Scour the internet and you will find many articles about effective leadership. They consider the importance of organizational skills, strategic vision, decisiveness and influence. What these articles all have in common is that they focus on the leader, though what actually makes a leader great is their focus on the team and everyone else.
What the Team Needs
Of course, it's a leader's job to provide vision, personal guidance and team motivation, but the most important function of a leader is making sure everyone else is in position to work effectively. Leaders must remove all obstacles, be it company politics, intra-team disputes, or logistical challenges, and pave the way for everyone else's success.
Leaders must also ensure that the team has the tools needed and the organizational support to get the job done. Often, that means understanding that some team members may have better skills and more experience than themselves, and are better suited to making good decisions.
Above all else, let people know how important their work is and how appreciated it is. That means proper compensation and advocating for recognition throughout the organization, but it's also as simple as showing genuine gratitude, often. "Thank you" are the two most powerful words in a leader's arsenal.
Create A Culture of Trust
People want to be part of a workplace where leaders are proactive in sharing and make transparency a priority, with no surprises or sidelining. Keeping people informed will help everyone plan, progress, and ultimately create their own path.
Transparency isn't just about company direction. The best leader is one that everyone can relate to, and that means letting weaknesses show, taking a genuine interest in everyone's well-being, and making sure everyone feels like they are part of the "family."
Good leaders also know that when trouble brews, difficult conversations are needed. This is another form of transparency which requires courage to never take the easy way out, let things fester, or sweep anything under the proverbial rug, even for a moment.
Build Your Network
Amidst all the writing on building leadership networks to help strengthen alliances and create meaningful collaboration, it's easy to overlook how the team is actually the most important network. Spend time with them, understand and help them achieve their goals, and work together on setting priorities and overcoming challenges.
Get feedback often. Team input helps leaders lead better, and nothing is better to set the stage for a culture of communication than encouraging team members to voice their thoughts without reserve. Remember to truly listen and be open to change and improvement when necessary.
Get Their Back
To be successful, people need to know their leader will always support them, no matter what. That means aiding everyone on the team and defending them if necessary, creating a safe space for them to test new ideas and learn from inevitable mistakes.
It's also important to occasionally let others take the lead, at whatever capacity is appropriate. Opportunities abound to lead meetings, projects, or other significant efforts. Set expectations and remember to really take a step back so that they can learn and improve their own leadership skills. They'll appreciate the experience and one day they'll be sure to step up and have your back.