She could be a blue jeans-clad marketing student running a major ecommerce company out of her dorm room. He might be the next salt-and-pepper-haired, barefoot Steve Jobs presenting a groundbreaking new device at a major industry conference.
In fact, research indicates that what really matters is that leaders are able to create enthusiasm, empower their people, instil confidence and be inspiring to the people around them.
That’s a tall order. However, as different as leaders are today, there are some things great leaders do every day. Here are five keys for effective leadership:
1. Face challenges
Great leaders are brave enough to face up to challenging situations and deal with them honestly. Whether it’s steering through a business downturn or getting struggling employees back on track, effective leaders meet these challenges openly.
Regular communications with your staff, informing them of good news and how the company is reacting to challenges will go a long way toward making employees feel like you trust them and that they’re unlikely to be hit with unpleasant surprises.
2. Win trust
Employees are more loyal and enthusiastic when they work in an environment run by people they trust. Trust can be built in many ways. The first is to show employees that you care about them. Take an interest in employees beyond the workplace. Let them know that you’re interested in their success and discuss their career paths with them regularly.
When employees, vendors or others make mistakes, don’t reprimand or correct them in anger. Instead, calmly explain the situation and why their behaviour or actions weren’t correct, as well as what you expect in the future.
When people know that you aren’t going to berate them and that you have their best interests at heart, they’re going to trust you.
3. Be authentic
If you’re not a suit, don’t try to be one. Employees and others dealing with your company will be able to tell if you’re just pretending to be someone you’re not. That could make them question what else about you might be inauthentic. Use your strengths and personality traits to develop your personal leadership style.
4. Earn respect
When you conduct yourself in an ethical way and model the traits you want to see in others, you earn their respect. Leaders who are perceived as not ‘walking their talk’ typically don’t get very far.
This contributes to employees and other stakeholders having less pride in the company and customers that are less likely to do business with a company if they don’t respect its values or leadership.
5. Stay curious
Good leaders remain intellectually curious and committed to learning. They understand that innovation can come from many places and are always on the lookout for knowledge or people who might give them an advantage.