The most common question that my colleague Tony Scutella (Shifting Mindsets) and I field is related to what we feel people should be doing to become better leaders. The starting point for us is the concept that you manage tasks and lead people. Beyond that, we have developed the following list that should help to take any leader from good to great. Remember that it's a journey and develop the various skills that are required over time. 

We're convinced that great leaders are made, not born. One of the biggest failings in most organizations we see is the lack of attention that is given to leadership development. Great leaders improve employee engagement and productivity. They are effective and efficient in their approach to all of the elements that impact a business, but really get the fact that it's people that power the enterprise.

Here's our list of the Top 10 Ways to Be a Better Leader:
  1. Ask to be judged
    Finding out what others think of your leadership skills can really help you change for the better. Sometimes leaders can be so wrapped up in appraising others, that they do not seek appraisal from below, only from their own superiors. Your team is the best source of feedback, because they are on the receiving end of your “skills” every day. Tony and I encourage the leaders we work with to ask the following question; "if I could change 1 or 2 things about the way I interact with you what would they be?"
  2. Don't abuse your power
    If people are questioning why certain things are done, or the logic of decisions, never pull rank in response. Your team should feel empowered, if only by you taking the time to explain the rationale for any decisions that have been made. Your team must be on your side. This will not happen by you telling them that the decision is the right one because you are the boss. Your team may not agree, but they should know why a situation is how it is.
  3. Your team is intelligent and can be trusted
    If you paused for even a second to ponder this one it's time to change the makeup of your team! Your team should be allowed to take actions and make decisions. Trust is a vital component of leadership skills. If you can’t trust people to do their jobs, then you have the wrong people, or you’re not managing them properly. Let them do what they are there to do without peering over their shoulders every fifteen minutes, asking what they are doing with their time.
  4. Listen
    Truly listening to your team is one of the greatest leadership skills. Good listeners come across as genuinely interested, empathetic, and concerned to find out what’s going on...because they are! All great leaders have great communication skills. Unhappy team members can only exist where their problems have not been aired. Create an environment where problems can be discussed so that solutions can be found and you eliminate the meetings after the meetings.
  5. Stop being an expert on everything
    Leaders often achieve their positions by being proficient in a certain area, and thus will have an opinion on how to fix problems. They believe it’s better to tell someone what to do, or even to do it themselves, than give their team the opportunity to develop their own solutions, and therefore exercise their creativity. Often the easiest thing for a new manager to do is to revert to doing individual contributor work. Do your job, support them and let them do theirs and you'll see an incredible increase in employee engagement and productivity.
  6. Be constructive
    You reap what you sow and there's no question that negativity breeds negativity. How you communicate has a profound effect on your team, as a whole and individually. Criticisms will always need to be made by leaders, but try to make them constructive, and deliver them without emotional attachment. When you understand the behavioral drives and motivations of the people on your team you quickly learn who will respond to a challenge and who will be crushed by criticism. Use the information you have at hand to help you lead people effectively.
  7. Judge your success by your team's
    The true success of a leader can be measured by the success of the people who work for them. You cannot be a successful leader of a failing team, just as you cannot be a successful general of a defeated army. Your focus should always be on building your team’s skills and removing obstacles in their way. One leader I worked with summed it up by say that when he saw failure he looked in the mirror and when he saw success he saw his team in a window.
  8. Don't be a narcissist
    Nothing is more annoying for team members than leaders who make their decisions based on how good it will make them appear to their superiors. A key leadership skill is integrity. Integrity is about doing the right thing, and allowing praise where praise is due, even if that is not at your door.
  9. Have a sense of humor
    People work better when they are enjoying themselves. The work itself may be dull, but the environment doe not have to be. Stifling fun also means stifling creativity. Team members love it when the leader joins in and has fun. This does not have to create a flippant atmosphere; on the contrary, this is a tenet of team-building.
  10. Don’t be too distant
    Without revealing you innermost secrets, it is possible for leaders to show a more human side. If mutual respect exists, this should not be seen as vulnerability, rather a sign that you are a sentient human being, just as your team members are. Only when your team gets to know the real you will the true foundations of good leadership be properly established – trust and respect.


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