How to Become a More Effective Leader

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From Steve Jobs to Sheryl Sandberg, effective leaders have the capacity to inspire audiences and empower their employees. In fact, research shows that executives of well-led businesses even see their stock price increase 12 times more than those with ineffective leadership.

Effective leaders are visionaries who inspire innovation by motivating their employees to reach their top performance potential. Most often, this is accomplished through the creation of a shared vision to unify a team, the fostering of collaboration, and the identification of each individual’s unique strengths.

Despite knowing the significant impact a successful leader can have on both the culture and the profits of an organization, 71 percent of businesses still feel that, if given the opportunity, their leaders would not be ready to guide their organizations into the future. This less-than-promising statistic has caused many leaders to reevaluate their current methods and adapt their leadership approach to become more effective.

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How To Become an Effective Leader: 8 Tips for Success

In order to improve overall effectiveness, professionals in leadership roles should take the time to hone their relevant skills and adjust their style to suit the needs of their teams. Read on to learn about some of the common approaches effective leaders use to keep their teams motivated, and how you can apply them to your work.

Tip #1: Lead By Example

According to a recent study, one of the largest leadership challenges is managing change and innovation. Effective leaders are able to motivate their co-workers and guide their organizations to success by being the first to embrace these changes in the workplace, no matter how big or small they seem.

When adopting new policies or procedures, for example, it’s important to support the changes and keep your attitude as positive as possible, as your team is likely to adopt—or at least internalize—your mindset. If positivity is not an option regarding the issue at hand, be sure to at least craft your response to the change before addressing it with your team in order to maintain professionalism and instill a sense of confidence for the future. Both approaches allow you to set the standards for how your employees should react which, in turn, allows you to guide them toward embracing the change themselves.

Tip #2: Welcome Failure

Failure is a crucial stepping-stone toward success. Not every decision you make will result in a positive outcome; it’s important that, as a leader, you can both acknowledge and accept this early on. The key to growing from a good leader into a great one is learning how to appreciate that failure can also often lead to bigger achievements when it’s embraced rather than hidden from.

In a situation of failure, it’s important that you take responsibility for the problem and be honest about what went wrong. An inaccurate representation of the issue affects everyone on your team, and your co-workers will value your honesty. In fact, a recent study found that 61 percent of employees viewed admitting mistakes as one of the most important traits among effective leaders.

61 percent of employees viewed admitting mistakes as one of the most important traits among effective leaders. Click To Tweet

When failure happens—such as an assignment that went over budget or an important deadline that was missed—meet with your team and discuss where the problem occurred and how to avoid it in the future. This discussion can also lead to a better understanding of difficult patterns affecting your group’s efficiency—such as unproductive meetings or a lack of one-on-one time with individual team members—and give you the opportunity to address those patterns in real-time.

Tip #3: Put Your People First

Most effective leaders know the benefit of approaching their work from a people-centric perspective. By taking the time to know your team and understand their individual work styles, goals, and personalities, you will not only develop better strategies for management, but will also create an environment in which your team feels heard, respected, and cared for.

You can best achieve this type of relationship with those you lead by keeping your communication open, clear, and honest, consistently recognizing everyone’s contributions and accomplishments, and by always looking for opportunities that can help them develop and succeed.

Remember: Respect is mutual, and effective leaders know how to put in the time necessary to earn it from their teams. Click To Tweet

Tip #4: Be Decisive

Being decisive means having the capacity to make decisions in an efficient manner in order to achieve a result. Each situation you will be faced with as a leader has a number of potential solutions, and when it comes time to make a final decision, you should be confident in your ability to guide the team toward the proper outcome.

Effective leaders also do not hesitate when it comes time to act or make these impactful decisions. They have the ability to inspire a shared vision among colleagues (an important aspect of leadership, considering it is easier to be decisive when your team shares a common goal) and stay true to that vision even when faced with difficult circumstances.

Tip #5: Know When to Delegate (And When to Jump In)

Efficiency isn’t just about changing priorities or working on projects in a new order. As an effective leader, it’s important to know when to delegate tasks, and when to complete them yourself. Assigning responsibilities in this way will allow you to decrease your workload, which helps you focus on the most crucial tasks you need to complete.

Before delegating a task, ask yourself:

  • Is there another person who has or can be given the necessary information or skills to complete the assignment?
  • Does the job provide an opportunity to build and develop a teammate’s skill set?
  • Is this an assignment that will happen again in the future?
  • Is there enough time to delegate the task efficiently?
  • Is there any reason why I shouldn’t delegate this job?
  • Is it critical that I do it myself?

Tip #6: Respect Your Co-workers’ Opinions

The more diverse your workplace, the more innovative your organization can be. Your co-workers may approach a situation from a different perspective or background, so it’s important to always remain respectful of their opinions and to try to see things from their various points of view. Effective leaders can accomplish this by encouraging feedback among colleagues and keeping lines of communication open within their team. A collaborative environment where your group’s opinions are heard—even if they are disagreed upon—is where the best ideas are formed and where innovation takes place.

Tip #7: Practice Effective Communication

As mentioned in many of these tips, communication is a key aspect of effective leadership. It can not only help you stay abreast of your team’s needs but can also promote effective partnerships between employees themselves.

To achieve effective communication, you should:

  • Start with what’s important: Start any discussion with what’s most important at hand, making sure that employees understand the context of the conversation so that they can follow up with any questions.
  • Set expectations early: Communicate upfront about what you expect from your team. Get to know what other people need early so that you can meet their expectations—and they can meet yours.
  • Actively listen: Effective leaders don’t just talk, they listen. Active listening helps build rapport and creates stronger relationships. Be focused on what your employees are saying, and take note of their nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, body language, and posture, as well.
  • Provide constructive feedback: Criticism doesn’t have to be negative and, when handled appropriately, it can actually have a positive impact on professional growth. When delivering feedback, be specific. Explain why you don’t like something and how they can change their approach in the future to better align with your expectations. Make sure your tone isn’t overly critical or condescending, and feel free to restate your colleague’s value to your company when needed. Let them know that you’re offering this feedback because you want to see them succeed, not because you want to call them out for a mistake.
  • Address concerns immediately and in-person: Issues will inevitably arise. The sooner you address the problem, the faster you can prevent it from affecting your co-workers—and becoming an even larger issue. Always address the concern in-person to avoid alienating colleagues or having them misinterpret what you’re saying, as well.

Tip #8: Explore Further Leadership Development Opportunities

Those looking to embrace these strategies and become an effective leader should also consider continuing their education with an advanced degree. Programs like Northeastern’s Master of Science in Leadership offer opportunities for individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds to come together under the guidance of industry professionals to develop the skills and approaches to leadership needed to effectively manage teams in workplaces today. Students in Northeastern’s program also have the opportunity to tailor their courses to fit their unique industry by declaring a concentration in one of seven areas, including:

  • Health Management
  • Human Resources
  • Leading and Managing Technical Projects
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Organizational Communication
  • Project Management
  • Sport in Social Change

By pursuing a graduate degree in leadership, students are able to apply their knowledge to their current work. Additionally, many students advance in their careers because of their elevated leadership abilities and hands-on learning opportunities they obtained during the program.

Explore all that the Master of Science in Leadership degree at Northeastern has to offer, then download our free e-book at the link below to learn more about the steps you can take to become an effective leader today.

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This article was originally published in July 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.