member, don’t be afraid to push for lateral movement even if it spells added effort in training a replacement. They will thank you forever.

8. reward excellence, correct incompetence

Nothing drives a performer’s motivation away more than seeing rewarded incompetence. Let’s keep this short.

9. don’t let praise come too easy 

I was once mentored by someone who did this perfectly. He was never the type to rave about an output unless he sees high quality at first try or a dramatic improvement at retry. Neither does he positively comment on my client interviews or transactions unless I already had the job or negotiation won. Getting praise from him was, to me, like winning the lottery!

Appreciate, yes. But let your praise be won.

10. be genuinely concerned

It’s a blessing to have a leader who is not only concerned about the company but genuinely cares about the welfare of his/her people.

Is her sick daughter feeling better? Does she need some time-off for her family? Must his office chair be replaced to ease his worsening back pain? Will a lighter work load help him cope with the untimely passing of his wife?

All those little things, when given attention by a leader, mean so much.


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