The first thing to realize about leadership is that it comes in many varieties. There are leaders who help others tap into their latent talents, leaders that chart a new course that those around them may not have discovered on their own, and leaders who collaborate with members of the same team to solve problems that seem unsolvable at the outset.
Now, even though there might be subtly different shades of leadership, all great leaders do have a few things in common. All great leaders communicate effectively and encourage everyone around them to collaborate in a way that brings people's talents to bear on every new project. At the same time, leaders also encourage enthusiasm and a sense of excitement for the current project. They motivate the team to achieve a clearly communicated common goal.
Communication, Friendliness, and Openness to New Input
A great leader knows when to step in, offer a pep talk, or hang back and allow the team to come to its own solution. It's all a matter of what's going to be beneficial for morale over the short and long term. Bringing a sense of openness, friendliness, and fairness to everything that you do lets those around you know that you're on the same team and working with them instead of giving them orders and commands.
You might not immediately tie together friendliness, good leadership and professional collaboration but each of these feeds into the other. Since the values that leaders embody tend to filter down through a company or organization, you can actually make other people more willing to share and collaborate on ideas by creating a friendly environment in which your fellow employees feel like their ideas will be valued in turn.
While bringing empathy and friendliness to all of your communications is never going to hurt, there are a few barriers to effective communication that might not be as easy to spot. Using jargon and making things more complicated than they need be is one roadblock to effective communication and great leadership.
Other communication barriers are failing to take another person's background or training into account and not realizing another person's perception can differ from one's own. So, how can you overhaul your communication to be a more effective and respected leader? Start by framing issues in a way that's relevant and appropriate to the people with whom you work. Try not to speak down to people and, at the same time, value their input.
To really get the most out of everyone at your organization ask questions that require some kind of elaboration - questions that require a speedy yes-or-no response have their place, but when you're looking to get to the root cause of an issue or discover how best to motivate and inspire people, you want a little more information than a standard yes-or-no response can provide. Dig a little deeper and you might be surprised at the insight you can gain from the others on your team.
Good Leaders are Committed to Professional Development
The best leaders across industries are positive role models for other professionals - being a positive role model and "practicing what you preach" shows everyone around you that you're taking your job seriously. An added benefit is that being a positive role model often creates a virtuous cycle in the workplace, which means that your behavior and values inspire others to achieve their best every single day.
Leaders that standout are humble, passionate about what they do, and understand their own and their coworkers' unique set of talents and areas in need of improvement. A good leader finds a happy medium between tapping into the creative and professional potential of every staff member without overtaxing or overworking anyone. It's about moving people towards a shared goal and offering a doable challenge every day.
Good leaders are also interested in pursuing professional development for themselves and others around them so that they're always improving and raising the bar on the level of challenges that they can surmount. Cross-training work exercises, on-site workshops and taking advantage of ongoing mentoring opportunities are three excellent ways to continue your professional development throughout your career and inspire others to do the same.
Just as cross training in sports can make athletes more able to tackle different kinds of challenges, cross training in the workplace creates fitter employees who bring more value to the organization. Learning how to carry out complementary work activities ultimately facilitates collaboration between departments and increases the knowledge base of employees who undergo such programs.
Finding a business mentor who's further along the same professional path that you're on can also provide you expert counsel and help you avoid common pitfalls while exposing you to fresh networking opportunities. Setting up a mentoring program for every employee - shown to increase workplace satisfaction and employee retention - uses existing resources to inspire tomorrow's leaders.