Leadership how to for dummies

Fight vs Flight–the go-to response is only to run away some of the time, the rest of the time the response is to get defensive. This twin instinct has certainly been part of the human psyche since time untold, and neither response is particularly conducive to great leadership. Effective leaders will maintain thoughtful control of their emotions and response to adversity, without completely giving in to either instinct.

So what are the emotional traits that an effective leader displays?

Knowing Their People

This goes far beyond simply knowing your employees’ names. A leader who doesn’t know the various factors that motivate their individual team members cannot hope to pull together a sustainable effort where everyone happily contributes towards a shared goal. The best way that a leader can effectively start the process of turning a bad situation around would be to boost their own emotional IQ, or EQ.

When a leader is overly emotional, it seems to trickle-down to their employees. However, if a leader consistently:

  • stays calm under pressure,
  • displays empathy towards colleagues and subordinates, and
  • leads by example,

they could potentially see unexpected returns, such as:

  • workplace accidents reduced by half,
  • 20% decrease in formal grievances, and
  • Increased productivity ($250,000 average).

It behooves a leader greatly to keep their own emotions in check and take the time to learn what factors motivate individual members of their team so that a sustainable performance expectation can be set. Speaking of which…


Making Performance Goals a Game

Gamification is the use of game elements, such as scoring points and watching one’s progress on a leaderboard. In marketing, gamification is used to engage the target audience, but it can also be used to reignite interest in an unmotivated team. 

For example, the use of a visual leaderboard gives employees a visual aid that not only displays their own progress, but also that of their peers, creating a sense of internal competition. In industries such as sales, where healthy internal competition is encouraged to help meet quotas, leaderboards give employees a reason to “be the best”, while also providing managers an easy way to track employee progress in a user-friendly manner.

Bottom line: if employees know where they stand and transparency exists between them and managers, morale can be greatly increased as long as levels of internal competition remains healthy. High emotional IQ is a big part of maintaining that healthy balance, so if too much competition is present, scale back and try again. 

Practicing/Living By Transparency

When enacting a new training and accountability program, not everyone will be receptive. Where some may welcome the new changes, others won’t. Losing a few employees after a big shakeup is common, but to ensure that the best ones are retained, the plan and approach need to be flexible to allow for growth, but also secure enough in its vision that the employees know exactly what’s going on and what’s expected of them.

This clear sense of purpose is known as transparency and when effectively implemented, can dramatically increase employee loyalty and reduce turnover. The new workforce is comprised mostly of Millennials, who tend to stay in a job for less than three years. Of course, this does nothing to help alleviate training/rehiring costs, so research has determined that:

  • Offering flexibility,
  • Listening to employees, and
  • Clearly communicating the company’s mission & values

are great ways to help reduce the impact of high employee turnover, but in the end, job-hopping doesn’t have to be viewed in such a negative light. In fact, job-hopping can show an employee’s level of ambition and desire to find meaningful work. In short, the phenomenon can help spur businesses to remain attractive and competitive in their respective niches in order to attract and retain the best talent.

And above all…

Leading by Example

The old idiom of “do as I say, not as I do” does not and has never applied in a productive work environment that retains employees. Bad bosses can display a multitude of behaviors, but quitting “due to a bad boss” is rarely the reason that’s listed during an exit survey, even if it’s the primary one. 

It’s been found that employees will endure certain negatives, such as lower pay and undesirable hours, as long as they enjoy who they work for. However, if those negative traits are coupled with a bad boss, employees have little motivation to stick around. 

To inspire employee buy-in and lead by example, direct managers can:

  • Display an understanding of the trade by working alongside the team instead of yelling from the sidelines,
  • Be mindful of what they say in all situations,
  • Respect the chain of command,
  • Take the time to stop and listen to their team members,
  • Accept personal accountability and learn from mistakes,
  • Let their team perform their tasks without micromanaging, and
  • Take care of themselves to keep their personal and mental health on point.

All in all, being an effective manager is much like being a parent in that not every employee will respond the same way and all eyes are on you in every situation. Be the best leader you can be by making your workplace a hotbed for growth, transparency and fun.


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