Think of leadership as next level management. The best leaders take their expert management skills and combine them with people skills to become well rounded and highly successful. The difference between being a good leader and a great one is in the relationships you build with your team. These are the four key components of great leadership.
Coaching, not directing.
A great leader is a teacher and a coach, not a dictator. They help their teams develop and grow, and support them by providing training in various forms, including coaching and mentoring. They understand when they need to nurture their teams, and when they need to push them. It’s about finding the balance between giving up too much control and being too controlling. A great leader knows that there is no specific ratio to this, and that it changes depending on the situation.
To be a great coach, you must understand that everyone has different needs and that there isn’t a one size fits all solution. Learn how your team members work best, and tailor your coaching to match their work style. When you’re responsible for very large teams, it’s much more difficult to know which style will work best, so it’s best to experiment with a few styles until you find the one that gets the desired results. That ties in to the next point, being adept.
Great leaders are prepared for change to happen at any time. They’re able to think and make decisions quickly, and more importantly, they know how to rally their teams to make results happen. One day that could mean giving the team free reign to come up with ideas for a project and a deadline that they need to meet. The next day, the deadline could get moved up, and the leader would have to assign tasks and provide more structure.
As a leader, you have to be very aware of everything that’s happening from a process standpoint as well as a people standpoint. Paying equal attention to both is important. By ensuring that your team is performing to the best of their abilities, you’ll be better able to keep the process on track. If you ignore one, the other will suffer.
Respect is a two way street, and it must be given to be had in return. Great leaders understand this, and show their team respect through trust. No employee likes to be micromanaged, as it indicates to them that you don't trust their abilities. In fact, it’s one of the quickest ways to lose respect. Leaders must allow their employees to take risks and accept that they will fail sometimes. If you can't trust your employees, they won't trust you. A sure sign of a respected and trusted leader is when employees are comfortable coming to them with questions.
The best leaders have no problem working alongside their employees and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and jump in to help the team when necessary. Your own personal leadership style will dictate how often you do this, as will the nature of your work. Some leaders need to constantly work with their teams, whereas others are able to be more hands off. The key is to step in and put in that extra work when it’s necessary, and not leave your team struggling.
Being a master communicator.
Great leaders can tailor their communication style to meet the needs of any situation. A leader must be an excellent listener, in order to truly understand the needs of their team. Great leaders understand that different situations call for different communication styles, and are able to switch between them with ease. Without high level communication skills, no leader will truly be successful.
To master the art of communication, you simply need to practice. There are six key communication styles you should be familiar with - listening, advising, directing, motivating, teaching, and coaching. Each one has it's own place and time to be used, and are most effective when combined. Being adept in your communication methods is absolutely necessary. By becoming a master communicator, you're able to clearly express yourself, and therefore lead with greater clarity.
No matter what your title is, you can become a leader. Practice these skills, and you'll be on the path to great leadership.
Ashira Prossack, Women@Forbes