Recently a was faced with a situation involving one of my children and a person in a position of leadership. My child was engaged in an activity where there were many unhappy participants. The leader was informed and “reacted,” but unfortunately attitudes did not change and the group continued to become more unhappy.
In reviewing the situation I considered what I might have done differently had I been in that situation. Having been in leadership positions many times, I have learned that in order to be a true leader, such that you can create and maintain both cohesion and happiness with your team, you must practice the following:
1. Be proactive, not reactive. Proactive means that you need to think ahead. If you wait until a problem arises it often can be too late to get back to where you started. However, if you keep lines of communication open and follow the other steps below, you should be able to avoid big problems. Being reactive just upsets the troops and creates more of a divide, often making you the “bad guy.” Instead, you have to view each situation as a challenge and not a problem, and then find creative ways to resolve it.
2. Listen. We are all told at an early age that it is important to listen. But as technology has exploded and people have learned to get what they need quickly, many of us do not take the time to really listen. If you are a leader and do not listen to those you lead, then you are ineffective. Your group looks up to you and needs to know that you are on their side – they want to share concerns and they want you to help fix them…you are the LEADER so this is only logical! If you hear that people are unsatisfied, then you need to speak to them to find out why, and you need to listen and not judge. You may be part of the problem.
3. Be fair and consistent. To be an effective leader you must be fair – both in your decision-making process and in the way you treat group members. If you demote one member for something that is unbecoming of a group member, then you have to do the same with other members who do things that fall into that category. You need to make sure that all members KNOW what those no-nos are; of course I always suggest putting rules into writing at the start so members know what they must do as group members, and also what they should not do. Once you start being unfair, or reacting in different ways to members in similar situations, you lose respect. All great leaders have respect.
4. Reward often and always be a greeter. Every successful business owner I know rewards her/his employees for jobs well done. This does not have to be a monetary reward and can vary in different situations. If you are a coach of a sports team and your team won, or didn’t win, you need to tell them how proud you are of the hard work they did – if they lost you also need to also encourage them and provide plans of action so everyone can move forward with cohesion and excitement. When you arrive at practice each day you should say hello to them and ALWAYS start with a positive greeting. People need to feel recognized for hard work, and they respect you for doing so. Don’t take anyone for granted.
5. Provide encouragement – always. If you are a leader you must encourage your members. Period. No one will want to work with you if you don’t make them feel good about the hard work they are doing under your lead.
6. Assume responsibility for lack of cohesion and admit mistakes. If you group or team is not working together in a positive way, of if there is resentment or unhappiness from even one member, you as a leader must take responsibility. You can never assume that you are not the problem, even if you are not. As a leader you need to get to the bottom of the issue and provide solutions. If the mistake is yours, then admit it and provide solutions so it doesn’t happen again. Ignorance = disrespect.
7. Be positive. A positive leader encourages his team to be the same, which in turn leads to more productive and happy team members. Even in the face of problems you have to maintain and project a positive attitude.
Most of us are leaders and may not even realize it. Teachers, doctors, coaches and parents – to name a few – are all leaders, every day. The teachers, doctors and coaches who do not have respect are ineffective and should either make changes or find other careers. Parents need to have the respect of their children too – if they do not then they need to seek advice from professionals. Look at your leadership role as a chance to really make a difference in the lives of others…that is pretty powerful.