When you think of great leaders’ people often depict one outstanding individual who rose through the ranks to become the intellect and power behind their team or organisation. They are seen as the great hope who is responsible for the success and growth of the team, the individual who will also protect it from pitfalls and have the responsibility to motivate their staff and take their organization to greater heights.
I’m sure you’ll agree that one individual, no matter how incredible they may be, simply cannot perform all these tasks single-handedly.
Great leaders are always more than just managers or bosses that dictate operations. They are individuals that have the ability to combine self-assurance, enthusiasm, and charisma, which is often the perfect blend to get employees and players to follow them.
And that in my opinion is the key.
Great leaders only become great leader when they inspire great support from their team.
I’m sure we can all look back on a time when we were managed by a terrible leader. Someone that you couldn’t connect with, someone that never took the time to understand your needs, someone that drained you of all your enthusiasm and energy – and I guarantee you were never able to do your best work in this type of environment…
People often rise to the position of management (not leadership) because they are technically good at the role their team performs. They then step into the position of leader without any formal training and things start to fall apart.
This doesn’t mean they are a bad leader; they simply don’t possess the skillset YET to be the type of leader their team requires.
I stress the word yet, because despite what many people believe, effective leadership skills CAN be learned and like any skill, will improve with practice and time.
So, what are the key skills we should learn to become great leaders?
I’ve listed four traits that I believe are essential for all leaders and aspiring leaders to master.
Great leaders know the importance of both talking and listening. They are always able to effectively communicate in a concise manner with their team in a way that leaves everyone crystal clear on the organizational objectives and the individual responsibilities.
Great leaders don’t just master their own communication, they develop new ways to ensure communication across the entire organisation is greatly improved by actively encouraging communication between members of their team and creating a safe space for difficult conversations to be held easily, and in a manner where team members can speak openly without fear.
Mastering the art of communication and speaking with authority in front of others, is an incredible skill that will serve you well in work, relationships, sport and life.
How can you improve your own communication?
· Listen – No, really listen! Don’t wait for a pause to say what you want to say, listen to understand.
· Speak with confidence, be clear, concise and get your point across in a positive manner.
Be aware of non-verbal communication.
· It’s not just what you say, or how you listen…
· 7% of communication is simply the words used.
· 38% is about the way in which it is said, the tone and clarity
· But a huge 55% of communication is non-verbal – for example facial expressions, posture, and eye contact.
Good leaders are never the ones looking for a group of obedient sheep. They are more interested in building a group of creative and motivated individuals who can bring diverse ideas to the table. I believe that leaders with good character are masters of self-control, they are also usually open to novel and unique ideas, and embracing change.
We often depict leaders as incredibly vocal characters, but great leaders are rarely the loudest in the group. They remain in control of their emotions; they wait patiently to assess the mood and beliefs of others before calmly offering a balanced a clear judgement. Their body language and tone of delivery demonstrates their inner belief and self-confidence, and their warmth and supportive nature allows them to bring out the best in others.
When you are fortunate enough to see a great leader work in this way, it inspires you to be a better version of you and literally run through walls for them to support their vision.
Steps to improve character:
· Be humble. Recognise your weaknesses, don’t look to take credit for the work of others and show others that you genuinely care about them.
Humble people recognise that:
No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
· Determine your own principles and values. If you want people to follow you, then you need to be clear on what you stand for – and live these values each day.
· Practice self-discipline. The small things become the big things. Leadership requires huge amounts of self-discipline, resist impulses, stay focussed and see things through to the required outcome.
Great leaders are visionaries who have a clear idea of where they want their organization to be in the future. They are also adept at communicating this to the team who work for them. Employees will understand when difficult decisions need to be made when they are clear on the bigger picture.
Leaders recognise that a compelling and powerful vision is a fantastic motivational tool for their team and is key to people buying in and being willing to do everything in their power to realize this vision.
Steps to improve vision:
· Develop a clear vision for your own future, but ensure you align your vision with your values. When your goal is inline with who you really are, it will never feels like work.
· Dream big.
· Enjoy the process of bringing your vision to life. Don’t simply focus on the destination, it will likely change as you do.
Great leaders understand that happiness is essential to achieving success. A company will never be considered successful if its employees despise their work environment, – despite its numerous accomplishments.
An effective leader will also focus on the overall development of the workforce along with fulfilling the goals of the company. They will create programs that improve the physical fitness and mental health of their employees. This will be helpful in creating high performance teams.
Steps to improve joy:
What are you bringing to the team each day? I believe that your environment dictates your performance. You may not have overall responsibility for your environment, but you have a small amount of control over your little corner, and how you show up in it every day.
Prove to yourself and others that you are great at what you do, take pride in your work and bring joy to your work and your team each day – it WILL be noticed.
Show you care. Be the colleague or the teammate that you really want by your side.
Understand what’s really important to you and put that out into the world.
Celebrate and play together. Teams that play together, stay together. Knowing your colleagues on a personal level builds stronger bonds. It’s amazing how much easier a tough conversation can become after you’ve shot at each other on a paintball battle field.
Whatever your position is at this moment in time within a team or organisation, you should be looking to develop your own leadership skills. Don’t wait to be promoted to the position of manager, without understanding what is required of you to be a leader, you will very quickly be found out. Start now by introducing daily habits that enhance your own self-management and discipline.
Managing yourself effectively is the first step in managing others. Self-management entails knowing how to prioritize your objectives while also taking responsibility for achieving them. Great leaders are adept at managing their time effectively and producing quality work.
If you want to become more successful in sport, work and life, then it’s essential you develop the leadership skills to get you there.