It’s no secret that some people are blessed with the gift of natural leadership. But not all leaders are born; many cultivate the skill over the course of several years or even decades. Even natural leaders must work hard to hone their skills. Small choices make all the difference. As a leader, you should strive to exemplify these qualities every day:
1. Effective Planning
A leader who fails to plan is no leader at all. Planning may be a stressful, time-consuming ordeal, but it’s critical to success. Diving into a project, while tempting, can prove disastrous. Successful planning sessions allow leaders to acknowledge potential project pitfalls, and deal with concerns such as compliance or safety. As Leadership Principles CEO Gordon Tredgold tells Inc., leaders should return to the following philosophy whenever they doubt the wisdom of planning: the 5 P’s, or “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
While planning is key, the how of planning is just as important. Plans should be detailed and realistic — and they should feature built-in accountability. After all, the most impressive plans will inevitably fail if leaders and their employees fail to follow through.
In addition to drafting long-term plans, leaders plan carefully for seemingly minor day-to-day functions. Most create and continually update personal to-do lists, which keep them on track throughout the day.
2. Abandon Plans When Necessary
Planning is critical, but a refusal to budge from said plans could prove devastating. New circumstances can arise, and when they do, leaders must be willing to change with the times. Truly elite leaders anticipate when plans might change — and arrive with a backup plan.
3. Show Appreciation
Leaders know they can’t do it alone. They not only appreciate their employees, but actively show gratitude. This can take many forms; examples include employee-of-the-month awards, shout-outs on Instagram, or even a high five in front of others.
No matter the approach, public gratitude delights employees. According to an OfficeVibe survey, 82 percent of employees regard recognition or praise as preferable to gifts.
4. Capture and Use Feedback
The most gushing “thank you” means little if it comes from a leader who disregards employees’ opinions and ideas. Effective leadership means building a system for capturing this feedback and returning to it when relevant. Options for gathering insight include customer satisfaction surveys, employee feedback flow charts, or performance check-ins. No matter where or how they draw feedback, skilled leaders will make every effort to implement it.
5. Practice What They Preach
Few things annoy employees more than blatant hypocrisy. The most effective leaders take their own advice or, at minimum, attempt to do so. A leader’s every action should exemplify the values he or she hopes to see in employees.
Leadership isn’t always about reciting inspiring speeches; sometimes, quietly leading by example proves most effective. When employees see positive behaviors modeled by those they admire, they’ll quickly follow suit.
6. Delegate Effectively
Skilled leaders know that they cannot handle everything on their own. They plan to delegate from the very beginning, choosing team members based on their expertise and internal motivation. They trust these employees enough to offload critical tasks. They don’t bother with micromanaging, because they know it wastes time — and they believe that their employees are capable of delivering exceptional work.
The ultimate example of delegation: Jesus. He gave his disciples the spiritual tools they required, and then trusted them enough to send them into the world to build the Church. Skilled leaders will similarly equip their employees and then let them take the reins on specific projects.
Leaders shouldn’t merely delegate; they should step back from time to time to “sharpen the saw.” Nobody can work effectively 24/7. Whether leaders take international vacations or relax at home, the time they spend away from work allows them to recharge. This time can also drive creative revelations. Leaders who step away on occasion show employees that it’s okay — even necessary — to take time off.
On a micro level, unplugging might mean taking a step back when overwhelmed by complicated tasks…and simply breathing. Christian leaders understand the power of prayer and will not hesitate to set aside time with their Bible. They recall that God commanded a day off from the very beginning.
8. Practice Accountability
The most accomplished individuals occasionally make mistakes. We know from the story of Adam and Eve that sin is ingrained in our very nature. However, we also understand the power of repentance, which can spell the difference between a strong leader and a disastrous one.
Effective leaders understand that they’ll occasionally make the wrong choice. They strive to do right by their organization, but don’t freak out when errors occur. Rather than shift blame to others, they acknowledge their flub and strive to make amends. They draw on lessons learned through failure to ensure a better outcome in the future.
9. Provide Consistency
Life is not consistent, but leaders should be when possible. Employees appreciate routine; the uncertainty of a constantly changing leadership style may put them on edge. Consistency is also key in company culture and philosophy; employees should always know what their organization and its leader value. The perfect example? Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. For decades, he has campaigned for customer-centric service; employees never question his commitment.
10. Seek and Celebrate Diversity
Leadership dies in an echo chamber. Leaders should be bolstered, but also held accountable by a diverse group of individuals who can present new (and valuable) viewpoints. The most effective leaders understand that diversity is critical at all levels of an organization.
A variety of strengths can conspire to develop an effective leader. No two leaders will boast the exact same attributes; different styles suit different people. In general, however, skilled leaders prioritize planning and accountability. They expect excellence from themselves and others — and in maintaining strong values and habits, they achieve greatness.
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