Sure, in the context of the day-to-day corporate grind, you can’t have one without the other. But, in the end, if you want loyal and trusted followers, and if you want to avoid a toxic workplace, good leadership trumps good management hands down.
While there are countless ways to provide exceptional guidance in whatever role you’re in, the best leaders can’t do it without consistently acting on these four things.
1. They Envision the Future and Get Others to Do the Same
We hear so much about how leaders need to “motivate their teams.” And that’s certainly true. However, no motivation in the world will stick if the person you’re trying to pound it into doesn’t buy into your vision. So, how do you get people to hop on the wagon?
Inspiration in its most authentic form appeals on an emotional level. To truly get your people to buy into your vision, first pump the fear out of the room and then play on the heartstrings of what motivates them by hearing their collective voices.
A true and honest leader will place great importance on his or her team members and inspire each person to see the vision like he or she does. Doing so shows you value your team and care enough about them to grant them a VIP pass on your long-term strategy.
Metaphorically speaking (unless you’re in construction), you want to give them shovels and pickaxes to work alongside you in making that vision you communicated a working reality. That’s empowerment, and you’ll have inspired them on an emotional level.
2. They Take Initiative and Act
The best leaders won’t sit on decisions waiting for urgency to come knocking. They take risks and create urgency with intent and purpose, driving the bus closer toward the mission.
Don’t confuse this with the controlling and impulsive leader (or group of them) that steamrolls ahead without soliciting varied perspectives or receiving enough feedback before making a decision that may hurt the team or company.
And, unlike some detached and disengaged leaders with their own personal agendas, the best ones take initiative with fierce resolve and humility (the qualities of “Level 5 leaders,” described in Jim Collins’s popular book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t).
They are driven and want results, but not at the expense of others. They balance personal will and commitment with the best interests of their team members in mind.
3. They Clarify Goals and Expectations
Great leaders provide support by communicating consistently about where the bus is headed. A Gallup research study measured the top reasons employees are disengaged, leading to turnover. One of the top five reasons is not having clear goals and expectations.
Every leader should be asking the question: Do my team members know what is expected of them? Gallup’s research shows that many great workplaces have defined the right outcomes; leaders, or managers, will set goals for their people or work with them to set their own. They don’t just define the job but define success on the job.
4. They Communicate With Their Mouths and Ears
The best way to strengthen relationships at work is through better communication. Intentionally spend time with your team members to learn more about them—their personal lives, what they’re working on—and discover their strengths and interests.
You do so by listening intently with the other person’s needs in mind. The upside for you? You may identify opportunities where he or she could contribute more to other projects.
The best form of communication is still done the old-fashioned way: through one-on-one meetings. But, before you push back with the complaint that there’s no time on your schedule, know that one-on-one meetings actually become time savers when used on a recurring basis.
First, you need to know how to structure them so that it works to your advantage. This is going to test your leadership skills.
Follow these five tips for getting started:
- Make one-on-one meetings short: They don’t have to be any longer than 15 minutes—the shorter, the better.
- It’s you, the boss, that sets the meeting date and time: This shows you have an interest in him or her and tests your follow-through and commitment. And please, be prompt. If he or she requests a meeting and you respond two weeks later, your credibility goes out the window.
- It’s the employee who provides the agenda: This puts the focus on him and pushes the responsibility onto him to tell you what he needs to address and what he wants to talk about. So, let him drive that meeting by giving you an agenda.
- Meet at least once every two weeks: If possible, depending on the level of responsibility for that employee, meet weekly. Use your best judgment and situational skills.
- Focus on what the employee wants to talk about: Ask if there’s anything else that needs to be addressed and if she has everything she needs. Then, you can communicate your part: new expectations and direction that needs to be handed down, good news, bad news, praises.
Please show your employees that these meetings are valued and important by treating them as a priority. And, it goes without saying: If a meeting has to be postponed, reschedule promptly.