You’ve heard it before — ‘So and so is a great leader!’, or ‘He wasn’t a very good leader at all!’. It makes you ask yourself, ‘What makes a great leader?’, doesn’t it? A lot of people might tell you it’s about hitting those numbers and beating those deadlines, but that’s not it at all. Sure, being a spreadsheet whiz is great, but that’s not what a good leader really does. What makes a leader good, or great, is their people skills. It’s their ability to connect with their team in positive ways that are important.
They know communication is key. To be an effective leader, you have to be able to communicate properly with your team. It’s not just about telling them what needs to be done and when either. A good leader knows it’s important to make sure you communicate often with your team, no matter if it’s good or bad. It’s easy to celebrate successes, but a leader has to be prepared to communicate the unpleasant things as well. If a team doesn’t know where they’re going wrong or things that might make their jobs difficult, then team morale and work suffers. Leaders have to be able to keep things positive, but this doesn’t mean lying to the team. Even if the truth is bad or they’re uncertain about their information, they still have to share it. Great leaders also know how important it is to express their gratitude for the hard work their team does.
They provide inspiration. Leaders want their team to do the best work they can, so they look for ways to inspire and motivate each individual. They know they have a team that’s capable of amazing things, and they want their team to know that they have that kind of confidence in the group. They work hard to keep everyone striving for greatness, with kind words, motivational speeches, and yes, sometimes even tangible incentives. They’re prepared to do what it takes.
They resolve conflicts quickly. Nothing kills productivity and team morale faster than conflicts, and a great leader knows this. They work hard to resolve these issues as quickly as possible — whether it’s between two team members, or coming from the upper management, they aren’t going to let conflict and strife fester in their team. They can also recognize anxieties and fears their team might have, and work hard to soothe these fears and make sure they aren’t justified.
In the end, it comes down to helping your team mentally and emotionally reach their goals. Being a great leader isn’t about driving your team by cracking a whip at them all the time — that kind of pressure puts a strain on your team and creates a hostile work environment. You’re not going to get the best work from your employees when they hate their jobs or feel that they’re just a number. When you connect and coach your team to be their best, you’re going to get their best. That is what makes a leader great, and what a great leader does.