Good leaders all have one thing in common: They understand context. It’s a bit like parenting. You wouldn’t talk to a 7 year old the same way you would talk to an 17 year old. Context. They also have the practicality to know what works from years of experience, while still deploying their fundamental beliefs to drive their companies’ vision. Leaders continue to be practitioners despite their position. They still know how to get their hands dirty, to do the work, which makes them effective.
Here are a few tips on how to be an effective leader from this one man’s perspective that I’ve learned after building a business for over 20 years.
1. Being in charge is not a popularity contest
As a leader, you must make your decisions without any concern for whether people like or agree with you. A leader without a follower is just taking a walk. As a leader, you like to please people, so don’t become discouraged if this is difficult for you. But it’s up to you to make the tough choices. Sometimes those decisions are not going to be popular, but you have to make the choices that are best for your team.
2. When making changes to the status quo, explain your reasons why
Leaders are called and true leaders are called to shatter and shape the status quo. When making changes to the status quo, communicate with your team your reason for doing so. Emphasize that the results will prove beneficial for the organization. People who want to achieve the same goals will get on board.
3. Have a clear plan and the courage to stick to that plan
Building a successful organization requires two things: a clear plan for the future and the courage to stick to that plan. Have you ever noticed at half time, that the really good coaches never discourage their team? Even if they’re down, they never say, “We blew it. Let’s change the plan.” No. Good coaches and good leaders stick to the strategy. They execute the strategy. They call their team to get in the game and make it happen.
As a leader, you have a significant vision for your team. Significant visions don’t come without hurdles. Have the courage to stay in the game, execute the plan and make it happen.
4. The most important building block of team success is a positive attitude
Attitude determines your altitude. In other words, your organization’s outcome — and income — is determined by the attitude of you and your team. If your organization has an attitude problem, address that situation first. Sometimes that means cleaning house and getting rid of people who are not on board. An attitude that’s anything less of being completely onboard will not suffice. Either get on board, get off or get run over.
5. Team unity should exist both on the field and off
Create a company culture that encourages your team to gel both inside and outside the office. Offer avenues for your people to get outside of strictly business environments. Have a company picnic, a party, take them to lunch — have fun. It’s important that you challenge your departments outside the office.
6. Treat everyone fairly
It may be impossible to treat everyone exactly the same, but it is possible to treat everyone fairly. Make fairness your ambition. That doesn’t mean everyone gets the same treatment no matter what they do. Rather, treat every team member with equivalence. This means they have the same value, but are not EXACTLY the same. Each person in your organization is unique with what matters to them, which makes canned HR responses a thing of the past. As a leader, take time to create HR goals for yourself. If your people are really your priority, then you will make them just as important as sales.
7. Superstars should not receive special treatment
Giving superstars preferential treatment is a sure ingredient for a breakdown in team cohesion. Not much else needs to be said. Spend time with and recognize your superstars, but don’t treat them above anyone else on the team.
8. Follow your instincts
There is no textbook for leadership success. Sometimes you will find unorthodox methods that work for you. Every organization is unique and no textbook exists that covers all the challenges you will face. Have a guideline and stick to your team strategy, but remain open to going outside the guidelines to discover what works best for you.
9. Don’t overcompensate when things go wrong
When things go wrong — not if, but when — recognize that small incremental changes may be all that is needed to right the ship. Stay on course and make small adjustments as needed.
10. You set the tone of your organization
As a leader, you have to want to win more than anyone else in the organization. Your attitude and determination will penetrate the entire team. As leaders, we are responsible. If your team is failing, it’s your fault. When they lose, you did it. When they succeed, we did it.