The question of how to be an effective leader has many answers depending on who you ask. Throughout our lives we encounter several types of leaders who not only exist in workplaces but also in our sport clubs, schools, families etc. - the natural leaders can be found anywhere. But a natural leader is not always an effective one. He or she might take the lead - but are they leading in the right direction? And in the right pace? In addition, there are also leaders that might not find it natural to lead but are aiming to do the best job possible.
In order to look into how to be an effective leader, we firstly have to investigate what we attribute to the word ‘effectiveness’. In the Business Dictionary, the word effectiveness is explained as:
The degree to which objectives are achieved and the extent to which targeted problems are solved. In contrast to efficiency, effectiveness is determined without reference to costs and, whereas efficiency means "doing the thing right," effectiveness means "doing the right thing."
So an effective leader is a leader who achieves what is planned and solves obstacles along the way. Effective leadership is not dependent on costs, but when discussing how to be an effective leader in the business world, it is hard not to take costs into account in one way or another. After all, businesses strive to become successful in the sense of making a profit in the end. However, effective leadership makes for more effective teams which in the end is profitable for all businesses. So even though the concept of an effective leader is not first and foremost linked with costs there is a natural ripple effect which also affects costs in the company.
The point that comes up the most when looking into how to be an effective leader is communication. It is commonly agreed that an effective leader is first and foremost an effective communicator that knows what is going on in the office and responds accordingly to this. An effective leader, furthermore, has an understanding of how employees work and learn best and makes sure to communicate openly about changes within the company or department.
When prioritizing communication with and to employees, leaders are boosting motivation among the employees as they know what is expected of them, where to turn for help or feedback and what their part in the progress of the company is. Research shows that employees respond very well to a clear definition of their role in the company and these definitions should be initiated by the leader. Additionally, communication allows employees to trust their leader, and ensure them that they know what their leader is doing. Investing in your team and talking with them on a regular basis is therefore perceived to be the most important thing when aiming to be an effective leader.
While it can be tempting as a leader to take over the majority of the work that lies within the company, delegating certain jobs and tasks can be key to effective leadership. The risk of not delegating can lead to employees tending to feel as if they serve little purpose in the company and will make them question their role. In addition, it can lead to you being overwhelmed and stressed which does not result in any effectiveness in the long run. Delegating tasks to employees also gives you the opportunity to dedicate time to the tasks that actually need your attention and skills.
Encouraging teamwork is highly connected to delegating tasks. Teamwork within an office environment can be an important part of how to be an effective leader. Offices where employees rely on one another and each contribute equally to the final project often result in more motivated and effective workplaces. Additionally, when employees work together on something that turns out well, it breeds friendship among them, allowing them to work even better together in the future.
Don't Treat All Employees the Same
While you don’t want to differentiate between employees it is on the other hand not encouraged that you treat them identically as this doesn't always result in the best work. Some people work best under pressure, others require encouragement and others might need a feeling of comradery between them and their leader in order to perform the best. Understanding what your employees need in order to succeed and then actually offering that to them to the best of your ability, will ensure a more productive team who will also turn to you when they need help. Some form of differentiation between employees is therefore suggested when discussing how to be an effective leader.
It's often easier to remember to call someone out on a mistake than it is to remember to applaud someone when they have deserved it. It is important to strive for creating an atmosphere where employees feel respected and appreciated and that means you have to be able to balance both praise and critique. While you don't want to pat someone on the back when they've messed up, openly congratulating an employee who nailed an important client meeting can inspire not only that employee, but others in the office to work harder. Furthermore, it shows employees that you pay attention to and recognize that they work hard to bring in the best results.
It can be tempting to start each day fresh, with the idea that you'll tackle each problem as it comes. However, it is usually much more effective to have a plan in place, even if that plan requires adjustment throughout the day. Having a plan will allow you and your employees to work more effectively on the tasks that you have prioritized, and will also make it easier for you to adjust if last-minute projects or unforeseen problems arise throughout the day. If the planned tasks can not be taken care of when you aimed for them to be, a clear plan will also help determine which tasks can be postponed and still let you have an effective day or week within the company.
All leaders would most likely love to have employees coming to work each day self-motivated and inspired by the work they do. In reality though, this often isn't the case and it can be your job as an effective leader to create that form of inspiration. This can be approached in many ways and can for instance mean reminding employees of the bigger picture, congratulating them on a job well-done or simply rewarding the team for hard work over the past couple of weeks. However you do it, it can be important to your job as an effective leader to ensure that your team is inspired by the work they do.
Most managers are able to hold their employees accountable for the work assigned to them and mistakes they may make. More difficult though, is holding yourself accountable as the leader. Another key trait when considering how to be an effective leader is the ability to understand your role and tasks, and hold yourself accountable to that. It might be tempting to postpone or neglect something during a busy week that may not seem particularly important, especially when you have only yourself to answer to. But If your employees notice this happening, they'll be less likely to hold themselves accountable for the work you assign them. Not only that, but the more you push off or neglect your work, the less effective your workplace will be.
When having a position as a manager, it is important to know what you're good at and how that applies to the job you need to do. Whatever your strengths, find a way to apply them to your job in order to be more effective. Equally important is knowing what your weaknesses are, and learning how to either improve upon those things, or work around them in order to provide effective leadership for your team. This is also closely connected to the concept of delegating tasks to employees. When being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses it is easier to delegate tasks that you will not solve as effectively as a member of your team might.
Firing a lazy or ineffective employee can be one of the most difficult parts of leadership, but often it can be one of the most effective ways to move your team forward. Beyond the obvious impact of keeping a bad employee, such as incomplete or unacceptable work, neglecting to fire an employee who is underperforming can leave the rest of your staff feeling that you either don't pay attention, don't care, or, worse yet, that you don't recognize the ways in which they benefit the team. While firing someone can be difficult in the short-term, it will go a long way towards helping your team grow in the long run.
Summing up, we can agree that communication is the most important factor of effective leadership. Adding to this conclusion, Deloitte recently looked into best practices for highest performing teams among their 65.000 employees and the main conclusion was, that the leaders who checked in most frequently with their team members were also the ones that were the most effective. This underlines that communication does in fact have a strong impact on how to be an effective leader - not only theoretically but also in practice.
If you are looking to focus more on communication within your team, Duuoo offers a free trial. The platform takes care of all logistics related to 1-on-1s so you can focus on the outcome of the meetings.
My name is Ditte and I spend my time at Duuoo working on growth projects. When I am not doing that I enjoy travelling to big cities.