There’s one thing that the most successful companies in the world have in common: good leadership. Their leaders know how to motivate a team and construct a workplace where the employees know their full potential will shine. The best leaders share five key traits that make them the kind of person people want to follow.
Trust is the cornerstone of leadership. Honesty about your own strengths and shortcomings goes a long way to building credibility with your team, and establishes you as a person they can relate to. But authenticity is about more than just honesty; it’s about treating people with respect and dignity. Talking about a team member behind their back damages your relationship with the entire team and drains morale. An authentic leader is the same person in public as they are behind closed doors.
A great leader knows how to communicate on three fronts: expectations, listening, and feedback. First, you must be able to clearly articulate your expectations to your team. This establishes framework for projects, and sets the standards that you demand as the projects move forward.
Second, you must be open to listening to your team. Often there’s a disconnect between what you want and what your team can realistically produce. Work with them to find creative solutions around technical limitations, time constraints, or other issues they anticipate. No project is perfect from the beginning, so it’s important to work with your team to create the best final product.
Finally, leaders should provide constant feedback throughout the process. The employees need to know they are on the right track, otherwise they will feel they’ve wasted time and resources. Be as vocal with your praise as you are with your critique, and you’ll find your team perpetually motivated.
Not every project is a breeze from conception to completion, so the team will look to leadership for inspiration when setbacks occur. You don’t have to be a cheerleader, but a positive attitude lifts spirits and keeps morale from caving. More importantly, when a project drags on and the team feels stuck in the details, they will look to their leaders to remind them of the big picture, keeping them focused on the end goal.
One of the fastest ways to lose the confidence of your team is show incompetence in your work. If you constantly miss deadlines, misplace important information, or prove incapable of pulling your own weight, your employees will question every decision you make. Leadership doesn’t mean being an expert at every aspect of a job, but it does mean that you put in effort, and know where to go for an answer when you don’t have one.
A leader should always be the first one to take the blame for a project’s failure, and the last one to take credit for a project’s success. Be the person who makes the final decisions for the team, and be confident that the choices you made were the right ones in the given circumstances. Remember, it’s okay to admit that you made a mistake. Don’t be afraid to own it.