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5 Steps for Tackling Your Role as a New Leader

Number 5 Interstate Road SignToday’s guest post is by Carolyn Knight.

Few of us are natural-born leaders. When most of us are placed in a leadership position, we have to spend some time learning how to effectively lead, mobilize, and inspire people. In order to become better at any job, you have to learn new things and be open to growth and change. This is especially true when you’re given some sort of leadership role.

If you’re new to a leadership role and trying to figure out how to become a better leader (or if you just need to brush up on your leadership skills a bit), keep reading. Here are 5 things you can do to become a better, smarter, more effective leader:

1. Learn to influence, rather than force

When you force employees or other people you’re leading to do things, they often resent you for it. They feel powerless under your leadership, and they become bitter. Once they become bitter, they do whatever it is that you’re forcing them do to halfheartedly, and they keep their eyes open for other opportunities that will allow them to break free from your dictator-style leadership.

As a leader, you should strive to influence those in your charge to work better and try out different ways of doing things. You do this with open, honest conversation and by explaining why you think certain things should be done certain ways.

2. Be transparent

Nobody likes a corrupt leader. Being transparent with employees is the one of the best ways to earn their trust and respect. So, if the business isn’t doing so well, and you made a mistake, be honest about it. Mobilize your team to help you fix your mistake, and make it known that mistakes happen, are OK, and are opportunities to learn.

Being transparent means that you need to make honest, ethical choices. If you’re not up to doing that, you may want to reconsider your role as a leader. Corrupt leaders are usually caught, and they can destroy the fiber of a team.

3. Really listen

As a leader, you’ll need good listening skills. People will come to you with their concerns, and you should make an effort to truly hear them out and try to help them develop some sort of plan to deal with whatever’s going on.

People can tell when someone isn’t listening, and it’s insulting. When a leader doesn’t listen, his or her employees feel as though they don’t have a leader at all. If you don’t develop your listening skills, it’s likely that no one will come to you when something really important is going on.

4. Provide encouragement

You’re probably pretty busy. You likely feel as though you don’t have much time to provide anything but constructive criticism, and taking time out of your day to provide encouragement may seem like an inefficient use of time and of your mental resources. Providing encouragement, however, isn’t inefficient. It’s actually quite an efficient way to motivate the people you’re leading.

5. Don’t spread yourself too thin

Taking on too much will simply tire and stress you out. A stressed out leader isn’t usually a good leader. In fact, stress can negatively impact your cognitive abilities, your mood, and your energy levels.

As a leader, you want to be able to be your best you. You want to be a role model. You can’t do that if you’re stressed out to the point that it’s affecting your mental and physical health. Teach yourself how to have a decent work/life balance, so you can reach your full potential as a leader.

Being a leader comes with a great deal of responsibility. One of your responsibilities as a leader will be to better yourself. So, consider the tips above, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you do make a few mistakes.

– Carolyn has worked for some premier companies including Nestle, Austin Green, and Sweet Leaf Tea.  She regularly writes on the subjects of business leadership, small business management, and order management software that syncs up with 3dcart, BigCommerce, and Shopify.

6 Responses to “5 Steps for Tackling Your Role as a New Leader”

  1. Joshua Mansbach says:

    Always worth reading.

  2. […] the thoughtLEADERS blog (http://www.thoughtleadersllc.com/2012/06/5-steps-for-tackling-your-role-as-a-new-leader/) on June 22nd, Carolyn Knight wrote about steps to take as a new leader.  I think Carolyn pretty […]

    • While everything in this post is true, these are conventional wisdoms that are largely irrelevant. Most leadership development programs preach these same ideas so everyone knows these things, but few people practice them. This is a “leader as hero” model that stresses personal characteristics rather than guiding success in complex organizational contexts.

      If these are irrelevant, what really makes for consistently effective leadership? Based on 15 years’ experience helping organizations improve performance, and significant new research breakthroughs, particularly in neuroscience, there are just a few things that a leader can do to truly lead. These are:

      • Focus on creating a compelling sense of “purpose” for the team or organization. What greater social good are you creating?
      • Leverage your “positive deviants” – your top performers – to define your purpose and a “path to mastery”
      • Specifically define what mastery of a function is, in very positive terms – how to do something the right way the first time
      • Practice, practice and practice some more, always in realistic, applied ways
      • Create the opportunity for group reflection – discuss what was learned from the practice
      • Drive personal reflection by having people write their learnings – not what they did but what they learned

      Do these simple things and anyone can be a great leader.

      • Jason Pulley says:

        William, great addition to the post and I agree providing a purpose is very important. It can increase the motivation and the willingness of a team. But we must alway look to ourselves for growth and improvements as well. I have made plenty of mistakes and will make more in the future. Self actualization and discipline is absolutely necessary to keep us on the right path.
        Thanks!

  3. […] To read about 5 things that you can do to become a better, smarter, more effective leader, click HERE. […]

  4. TrendSource says:

    Great article on taking positive, actionable steps towards effective leadership! Our company, TrendSource, places great value on leadership, specifically on leading by example, similar to your first point (Learn to influence, rather than force). Check out our own blog here, and see how we internalize leadership in our business practices: http://www.blogtrendsource.com/

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