Team success often hinges on leadership. That leadership can come from a formal role or from within the team but having someone to facilitate a clear direction and provide structure and encouragement is key.
An effective leader is one who is not threatened by the competence or successes of his or her team, but rather inspired and enthusiastic. Such a leader involves his or her colleagues in discussions and plans, allowing them to bring their insight to the table.
Let’s break down what an effective leader looks like.
What is a Leader?
A leader can emerge in any situation without the need for a title, but for the sake of this article let’s look at this as someone who is in a formal leadership role.
A leadership role needs to be clearly defined so that everyone understands the expectations and responsibilities. Disappointment or dissatisfaction can sneak in when a team holds expectations of their leader which go unfulfilled or ignored.
A leader can offer leadership roles to teammates as well. Empowering your team can be a powerful motivational tool, just remember to do so strategically
Shared vision is important in leadership. Communication is paramount in aligning goals and working toward them. Moreover, a clear vision is necessary.
Many businesses have Vision statements, Walmart’s for example is “Be the destination for customers to save money, no matter how they want to shop.” As a leader you need to be moving toward the vision of the company, but you can also have a vision for your department or team.
The main thing is that you point your activities toward the furtherance of that vision and reward actions that support that vision.
“We want to increase sales this quarter by 10%” is a clear goal, while “We need to do better” is not. It is a leader’s job to build. Maybe not physically, but a leader should constantly be building something, whether that’s operational, sales, or morale. A stagnant leader is no leader at all.
Goals can help you build, but they need to be clear and understandable. I suggest you lay out goals for your team and work with them to make sure they understand how those goals contribute to the overall vision.
When people feel like they are contributing they often develop a sense of shared ownership. When the business’ success is your success, you tend to put your best effort forward.
Sharing a Mission
Another element of inspiring one’s colleagues is sharing a clearly specified mission. Even better is if the mission was created collaboratively by the team.
A mission is similar to the vision, but also provides the “what”, “Why”, or “Who”, behind your company. For example, Tesla’s mission statement is “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” So if you were to ask why Tesla exists, the answer is “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
So, a leader needs to ask themselves and their team “why do we exist as a team?”, “who do we want to be?”, or “what is our purpose?” and align their team behind that mission.
An effective leader looks to the strengths of their team for opportunity. There are often members within a team that are more capable or experienced in various aspects than the leader, yet a good leader does not find this intimidating. This is opportunity to let that member shine and utilize that strength to bring the whole team up, not a threat to be squashed.
A good leader isn’t threatened by the experience and the diversity of her team. The most effective leaders are comfortable leaning on the expertise of their team and those doing the work on the front line. Without that communication and trust, leaders are flying blind.
Success is found in having the right people in the right places. It is critical to utilize staff members in their areas where their strengths lie.
Furthermore, a diverse team provides a rich background of knowledge and experience from which to draw. Having a team perform the same work in the same way day after day limits opportunity for innovation and progress. Leaders who give their teams the freedom to offer input and suggestions create an environment of innovation, motivation, and excellence.
Pursuit of Excellence
Excellence is always the goal of a good leader. They do not ask their team to be average and fade into the crowd. A leader should always encourage his or her team to seek new heights and grow as an individual, as a team, and as a professional. Additionally, the leader and team should continually self-evaluate to find ways to operate more effectively.
Building Your Environment
Mistakes happen, that’s where some of the greatest learning takes place. Employees don’t need to be beat down every time they mess up. A good leader looks for “why” the problem happened, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again rather than “who to blame”.
Its also important that team members feel security in their roles. They need to know that they can speak up, accept their mistakes, make suggestions, and have the freedoms necessary to do the best job they can.
Furthermore, an effective leader celebrates the successes of their team as a whole and individually. Such a positive environment encourages employees, reduces turnover, and attracts strong candidates to your business.
Leadership in a Nutshell
Leadership can be difficult. Its not for the faint of heart, but it can also be extremely rewarding. There are many people who are under formal leadership who get beat down every day and dread going into work. As a leader you have the opportunity to encourage your employees and make their lives a little better while building something amazing together.