In any field of human endeavour, it’s often the leaders who get most of the credit. The people doing the work on the ground rarely get a mention. For many, it doesn’t seem fair: after all, everybody plays a role in an organisation. But there’s a case to be made that it’s the leader – not anyone else – who makes the most significant difference to the success of an organisation.
Leaders aren’t just prominent in business: they’re vital in the sporting world too. Coaches like John Wooden raised the bar, leading national basketball squads to regular victors in tournaments. The success his teams experienced wasn’t just a random fluke. He kept performing year after year, taking what would have been otherwise mediocre teams and making them special. Human capital is real.
So what do great leaders do to create great teams, and how can your business benefit? Let’s take a look.
Great Leaders “Course Correct”
Great leaders aren’t afraid to put up their hands and say that they got something wrong. People at the top of business realise that they are just as fallible as anyone else, and they never lose sight of that fact. Leaders have a sense of humility about them, holding themselves up against the evidence and dispassionately evaluating their performance. If it’s not good enough, they either make improvements or step down.
Great Leaders Define Roles And Responsibilities
Most small businesses have issues with human resources management. The reason for this often has to do with the fact that leaders are unwilling to define boundaries to a person’s role. Top leaders want people who can do anything and everything at a moment’s notice, service the corporate need ahead of their own. When people don’t have clear boundaries, their responsibility becomes blurred. It’s no longer clear to members of the team what they should prioritise and what they should do. It’s also not clear who they should go to if they have an issue with a particular problem.
Great leaders clearly define boundaries and then resist the temptation to expand them. Boundaries are there for a reason and should be respected. When great leaders don’t have enough people on their team, they either hire more or scale back their projects.
Great Leaders Ask For Feedback
Great leaders know that the only way to improve is to get honest, reliable feedback. And, often, the only way to do that is to go to your employees and ask them for it. The problem for many leaders is that their employees don’t believe that they will benefit from giving honest feedback and that it will affect their chances of promotion. Those with excellent leadership skills make it safe for people to approach them with problems that they may have with their leadership, allowing them to implement change.
Great Leaders Reward Effort
Acknowledging the hard work that your team puts into their work is vital for healthy and successful business relationships. The people in your organization don’t just want you to pay them (although that’s always nice); they also want you to coach them and recognise the times where they go the extra mile to serve a customer. Great leaders see the hard work of the people around them and find ways to reward them.
You might reward your staff with the following:
- Going home early on a Friday
- Bonus payments
- A pat on the back
- Saying thank you and meaning it
- Treating your team (or individual team members) to an experience that they will love
Great Leaders Celebrate Successes
Celebrating success is something that all great leaders do. You don’t have to celebrate in a big way: just enough so that your team can feel good about what they’ve achieved and are motivated to move forward with their work.
Celebrations are also an opportunity to bring people together and make them feel as if they are making a real difference in the world. It’s a reminder that everyone is in it together, including management, and that all have a role to play in the success of the firm.
Leadership is complicated. And to this day, nobody has nailed the perfect leadership process. Every company is different, and every personality is unique: no one person can fill every single leadership post. The demands of leadership also vary from one role to another. The task of a leader in a rapidly growing software startup is radically different from a leader in an established retail chain. One focuses on growth and expansion, the other on profitability and market consolidation.
Do you have any of these traits of a great leader?