How to be an effective leader at work

Managers vs. Leaders

The role of a manager is to complete tasks that help employees complete their studies. The role of a leader is to influence those around them. Where managers create a process for others to follow, leaders align employees around a shared vision. Leaders are innovative, empathetic, and work to make positive changes in their organization.

The other significant difference is positionality. Leaders can exist anywhere on the company hierarchy, whereas the term manager denotes a particular position. Some people have qualities that lend them to being effective leaders, and some need to work to improve their skills, but leadership skills can be taught. 

Tips for becoming an effective leader

  1. Know what kind of leader you are.

Beyond your strength and weaknesses, also have a clear idea of how your values, triggers, and behaviors coalesce as work.

While it’s important to look within to determine your view on yourself, it can be more beneficial to solicit feedback from those around you. Ask people you have worked with on projects throughout your career. If possible, make it anonymous. You could send out a form with a few open-ended questions about your leadership style and have people fill it out anonymously. Then offer to meet face-to-face with anyone who wants to volunteer to give you more direct feedback

  1. Be someone your employees can trust

How you go about building trust within your organization will vary based on the organization’s culture and your values. But the underlying thread to building trust is authenticity and transparency.

In every interaction, make sure you are leading with authenticity. Again, this will look different depending on company culture, but bring your whole self to work whenever possible.

Employees know when you’re hiding something from them, so instead of lying, be honest. If there is a piece of information you can’t share, explain why you can’t share the information. When giving updates on organizational changes, overshare as much as possible and always ask for questions. If you’re not receiving transparency from your supervisor, ask them why. All these actions put together will start to create a culture of transparency and trust in your team.

  1. Find a coach

The best investment you can make is in a coach or a mentor. This is someone who has vast leadership knowledge and can hold you accountable.

  1. Develop your team

Each person on your team is working at your organization because they believe it would benefit them. Whether they received a pay increase, enjoyed the work, received a promotion, there is a reason they chose to work for you. Take time to learn about their goals, both short and long-term. Share a genuine interest in helping them and work together to create a professional development plan.

Professional development plans can include time-consuming ideas like completing courses or working with a mentor, but they can also be simple. Focus on 2-3 things the employee wants to improve and brainstorm ideas to help.

Keep in mind that people don’t stay at jobs for 40+ years anymore, so don’t try to quell their aspirations in hopes of retaining them. Instead, help them learn and grow within their position.

  1. Get comfortable with emotions

At times we can just want to come to work, clock in and clock out without dealing with anyone else’s emotions. Unfortunately, as a leader, that is impossible. Emotional intelligence and empathy are crucial elements in becoming an effective leader.

Managing a team of people requires the ability to regulate emotions. Your ability to remain calm under pressure directly influences your team’s emotions and, therefore, their productivity. On the other hand, being empathetic when team members might be angry or upset is one of the most highly valued skill sets a manager can have.

  1. Give direct feedback even when it’s difficult

This goes back to pillar 2, “Be someone your employees can trust.” It can feel like you’re undoing all the hard work you’ve done in building a good relationship with an employee when you give them negative feedback. But being honest about growth opportunities won’t harm the relationship if it’s done in the right way. It can actually build trust.

It’s your job to open the lines of communication between you and your employee. And it’s your job to create a culture of feedback, where your direct reports feel comfortable giving your feedback, and you feel comfortable providing feedback to them. But keep in mind the power of dynamics at play. Since you are in a position of power, only give feedback after asking your employee how they like to receive feedback. If they say through email, make sure your feedback is provided through email regardless of how you want to give feedback.

Your feedback should be kind and thoughtful. It should be specific and give actionable ways for the person to improve.

  1. Bring your whole self to work

Most people who work full-time spend more time with their co-workers than with their families and friends. This means work is a significant opportunity for connection within people’s lives.

Building relationships all be it professional relationships with your direct reports will help you support each other in the workplace. Getting to know your team on a personal level will build trust, loyalty, and compassion between you and them.

  1. Clearly communicate expectations

One of the most tangible skills to help you become a more effective manager is clear goal and expectation setting. A great leader can share project expectations that remind the employee how their work impacts the organization as a whole. They can clearly communicate their vision or the project and give clear indicators of success.

Without clarity of goals and expectations, communication can become strained, and trust may be revoked. Ensure you are continuously checking to ensure your vision and expectations are understood.

  1. Be open to new ideas.

Listen to your employees and be open to new ideas. Take in new perspectives and validate their legitimacy. Employees who are given the opportunity to contribute are typically happier, more productive, and more likely to feel connected to the organization.


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