How To Be a Leader at Work
By Tag Goulet
What is the best way to be a leader at work? Most organizations have at least one person who is a natural leader. When it is announced she will lead a new team, employees line up to join. When he asks for a volunteer for an assignment, people jump at the chance. Employees turn to her as a mentor, or look to him as a role model.
Meanwhile, others in the organization are struggling to do their job with too few human resources. So how do natural leaders do it? What is their secret to getting people to go the extra mile for them? As U.S. President General Dwight D. Eisenhower defined it: “Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
What Successful Leaders Do Well
Although many effective leaders are naturally charismatic, there are a number of leadership behaviors that can be adopted by anyone who wants to have greater support from others. People naturally want to follow a good leader. After meeting with a capable leader, it is not unusual to feel uplifted, inspired and motivated to work towards a common goal.
Effective leaders encourage others to feel better about themselves as well as the work they are doing. The leader has a vision of what she wants to achieve and can communicate that vision to others in a way that makes people want to be part of it.
Compelling leaders typically communicate the big picture, so that each employee can see how the particular role he plays makes a contribution to the final result.
In a study of employees at all levels in companies of all sizes, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans, authors of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, found that “meaningful work, making a difference and a contribution” was one of the top reasons given by employees when asked why they remain at a company.
When someone understands why a job that might otherwise be considered menial is important, that person is likely to be both more committed and more productive.
Use Positivity to Be a Leader at Work
People are also likely to follow leaders they see as positive role models. If a leader demonstrates a strong belief in something, it inspires others to work towards the leader’s vision, even when a situation might appear to be almost hopeless.
An excellent example of a leader who faced this type of situation is Lee Iacocca. When Chrysler’s fortunes reached a low in the 1980s, he cut his salary to $1 per year to prove his conviction that things would get better. They did. Under his leadership, the company flourished.
Good leaders not only “walk the walk”, they “talk the talk”. When they speak about the future, they are positive and upbeat. Mark Victor Hansen, a successful motivational speaker and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, said that even in the early days of his career, if someone asked how he was doing he always responded that he was doing fabulously. His enthusiasm won him plenty of supporters who helped make his vision a reality.
Yet some people feel the way to get support from others is by telling them how grim a situation is, hoping that will make them want to help turn things around. On the contrary, Eeyores (those who sound like the gloomy Winnie the Pooh character) may inspire people to start looking for another job, rather than work to improve the situation they are in.
If you have a tendency to be negative, but want to inspire others to support you in achieving a goal, resolve to focus on solutions rather than problems. If Plan A isn’t working, avoid bemoaning the situation and instead come up with a Plan B. If necessary, have Plan C waiting in the wings. Maintain a can-do attitude, and you are likely to attract people who will support you in achieving your goals.
Be a Leader at Work by Motivating
As well as communicating their vision, good leaders know they need to communicate “what’s in it for you” in order to have employees go the extra mile. They also understand that different people are motivated by different things. In his book Human Motivation, psychologist David McClelland identified three types of needs people experience in the workplace — achievement, power, and affiliation.
For employees motivated by a need for achievement, a leader should explain how a task offers an opportunity to take on a challenging but achievable goal. Employees with a need for power should be told how their participation can bring them prestige and lead to greater opportunities. Employees who are motivated by affiliation need to hear how they will be part of a team of people working together.
Leaders Make it Personal
Effective leaders also use techniques to communicate their belief that each team member is important, including remembering and using people’s preferred names (e.g. not “Rick” if someone prefers to be called “Richard”). As Dale Carnegie observed, “the average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together.”
Keys to remembering names include paying attention when introduced to someone, mentally repeating the name and using it in conversation.
Exceptional leaders will introduce employees by name first, rather than job title. They refer to employees as team members, associates, or colleagues — never as “subordinates” — and make no distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” staff or “professional” and “non-professional” staff. Words have power, including the power to make people feel whether or not they are important to the success of an organization.
The following tips can help you earn respect and be a leader at work:
- Confront challenges and problems head-on. Don’t let misunderstandings or bad feelings linger. A face-to-face discussion is better than an email, which opens the door to misinterpretation of your message.
- Be aware of the power of your words and communicate respectfully with everyone regardless of race, gender, age, or ability.
- Don’t disrespect someone because their position is “below” yours. Anyone can be a helpful ally at some point, and people can move up and down the ladder.
- Give credit to others when things go right and take responsibility when things go wrong. As football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant said: “If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it.”
- Good leaders believe that every team member matters so they create an environment that makes everyone feel important. It is no wonder they attract all the support they need to help them achieve their goals.
If you want to develop your leadership skills, the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, is a fabulous resource. Further your goal to be a leader at work by learning valuable new business skills with online certificate courses for administrative professionals from the International Business and Management Career College (IBMCC).
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