Leadership in the Workplace: How to Become a Better Leader

Leadership in the Workplace
Author: Darius DrevinskasPublished: January 10, 2022

Whether you’re a manager, CEO, or owner of a company, you’ll know how important effective leadership is. But what makes for a good leader? 

Good leaders come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with no single formula being a guarantee for success. In this article, we’ll discuss some common qualities that are essential for effective leadership in the workplace, check out some typical types of leader, and present some simple tips that you can use to improve your leadership skills. 

But first, let’s look a little deeper into what leadership in the workplace actually entails. 

What is leadership in the workplace?

In the workplace, effective leadership means getting the best out of the people around you and bringing diverse skills and personalities together in pursuit of a common goal. 

This requires the ability to positively influence other members of a team through qualities like charisma, confidence, vision, or just showing how to get things done. A leader isn’t afraid to take the initiative and demonstrate the kind of behavior and commitment that they expect of their team. 

Management and leadership are often spoken about in the same breath, yet they are two distinctive things. While managers keep things together, supervising and motivating to ensure effective performance, workplace leaders show the way forward, setting a good example and unifying efforts towards success.

Every successful company needs leaders within its organization to align the values and goals of the company with those of its employees. And while good leadership in the workplace can be taught and learned over the course of a career, certain innate qualities are helpful. 

Not everyone is perfectly suited to becoming a good leader.

The Importance of Leadership in the Workplace

Having effective and visionary leaders can benefit a company in many ways, including things like: 

  • Company morale: Leaders who can effectively build trust, keep staff informed, and communicate a vision for the future create a positive work environment that people want to be a part of. 
  • Employee engagement: Strong relationships and trust in leadership are key drivers of employee engagement. In fact, according to Gallup, team leaders alone account for 70% of the variance in team engagement. Employees are looking for purpose and meaning from their work and they see their leader as the person who can provide them with that.  
  • Reduced turnover: Improving employee engagement is essential for better employee retention. In an increasingly competitive labor market, the ability to retain your best and brightest employees not only saves money but increases productivity and morale too.    
  • Adaptability: Good leaders are able to bring everyone together to work towards a common goal. This is especially beneficial in times of change, where teamwork, based on mutual respect and a clear purpose, is essential to overcome new challenges. 

Qualities For Effective Workplace Leadership 

1. Confidence

Few people will choose to follow the example of someone that clearly doesn’t believe in themselves. 

When a leader is low on confidence, it signals that they are either unsure of what they’re doing or that they are simply the wrong person for the job. Uncertainty from the top quickly spreads throughout an organization and can have a demoralizing effect that is difficult to turn around. 

Some people are naturally more confident than others. However, confidence can be nurtured in a supportive and positive environment. 

2. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand the situation of people around you. 

This is vital to good leadership in the workplace as it facilitates effective communication and builds trust with team members.  It’s difficult to build meaningful relationships with people who lack empathy and an understanding of how their behavior affects others. 

Empathetic leaders know how to approach people in challenging situations and adjust their approach depending on each individual’s particular personality and needs.  

3. Vision

A clear vision of the path towards future goals is what sets workplace leaders apart from managers. 

Visionary leaders, therefore, require a thorough knowledge of their organization and its current context, its potential for success and its limitations, and the imagination needed to break down future barriers. They also need to be able to communicate their vision to other team members. 

4. Honesty

Honesty in leadership means staying true to certain principles no matter what challenges arise. People see their leaders as a moral compass and someone who can guide them in uncertain times.

This means having the humility to own mistakes when they occur while making a point to learn from them. It means being open to the opinions and ideas of other people, especially those who might be more qualified in a certain area. It also means having the courage to give blunt and factual feedback, even if it can make for an uncomfortable meeting. 

Being honest in difficult situations isn’t always an easy task in the short term, but it is essential for building respect over time. Honesty also helps to avoid the unnecessary complications or misunderstandings that arise from broken promises or false expectations. 

5. Decisiveness 

Companies succeed and fail on the decisions of their leaders. They need to have faith in their abilities to make firm, assertive decisions and stick by them. 

Indecisive leaders risk losing the confidence of their team, as it shows a lack of direction and willingness to take responsibility. Good leadership requires quick and decisive thinking, backed by thorough knowledge of the situation and the openness to accept advice from others. 

Being decisive means being accountable for both good and bad decisions. It means accepting the burden when things go wrong and sharing success with the whole team when they go well.  

Leadership Styles in the Workplace

There’s no one-size-fits-all for effective leadership in the workplace—it comes in many different styles and forms. Depending on the situation, you could lead in ways such as:

  • Collaborative: Collaborative leaders believe in sharing responsibilities with others. They like to work in a democratic style, pooling knowledge and using all the resources at their disposal to make decisions. This leadership style is very useful for teams that have close relationships and a strong sense of community but can be a drawback when quick decisions are needed. 
  • Charismatic: Charismatic leaders inspire and motivate their teams with their social skills and infectious personality. They build a positive environment in the workplace with their empathic nature and close relationships, boosting the morale and reputation of a company with their commitment and passion for their role. This leadership style is good for a shot of energy in a difficult period, but such a personality-driven leader might struggle to make tough decisions that can potentially upset people. 
  • Servant: Servant leaders look after their people first and foremost, creating the right environment for them to thrive and fulfill their potential as employees. This kind of leadership relies heavily on empathetic and social skills, using a nurturing rather than coercive approach and trusting that, given the right circumstances, teams will deliver positive results on their own. It may not be the most effective choice in a fast-paced, competitive company that has high expectations and ambitious goals. 
  • Coaching: Coaching leaders take a one-on-one approach to their team, helping each member to reach their best with an educational and motivational approach. This coaching style is ideal for leaders who love to teach, having a transformational effect on their team and helping each member to grow and develop and become experts in their roles. However, this approach is not for everyone as it can lead to employees feeling overworked and overanalyzed—some people prefer to learn from their own mistakes. 

How to Improve Leadership Skills in the Workplace

Learning and improving leadership skills in the workplace is an ongoing process. Practice the following skills regularly to become a better leader.

1. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses

You might be a natural leader, possessing many of the necessary qualities as part of your character. However, it’s still necessary to build self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. A great way to do this is via regular feedback from your team, with a process called 360-degree feedback proving to be particularly valuable and effective. 

This kind of anonymous communication, delivered from the perspectives of multiple team members, gives a unique insight into how your leadership qualities are perceived by others. You’ll learn exactly which areas you might need to work on without the friction that might arise in more frank and direct discussions. 

2. Improve Communication Skills

Communication is a two-way street, so you must practice active listening with your team. Take notice of what people have to say, understand their body language, and identify potential problems before they cause damage to team morale. 

As a leader, you must remain approachable at all times and take a genuine interest in people’s points of view. Keep open lines of communication through regular one-on-one meetings and always deliver on your promises to help—true leadership requires matching nice words with tangible actions. 

3. Set Realistic Goals

Set both long-term and short-term goals to keep things focused and consistent. Keep your goals ambitious yet realistic—it can quickly become demoralizing for team members faced with impossible aims that lead to failure.

You can set goals during meetings like your end-of-year review and adjust them accordingly throughout the year. Don’t forget to highlight achievements, give solutions-oriented guidance, and leave your team members with a clear sense of the way forward. 

4. Be Inclusive

Being an effective leader doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. Seek the advice and expertise of others and show trust in your team by delegating important tasks when appropriate. Giving responsibility to employees helps them to feel invested in the company as a whole and creates an engaging and motivating work environment. 

You can also build empathy with your team by taking the time to help individual members when they’re struggling or under pressure. Recognize when people might need assistance before they need to ask for it and lead by example. Leaders who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and help out with everyday tasks can inspire and motivate those around them. 

Wrap Up 

Leadership in the workplace is a complex combination of hard and soft skills with a strong focus on communication and interpersonal relationships. 

Not everyone will have the necessary qualities as part of their character, but many aspects of effective leadership can be learned over time. If you practice self-awareness, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and apply the right leadership style for your particular situation, you’ll be on the right path to becoming a better leader in no time.

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