Leadership Lessons

Lao Tzu once said “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Everyone defines leadership differently in this world. Some believe that a leader exudes charisma, offers a valid vision or inspires the staff to do above and beyond their daily routine. Yet, we’ve all experienced the “good, bad and ugly” in terms of leadership. Consequently, some may try to move forward in their careers by seeking leadership that reflects a balance between a “task manager” and a manager who inspires her team to be innovative every day. Some leaders can provide the right tempo by leveraging leadership lessons that may result in positive influences on their employees.

Effective leaders ensure their team has the tools to get the job done. For example, if you manage a team of web designers and they do not have the latest open source software to create interactive content, then the team will fail no questions asked. Part of the process includes staff asking for the resources they need to get the job done and managers to simply listen to how the latest and greatest tools will amplify effectiveness.

Moreover, leaders who listen to their staff learn more than anything they can read from a business strategy book. If a new hire is having trouble reducing their learning curve, it is critical for leadership to take a step back and ask the person what they really need to reduce their learning curve on the job.

Suspend judgment is another tactic that can improve management efforts. An example of this occurs when a manager is constantly called in to reduce conflicts between peers. Instead of taking sides or forcing the team to figure it out on their own, sometimes it helps to hear both sides’ perspectives regarding the issue. An effective manager will weigh the facts and remove the natural instinct to judge who is right or wrong so that a level head may prevail with effective solutions.

One of my favorite managers helped prepare her staff for the future by ensuring each team member took leadership and management courses along with their annual mandatory training program. While some of the other managers were skeptical of this tactic, this person wanted to plan for the future when her team may leave to take on new jobs. An effective leader realizes that all employees will progress in the right environment and eventually move on to new assignments. At the same time, the manager will plan for staff transitions by cross-training everyone to back fill vacant team roles.

Do you have innovators working with you? Encourage them to dream, develop and then share their ideas with your support. Some people may show initiative regularly to create and implement new endeavors on behalf of the organization. Others on your team need to know that if they move forward with new ideas, they will be welcomed instead of stymied.

Lastly, an effective leader will take the time to get to know their staff above and beyond their assigned roles and responsibilities. In business, it is referred to as the “human factor” of operating an organization. It includes taking time to learn what motivates your team, who is important to them and how they envision their contributions to support the organization.

Tracey Batacan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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