You wake up in the morning against the rising yellow sun in the yellow acacia dotted plains somewhere in Maasai Mara, Kenya. The little cubs are staring at you. You just had a good sleep but are still tired. You’re not particularly hungry, but you must lead the hunt anyway. You’re the fastest lioness in the pride though, and everyone depends on you. You’re the leader. You must lead. Failure to do so means you lose your status in the pride. That’s leadership.
Many people want to become leaders. We live in a competitive world, and the safest point seems to always be at the top. Many of us don’t, however, understand what it takes to get to the top as well as remain at the top. It comes with a whole load of its challenges.
In this article, we are going to focus on the strategies that help you become a leader – the steps you have to take if you ever wish to be seen as a leader and respected as one. These are the steps you should take to earn and maintain the respect of your employees, mentees, and followers.
1. Actively listen
Many people think being a leader is always being the boss. Many times, your employees as well as mentees want somebody who is keen and wants to form a relationship with them. Listening is especially important in a collaborative work environment where you work with a team rather than employees or mentees or followers. Important to note is, you should listen, not pretend to listen. Engage your followers and let them feel you are really listening. Be an approachable person and don’t ever let your followers fear you – just make them respect you.
When listening, make sure you don’t listen to hear what your followers say but to understand what they think. Try to engage your employees about what they think. People respect you more when they feel you value them. They’ll see you more of a leader if you inspire and motivate them
2. Tell Your Story
Story telling gives inspiration. You are a business owner, and you tell your casual laborer that you were once a casual laborer like him, he gets inspired. He starts seeing himself as a big business owner someday. He starts seeing you as a mentor rather than just his boss and immediately, you become a leader to him.
Storytelling is also entertaining and gives morale to people by keeping them entertained. It is also a good way to get something done. You could use a story from your past on how you used to do something to inspire your workers to do something.
Story telling helps transfer complex knowledge in a simple, entertaining way.
3. Always Show Gratitude
Never act the boss who was expecting it to be done the right way anyway. Never be that boss who feels you’re doing your workers a favor by employing them as well as they should be the ones thanking you.
Gratitude is best when it’s done personally and not vaguely. Hold your worker’s hand firmly and tell them you appreciate how well they did the job. Showing gratitude to the whole group is also good. However, never show preference to one person over the others. Show gratitude to everyone who does a good job and never is selective.
When people feel appreciated, they get positive and motivated. This does not only earn you respect but encourage better working culture and more productivity which even earns you respect outside your organization (because your productivity can be felt by non-stakeholders).
Gratitude is also a sign of humility. People always appreciate a successful yet humble human being and more likely to identify such a person as a leader.
4. Point out People’s Strength
As somebody who has been an employer, one thing I have noticed is that many bosses love pointing out their worker’s weaknesses. A worker could do 9 things right, but the tenth task that he does wrong is the very task that will be highlighted. Worse still, many bosses love to embarrass their workers by pointing out their weaknesses in front of everybody thinking they can somehow shame the person into making a better – the wrong approach.
It’s good to point out people’s strength and help boost their self-esteem. Pointing out a strength motivates more than pointing out a weakness. Embarrassing somebody by always pointing out their weaknesses creates a disdain of you in them as well as reduces the morale of the individual.
Finally, it’s good to encourage your workers to focus more on their strength than their weaknesses. If someone is terrible at one task yet exceedingly good at the other, you can have them do the task that they excel at and delegate the other task to somebody else.
5. Get Involved at the Ground level
Don’t be the bossy boss always sitting in your big chair in your office barking orders over the phone. Getting involved at ground level is one of the best strategies of being a great leader. It gives your followers a great sense of belonging and that’s the beginning of them seeing you as their leader.
In the modern age of social media, if you’re popular on social media, take time and engage and respond to people who comment on your posts. If you run a construction company, get down to the site and even once in a while work with the lowest paid worker, have a taste of what they do. It doesn’t only boost their morale, but it also makes you realize the kind of challenges they face which you could improve. It also helps you see what you can do to improve the general productivity of your company.
Getting on the ground helps you build permanent relationships with your followers. A politician for instance who builds a relationship with the average woman or man on the street will create a self-campaigning tool from the people he or she built relationships with.
Some leaders are made while others are born. We, however, have a clique of non-leaders who were once leaders but later were destroyed. Never climb your ladder so high you can barely see the people who built the very same ladder.
6. Delegate Responsibility
Don’t be Mr. Know-all. Don’t project yourself as the only person who can get things done around. A delegation of responsibilities doesn’t only make work easier for you but also earns you respect and admiration.
Delegation of duties downwards also helps grow the skills and confidence of your workers. It enables things to run even when you are not around. Many managers think if things can run when they are not around then it would mean they are not needed. That’s very wrong. If things can run even when the boss is not around, it means the boss leads and teaches well.
7. Always be Honest and Open
Management and government evolved from the military. The silent de facto rule of the military is secrecy. This culture has been carried down for many years and thought it might work in some instances, it’s not the best strategy in the modern business world.
This kind of structure only works in instances where power is paramount, and access to information is directly proportional to the power one holds. The problem with this strategy in business is when people have no information and have to make decisions in the dark, they have to guess and may end up doing contrary to what the business stands for and contrary to its vision. This also undermines the worker’s ability to think, ask questions and come up with ideas. They’ll appear confused, visionless and, you guessed, leaderless.
8. Allow Failure
Don’t be the kind of boss who demonizes failure and makes workers tremble at the thought of failing. Encourage your team to fail several times in order to get it right rather than installing in them a ‘never fail’ attitude.
This will discourage other workers from being creative and trying new methods for fear of failure the repercussions of failure.
A good leader enshrines acceptance and taking responsibility for failure. Strategic leadership involves encouraging failures that lead to success rather than efforts that ensure no failure. No failure doesn’t exist and running on such an idea will only lead to frustrations and lack of faith in you as a leader.
9. Be the Role Model
Never do the opposite of what you preach. Followers do more following than taking of orders. Anyone who takes orders from you is not your follower but your subject. Followers emulate what you do, they don’t do what you say.
If you are a leader, behave in the very same way you want your followers too. If you want punctual workers, be punctual. Your workers will be more punctual if you’re punctual than if you order them to be punctual.
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