Elements of leadership: The characteristics of effective leaders in business
We have looked at why leadership skills are important to business owners, the benefits to your bottom line, improved morale etc so we know how important these skills are.
We have also taken a deep dive into the specific skill set as well as how to achieve them.
In this blog post, we are going to look at the different elements of leadership and how acquiring these skills will help you to develop strong relationships and ultimately create a thriving business.
A leader’s ability to communicate
“Good leaders prioritize communication, both with customers and within their companies. Communication is the key to solving problems, coming up with new ideas, and keeping loyal customers and employees. It’s a skill you can constantly hone, no matter how long you’ve been leading a team.” Forbes
Communication is the single most important element of being a human, how we interact with others, be it children, parents, siblings and partners and colleagues is of paramount importance in life. Yet we don’t have any lessons on effective communication. The same applies to business.
How you speak to your four-year-old will differ greatly from the way you speak to your colleagues or staff. Unfortunately, in business, we often revert to patterns of communication that we have learned in our own experiences, without giving any thought to the way we communicate with others and how it makes them feel.
Communicating with your team
A marketing agency founded by a marketing expert, has grown exponentially, firstly with the addition of a marketing junior and some years later, there is a whole team of individuals. The frustration of managing a growing customer base, a team, and managing accounts has all become clear. The owner of the business arrives for work and his dark mood spreads throughout his organisation. He may raise his voice or openly criticise and blame.
Will his workforce be motivated, productive, and collaborative in this environment? Unfortunately, no. They are more than likely to withdraw, produce less, and watch the clock eagerly until finishing time!
Staff retention becomes an issue in an environment like this and ultimately affects how you attract new talent to your business. Lack of continuity of staff results in poor standards of work and missed deadlines for your customers.
When we think about how we communicate with others and how our communication methods can affect others, relationships can start to improve. If you want something prioritised, a reasonable explanation and a courteous request are far more likely to achieve the ultimate goal.
Top 5 tips for improving communication with your team
It starts with you!
- Set the tone, be clear and concise
- Communicate your dream and be clear about what you stand for
- Create an environment where ideas are listened to and suggestions built on and developed
- Develop a climate of encouragement, praise, support and recognition.
- Encourage open and honest dialogue.
“Any business where honest dialogue is rare isn’t on the right track because it means employees aren’t feeling supported enough to function effectively! “ Matthew Levington (Breaking Big page 44).
Top 5 tips for communicating with your customers
When you improve your communication skills with your team, you will see instant results. They will be clear on what you expect from them, they will be motivated and engaged, and this will shine through when they deal with your customers.
It’s important to remember to lead by example – if you practise good communication skills, internally, your staff will follow your lead.
Here’s how to have better conversations with your customers:
- Take the time to build a relationship with them
- Practise active listening
- Use analogies
- Develop customer service standards
- Resolve any disputes quickly
More information on improving relationships can be found in our book Breaking Big, page 207. Stop selling and start building relationships
The transparent leader
“The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust.” — Denise Morrison
There are many elements that define great leadership and transparency is one of the most important because it builds trust.
Being consistently transparent will create an open and honest culture within your organisation. It will help to improve employee satisfaction and engagement and can drive positive results for years to come.
How to be a transparent leader:
- Set clear expectations for everyone, including yourself. This will give everyone a clear sense of direction and will enhance performance and engagement. A great way to do that is by setting SMART goals which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
- Share successes and failures with vulnerability and humility. It’s easy for a leader to celebrate their successes but harder to admit when they make mistakes
- Be consistent in your policies and actions. Avoid having favourites or making exceptions to the rules. Consistent behaviour from leadership proves that you walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
The empathetic leader
Another important element of leadership is to show empathy – the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.
This can often get forgotten – when you’ve just had a difficult meeting with your accountant, had a conversation with an unhappy customer or are experiencing personal issues, it’s easy to take your anger and frustration out on others around you. But remember, your mood as the leader of an organisation will be mirrored by your employees.
Pause, take the time to consider the emotions of others and think carefully about your tone of voice and body language when you communicate, and you will create a happier environment for everyone.
The collaborative leader
“More so today than at any other time in history, businesses that foster a collaborative environment are winning the race to competitive advantage” Primeast
Simply put, when you champion collaborative working practices within your business, you will find that everyone is on the same page, managers, and staff will closely work together, sharing information and best practices.
Having a shared sense of ownership will encourage a greater commitment to achieving your vision. Primeast report that a 2014 Stanford Study found that collaboration leads to people sticking to a task 64% longer than those undertaking a task alone.
Collaboration and sharing information has never been easier thanks to the Covid excellerated advancement of technology apps, see our earlier post on equipping your remote workforce for more information.
Top 5 tips for collaborative leadership
- Have a shared purpose – A collaborative leader will communicate their future vision and will be passionate about their values and mission. More information can be found in our article Business Vision, Mission and Values – Why are they so important?
- Encourage everyone’s participation in problem-solving – You will benefit from a range of views, skills, experience and ideas from people working toward the common goal. Diverse teams produce more meaningful and long-lasting solutions to problems.
- Encourage and reward initiative – Encourage creativity and self-improvement and accept that people should take calculated risks to drive change for the better.
- Share information –Sharing information builds trust, openness, and honesty.
Build strong relationships for a stronger business
“Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a schoolteacher, relationship skills matter a lot. In fact, research has shown that relationship-building skills are among the top leadership competencies that leaders need.” Center for Creative Leadership
To summarise, whether your business thrives or fails will ultimately come down to your ability, as a leader, to forge strong relationships within your business and externally with your customers and suppliers.
And in order to develop strong relationships, you will need to work on all the individual elements of good leadership.
Top 5 tips for building strong relationships
1. Accept your own strengths and weaknesses, you’re only human after all.
2. Be aware of the impact that your behaviour has on others
3. Let go – being able to delegate will build trust with your team
4. Show empathy and always practice active listening
5. Give feedback as long as it’s in a constructive and sensitive way
You may have previously believed that Leadership skills are something you need only for a large enterprise, but this isn’t the case.
Whether you have 5 employees or 100, improving your leadership skills will almost certainly help to improve your bottom line.
And, if you’re still not convinced, take a look at our previous article Why leadership skills are important for business owners
If this is an area that you would like to develop please get in touch.
Research conducted by Simply Business, showed that even before Covid became a thing, business owners were already feeling isolated –...
Business owners have been under increasing pressure since the onset of Covid back in 2019. Getting the workforce back in...
You may have set up your business as a result of a passion for what you do, the desire to...