Six Drivers to Create Better Leaders

Leadership is not typically a skill that someone is born with. It takes understanding and working on your skills consistently and learning from your mistakes. No one really prepares you or explains "how to be a good leader" but it is ultimately a set of skills that can be developed. We’ve compiled a list of six drivers to create better leaders, since recent statistics show that there are significant leadership gaps among companies, despite 83% of employers believing it’s crucial to develop leaders at all levels. But, how does one become a leader? What is a leader? We’ve written about eight proven leadership principles after interviewing John Eades from Learnloft, but you simply can’t downplay the importance of training your leaders.

Projections, Inc. has had the honor of helping hundreds of companies to create better leaders and engage with thousands of employees since 1979. We’ve been able to help these organizations improve employee engagement and retention, create custom eLearning and training solutions, and support their positive employee relations strategies. It’s been clear since the beginning that moving your organization forward, and seeing positive workplace culture starts with your leaders. It’s critical they have the skills they need to support both your team and your organizational goals, and they can only achieve and hone those skills with the proper training, development, and guidance. 

We’ve compiled a list six ways to create better leaders. These are in no special order, but they can help your organization develop the skills they need to become better leaders who connect with team members at all levels.

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Practice Authentic Leadership

Being an authentic leader is about more than just “being yourself,” but rather fully embodying the characteristics of authenticity, like emotional honesty, communicating clearly, and leading by example. Gone are the days of, “do as I say, not as I do” in today’s workforce. Authentic leaders are transparent and set the example for all team members to follow. This requires self-awareness as well as believing in your own values and acting accordingly.

To create better leaders, it requires transparency and authenticity at all levels of leadership, from employers to frontline supervisors. This is achieved with an open-door policy, where employees feel they can trust their leaders and that their voices are heard and valued. Furthermore, authentic leaders respect work-life balance and guide their teams to do the same, while all working towards similar goals. If you recognize some of these characteristics of authentic leadership in your own supervisors and managers, you’re already aware of the amazing benefits of authenticity at work.

Learn to Give and Request Feedback

It’s no secret that it can be uncomfortable and even downright difficult to request feedback from your employees. However, soliciting feedback is one of the most important steps in improving your leadership skills. Part of the problem with feedback is that we associate it with criticism, and that breeds feelings of fear and anxiety for many people. The good news is, it’s possible to change the negative feelings associated with feedback when you create better leaders who feel confident providing feedback to their teams and soliciting it to improve upon their skills.

In order to give and request feedback, there are 3 fairly simple steps to follow that we’ve outlined more in detail here. Be professional and direct, open a dialogue, and offer frequent feedback, since the key to beneficial feedback is trust and transparency. Following that simple guideline will help your organization to create better leaders, and implementing the right training will create an environment that supports asking for feedback and promotes feelings of trust and mutual respect.

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Practice Planned Connections

71% of executives say that connected, engaged employees are essential to their workplaces. Your leaders need to use personal interactions in order to create connected employees and an overall culture of connectedness. Without this intentional investment of time spent towards relationship-building, genuine connections will never materialize. It’s essential that you prioritize planned connections between leaders and employees at all levels.

Understanding your employees’ and team members' abilities and values, as well as relevant facts about their personalities, will help you connect them. This will also help them to connect to the mission your company has entrusted you to achieve. You cannot do it alone, and you cannot do it with a disconnected team. If you’re looking to create better leaders in your organization, connected teams who trust their supervisors and management are an important piece of the puzzle. Not only is it essential to understand what makes your employees valuable at work, it’s imperative that you also treat your employees with a holistic approach. When you view each of your team members as individuals, with unique perspectives, and lives outside of work, it’s easier to form true and genuine connections that don’t feel forced or flimsy.

When you consider that each of your team members are individuals, with unique perspectives, and lives outside of work, it’s easier to form true and genuine connections that don’t feel forced or flimsy. #workplaceconnection #createbetterleaders

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Implement Effective Performance Reviews

Traditional annual performance reviews that cover a year’s worth of productivity and performance in a single meeting may soon be a thing of the past. Many executives and HR teams are rethinking performance reviews and processes entirely. Your team counts on you to see a full, robust picture of their performance, and that includes the activities they do well as well as their opportunities for improvement.

When you consider that a traditional annual review process focuses mainly on past performance, that doesn’t allow for employees to improve. It’s easy to see why the standard way of conducting reviews hasn’t necessarily been seen as a “positive” experience. Employees want to walk away from a performance evaluation meeting feeling empowered – not embarrassed. One way to combat this is frequent and consistent feedback between leaders and employees. Another strategy to implement would be to have meetings every month, or every quarter, to not only discuss performance in real-time but to be able to have regular check-ins.

Strive for Positive Employee Engagement

Of course, there is a lot to be said about the connection between engaged employees and positive organizational outcomes. However, there’s another connection that should be considered equally important: employee engagement and employee happiness levels. As we stated in this article, “employee engagement is about commitment, connection, and motivation, and when those three aspects exist, the sense of belonging and work satisfaction will naturally form.” A critical step on the path to create better leaders includes striving for positive employee relations and engaged employees who feel valued, heard, and respected.

The benefits of positive employee engagement include lower turnover, increased retention, support for a positive workplace culture, and much more. And employee engagement is developed on the basis of a few basic building blocks that include meaningful work, positive feedback, employee recognition, transparent and authentic leadership, and trust. It’s not always easy, but it is fairly simple. To foster a collaborative workplace with engaged employees, your leaders need to exemplify trust and transparency.

Your frontline supervisors and managers should be exemplifying #trust, #transparency, and #authenticity to foster a collaborative workplace with engaged employees. #createbetterleaders #employeeengagement

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Practice Transformational Leadership

Last but certainly not the least important way to create better leaders in your organization is implementing transformational leadership skills. Transformational leadership was initially a term coined by James MacGregor Burns, who was both a leadership expert and presidential biographer. It can be seen when “leaders and followers make each other advance to a higher level of morale and motivation." Transformational leadership behaviors include providing recognition and support, inspiring people to achieve their goals, providing encouragement, and setting clear goals.

While there may be a wide array of characteristics exemplified by transformational leaders, among the most important are strong, clear vision, the ability to communicate, and the power to inspire and motivate team members -- and challenge them to go above and beyond. As a transformational leader, your team members should be able to also challenge you and count on you to go above and beyond, willing to do all that you’re asking of them.

By portraying these characteristics yourself, and instilling them into your frontline supervisors and managers, you will be able to create better leaders in no time. 

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Director of IRI's Digital Workplace Solutions Group, and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.