How to be an Effective Leader

Whether you are climbing the ladder in a large brokerage, or on the path to creating your own multi-million dollar business, at some point you may find yourself in a leadership position. You could have a handful of employees or a staff of 50 looking to you for direction, guidance, support.

Our culture is oriented to “the climb,” reaching for the brass ring, being the Big Boss. But is often the case that those who get promoted into managerial jobs struggle because leadership does not come naturally. In fact, according to Psychology Today, studies suggest that leadership tends to be only 30 percent genetic. That means nearly all Big Bosses have a lot of learning to do in order to make up for the other 70 percent.

Researchers have also discovered that long-term leadership success is often tied to one, important psychological trait: a willingness to lead. Perhaps that’s the 30 percent genetic factor mentioned above. Many who suddenly find themselves in a leadership role, either through a corporate promotion or entrepreneurial success, simply do not have the willingness and drive to lead. They may have been great at managing the myriad aspects of being a top-performing sales professional, but they soon face-to-face with one of the great axioms of leadership:

You manage things; you lead people. —Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

You lead people! Being people-focused is the foundation to great leadership. To that end, here are several tips to help strengthen your leadership qualities:

  • Be a good listener. Many leaders make the mistake of thinking they must appear strong, and be able to issue directives, to be the boss. But the reality is, those who you lead want to be heard. An effective way to gain buy-in for any decision is to get input from your team, and be open to hearing what they say, even if you don’t agree.
  • Foster open communication. Yes, it’s important to listen to your team, but you must also be able to clearly communicate your own ideas and plans directly. Effective leaders understand how to set a vision, then let their team figure out how to realize that vision. Also, if there is important information about the business, your team should hear it from you instead of through the grapevine. Gossip can result in the spread of misleading information, which can hurt morale and productivity
  • Have their back. If your employees or team members do not feel like you support them, and have their back, it will also hurt morale and create a culture of distrust that, frankly, is difficult to correct once it’s set in. When you look after your team members and co-workers, they’ll look after you.
  • Practice fairness. Understand that each team member has a different style and approach to doing their job. But it’s also important to set parameters and policies for business, with clear, measurable accountability metrics. And, importantly, how you enforce these for one, you must enforce for all. Your team members will respect you for not having favorites.
  • Confidence inspires trust. Even the best leaders don’t have all the answers. But conducting yourself with confidence inspires confidence in others. You display confidence by accepting criticism, as well as the opinions of others to help solve tough issues. This type of confidence helps build a “we’re all in this together” spirit that allows everyone to share in the wins, and yes, losses as well.
  • Mentor, inspire, appreciate. Great leaders are also effective, willing mentors to their team members. At the same time, strong, confident leaders give them the freedom to fail, through which some of the greatest growth can occur. And, always be generous with your appreciation and encouragement. Yes, we are in this to make money, but research shows that money alone doesn’t buy satisfaction the way a kind word and appreciation for effort does.

Let’s close with a quote from one of America’s most noted leadership coaches and mentors:

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” —John Maxwell