To be the Best Leader (Part 1 – Leadership)

I was reading an article today about effective leadership. The author included what he considered to be the 20 top ways to evaluate if a leader is going to be an effective leader and manager. I’ve never really put pen to paper and given points to each of the things that I feel to be important. So, I’m just going to start typing and stop when I think I’ve covered all of them.

1. Treat everyone around you with respect – This goes for everyone. Your employees. Your fellow leaders. Those above you. For the most part, this is infectious. If you’re treating everyone that you work with respectfully, then you’re probably going to get similar in return. This isn’t meant that you should take abuse, but to foster a good working relationship with those you deal with on a day-to-day basis.

2. Follow through on what you say you’ll do – Again, this goes for everyone. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. I’ve seen a number of managers fail because they end up saying “yes!” far too often. They have the right intention in mind, but they forget to think before they engage their voices. If an employee asks you to do something, unless you’re absolutely sure that the outcome is completely in your power, hedge your bets. Say you’ll look into it and get back to them, but then… make sure that you do. The number of times that you fail to come through on things that you promise to do are probably directly proportional to your success as a manager.

3. Know and be able to do the job that your employees do – When I was working in an office furniture company as a plant manager, I came from the manufacturing floor. So, every so often, when we were in a time crunch, I’d tuck my tie into my shirt, grab a file and work. I may not have been the best line worker, but you can gain a lot of respect by being interested in what your employees are doing. Also, you’re a lot less likely to take them for granted if you feel the pains that they do. Additionally, you can’t buy the effect that you get by the level of respect this sort of thing garners you. For a long time, every supervisor that worked for me had to know (and be able to do) every job that was in their departments. I didn’t expect them to be terribly productive at it, but I did expect them to be able to do it.

4. Say “Thank you” to your employees – This is a big deal to me and it says a lot about the person. When I see a manager never thank their employees for a job well done, it sends a signal. And if it sends a signal to me, you can bet that it sends a signal to the employee. A lot of employees are motivated more by intrinsic (thanks, pats on the back, etc) rewards than extrinsic (money, time off, etc.) rewards. This is counter to what a lot of us believe, but you can get a lot more out of a group using respect, honest thanks than you’ll ever get by waving money at them.

5. Be willing to train yourself right out of a job – One of the jobs I held at an industrial film-processing plant had a performance management system that competively placed all of the plants against one another. I held the #1 ranking in my region for a very long time by making sure that I cross-trained as many people as I possibly could. I also made sure that I had employees around me who could step in and do my job if they needed. Too many managers are worried that if they train their employees to be too good, they’ll lose their jobs. That is a definite possibility, but if you ever want to be promoted, it’s critical to be able to show that your department can be handed off to someone else, without an hiccups. Have the confidence in your own abilities to teach your employees not to need you, then aim for the next promotion.

I’ll continue with this theme in the next post, and possibly the next one after that. So, I hope you enjoy it.

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