It’s one of the most common job-related questions you’ll get asked: ‘When have you demonstrated leadership?’.
But unlike what you might first assume, leadership comes in many forms. You don’t have to have a whole team reporting to you to be a good leader, and in fact, working on a project alone demonstrates some of the necessary traits like taking initiative, effective time management, and ongoing assessment of your output.
Leadership potential is one of the most valuable traits for a long and progressive career.
Some people are natural-born leaders. They’re assertive, can make decisions, and work well with just about anyone.
But leadership is also a skill that can be learned or strengthened over time, with adult learning courses and practice.
You may have come across managers or bosses, or even colleagues with varying leadership styles throughout your career. There are those that love rigid deadlines, daily reporting and finding efficiencies wherever possible, but there are also those that focus on team wellbeing, inspiring each individual to work at their pace and to their own best potential.
Through assessing your own strengths and weaknesses, and reflecting on how your team best performs, you’ll be able to develop a leadership style that is entirely you own, considering the following topics.
1) Outline Your Morals and Underlying Vision
Whatever approach you take, do it with conviction.
Take the time to consider what you want to achieve and why, and let this simple truth be the foundation for your style of leading. It may help to write down a list of adjectives or values that are most important to you.
Start with the company values if you’re stuck, and highlight which of those really resonate with you. This simple exercise will help you get through any tough decisions and will help you assess whether you’re succeeding in what you set out to do.
And finally, don’t hesitate to be transparent with the team you’re working with and discuss how your approach will look. It will give them a heads up if things are going to be vastly different, and an insight into how you want them to perform.
If recruiting a new team, asking job-related interview questions that hinge on values will help you to find candidates that align with your approach.
2) Planning, Organisation and Goal Setting
One of the areas of contention will no doubt be your approach to planning, organization and goal setting. Are you a tech-head who loves to use a series of software and apps to help you squeeze the most productivity out of every waking minute?
Maybe you appreciate a more fluid and adaptable approach, embracing regular team catch-ups to shift goals according to everyone’s workload.
Whatever your preference, when leading a team you have to consider each individual’s capability as well.
In order to reach goals with your employees, you must treat each other with respect, and in order to do that, you need to be able to understand them.
To know what they’re going through, what’s really on their minds and what they think of your collective goals. Modern workplaces have begun to favor this type of teamwork, as you’re able to discover a broad range of pathways to success.
So take the time to learn about how things are down, listen to any problems or points of weakness, and find solutions that work for everyone.
Furthermore, an important thing to remember is that you probably will ‘fail’ at some point, but it is how you deal with that failure that determines who you are as a leader. What to do, how you’ll resolve the error and things you’ll change going forward.
Perhaps a deadline slipped away—then you need to reassess your team performance and workload. Perhaps a client wasn’t happy—had you accurately identified the objectives at the start of the project?
It’s all a learning experience. Being a skilled leader comes from making mistakes.
3) Communication Style
With new leadership, employees want to know what they can expect. Set out a plan for one on one meetings, or larger team WIPs, on a weekly basis to check in and see how everyone is doing.
Remember, it’s as much about allowing the employee to voice their concerns, make suggestions, and ultimately help to improve the team.
An important step many leaders neglect is to step out of your preferred communication channel to facilitate ongoing ease. Are you an emailer? Or would you prefer someone to pop their head into your office?
Make sure that everyone knows how they can best contact you to have a chat, but also be open to their best ways of contacting you.
In stressful times, your employees will recognize the effort you put out to help rectify whatever troubling them.
There will no doubt be conflict at some point or friction between team members, so confirming that your door is open now will help you resolve any issues down the track.
4) Training and Development
The best leaders look to the future. No matter how great your team or your organization is performing, there’s always room for improvement.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that one team member, in particular, is falling behind with a new tool, or you’ve heard about a new strategy that could benefit your entire team.
Ensuring your team has access to training, such as adult learning or online diplomas, is the foundation for satisfied, fulfilled employees who have faith in you as a leader.
Being a leader is all about your own personal development. Someone may be born with leadership qualities, but they are not born leaders.
You must learn and train yourself through experience, and understand that failures are opportunities to unite and prove yourself to your team.
Make sure to outline your vision, set goals with your team, develop and facilitate ease of communication and provide opportunities for your team members to grow as individuals.
Show the team you care, and they’ll pay back the favor.