What is leadership?
Leadership within a business is having people that can greatly influence and inspire a team's success, a companies performance, and an individual's personal development.
The responsibility of being a leader requires a particular set of qualities, some learnt, and some natural character traits, which combined, gives employees trust in a leader guiding and representing them.
Why is leadership important?
Leadership is fundamental to building a sustainable and profitable business. Over 79% of employees will quit their job due to a lack of appreciation from leaders. Having strong leaders within your teams will ensure productivity, accountability and progress.
Good leaders empower employees to do their best work, grow and push boundaries - all of which creates a positive work environment and long tenures within roles which ultimately improve the bottom line.
What is the difference between leadership and management?
Management is a little more logistically driven than leadership, it consists of overseeing a team to accomplish a goal. However, leadership draws on soft skills and individuals ability to influence, motivate and enable staff to contribute to businesses overall success.
Strong leadership secures a progressive company culture.
Top Ten Leadership Skills For Team Success
1. Goal orientated
Leaders are responsible for driving their team towards specific objectives set out by the overarching business vision. A leader must hold that wider objective in their mind and then identify how their team and its members will contribute to that.
Once the team's contributions are identified, leaders need to effectively communicate this with them, setting clear goals and expectations of what is to be delivered, how and by when (SMART goals). Creating this guidance for employees offers them a sense of purpose and the opportunity to also be goal-oriented in their work.
From time to time, employees will be needed to go the extra mile for their company, perhaps work extra hours or pick up a colleagues work whilst they're on holiday. Being motivational is how a leader inspires staff to step up when this is required.
It's a leaders job to identify what makes their employees tick, get energised to do their best work, and achieve business goals. Employees need to have good self-esteem and feel like a leader has their back in order to do great things.
A few ways a leader might achieve this are:
- Giving an employee autonomy over their workload
- Asking for input or providing rewards
A team without feedback is stagnant. Leaders should always be looking out for the opportunity to strengthen their workforce with constructive feedback. To avoid discouraging employees, leaders should be balanced, clear, respectful and empathetic in their approach to giving feedback.
Giving frequent, high-quality feedback builds employees skillsets, confidence in their role and offers greater autonomy. Employees will respect leaders who encourage them to develop within their profession and actively help them to progress into leadership positions of their own.
4. Strategic thinking
Strategic thinking is regarded as one of the most important leadership skills. This is because employees value leaders who aren't stuck in the day to day, 'firefighting' so to speak, but those who are looking to the future, acting as chief navigators on their behalf.
Leaders always consider the bigger picture, are planning ahead and deciding what needs to be done tomorrow, next week and next year to reach goals. This creates a sense of authority and trust within the team, maintaining the feeling of being a part of something bigger, and in safe hands getting there.
As a leader, there is not always going to be a clear or correct answer to questions. Creative thinking allows leaders to be confident when facing the unknown and be open to the outcome.
Regardless of what industry a leader works in, creative thinking skills such as curiosity, imaginativeness, open-mindedness, foresight and sound judgement are highly valuable. Employees are likely to be inspired by a leader who thinks outside the box and isn't afraid to try something new to solve a problem.
6. Ability to delegate
A leader who doesn't delegate becomes unproductive and a bit of a nuisance. By identifying the strengths of each team member and delegating tasks out to them accordingly provides trust and free's up leaders time to focus on other areas of their role. Rather than delivery, leaders should be focused on strategising and goal setting, evaluating employee performance and giving feedback, training and mentorship, and team planning.
It's worth remembering, good leadership isn't about 'doing it all' it's about surrounding yourself with the best people to get the job done and enabling them to do it.
7. Conflict management
Naturally, when working with people, there is likely to be conflict. A difference of opinion, mismanaged expectations, a poorly phrased email or misalignment in values are all scenarios where a leader may have to step in and resolve grievances of staff members.
It's a leaders responsibility to put clear boundaries in place before opening up dialogue around the conflict, guiding it to a resolution. Leaders must show excellent and authoritative communication skills, be unbiased and open-minded to effectively and fairly manage conflicts.
By focussing on the positives, having fun and keeping the energy in the office light, leaders create an enjoyable work environment that employees actually want to be a part of.
Being optimistic creates a sense of possibility, so regardless of where a team is against their goals, feeling part of an uplifted team, and having this notion that anything is possible will encourage team members to continue trying and put in the extra effort when occasionally needed.
Mistakes happen, and so do last-minute changes. The higher up the leadership ladder you are, the more you will know this. What makes a good leader is being able to move with this, improvise and adapt. Employees value a leader who is able to take these moments in their stride and creatively problem solve.
An element of being a flexible leader is listening to staff feedback and finding a way to make them more content in their role or working environment, employees will appreciate feeling listened to and acknowledged.
Empathy is a vital leadership skill. Working to support and inspire people day in, and day out has its challenges. Remembering we're all human with lives outside of the office and unique skillsets that need fostering will make for an approachable and impactful leader.
Making staff feel safe and understood on a personal level in the workplace brings a whole host of benefits to the wider company as well. These include an increase in employee productivity, innovative thinking flourishing and an improvement in staff retention - which creates happy and stable teams.
How do you build a successful leadership team?
A successful leadership team requires individuals who have a balance of the soft skills we've just discussed, who are able to make strong decisions and have an appetite to drive a business forward.
Having leadership in a team is integral to any businesses success as they inspire and guide employees to achieve goals. Great leaders might already be hidden within teams, and fostering the signs of natural leadership will strengthen a team from the ground up.
To be sure you've identified the right candidates for a leadership position, you can test for leadership skills using a leadership test as well as other specific soft skills tests such as interpersonal skills tests.