Here are ten skills every manager needs to master to become an effective leader.
Walk the talk. An effective manager leads by example. A good leader not only does the right thing but is seen to be doing the right thing, i.e. he or she passes the pub test.
Dropbox CEO Drew Houston recently spoke to Inc.com about the moment he realised the importance of integrity. He showed up late to a meeting he had scheduled – to address his employees’ lateness.
A colleague pulled him up on it. And he realised, “We can write down all the pretty words about our culture and our values that we want, but people pay a thousand times more attention to what you do as a leader.”
Managers must pick the right people for the job regardless of gender, ethnicity and other differences. A good leader is able to build an inclusive workforce. And they don’t let personal feelings get in the way of supporting people and working with them to get the job done.
A good manager gets everyone on board, building core values and ensuring the whole team works together towards a common goal. And he or she must be able to foster relationships both within the organisation and outside it – with customers, suppliers, service providers and the general business community.
If managers don’t believe in the companies they work for, why should their teams? Managers need to be organisational champions. They need to be on board with the direction of the organisation.
Effective leaders encourage and support the company’s decisions and directions; they don’t undermine them. This is particularly important when an organisation is trying to implement change.
To get the most out of their teams, managers must be able to clearly communicate their goals and expectations. A good manager ensures everyone knows what their role is, and explains the expectations for that role. And clear goals and expectations keep employees engaged, with something to work towards.
And honesty and openness are skills that build trust. Good leaders are able to provide honest and effective feedback, and they don’t shy away from the difficult conversations.
Listening goes hand in hand with effective communication. Managers need to really listen to their employees, not just hear what they want to hear. Want to know if your employees have what they need to succeed?
Ask them. And really listen to their answers.
Listening is key to building relationships with employees, because it lets them know they are valued. And encourages them to participate and contribute. Your team has good ideas and skills, gleaned both in the workplace and from their broader experiences. Let them know you are listening, and they’ll feel free to share them, adding value to the team.
These days it’s clear that emotional intelligence is a skill that cannot be ignored. It’s important to be able to recognise that things don’t and won’t always go your way. A good manager takes the good with the bad. Moreover, he or she will take responsibility and learns from mistakes. And emotionally fit leaders are able to manage their stress levels. They don’t take their emotions or frustrations out on their team.
Moreover, managers that are empathetic – who understand what makes their employees tick – are able to motivate and inspire those employees more effectively.
Learning to delegate tasks to the right employee or team is a key skill for managers. The more a leader takes on, the less they achieve because they are stretched too thin. Take a step back, figure out who the best person is for the job, and then trust him or her to get it done.
Colin Temple, Managing Director of schuh, is continuously voted one of the UK’s best bosses. Why? One of the biggest reasons is he doesn’t micromanage. “What I do is let people get on and do their jobs. We employ just over 4,000 young, eager people and it would be disrespectful to micromanage them, especially as they’re so much better at their jobs than I am,” he says. And he’s right. Successful managers trust their employees to do their jobs.
It’s the nature of business that problems will arise. The measure of a good manager is how they solve those problems. Managers need to be able to make the tough decisions – and quickly.
A lack of decisiveness leads to missed opportunities. And it’s just as important to make sure that once made, those decisions are then implemented, and achieve the desired results. If not, leaders mustn’t be afraid to change course. Leadership is a series of decisions, made with competence and confidence.
Get rid of silo mentality. It’s imperative for today’s organisations to share information across all departments and levels. A lack of collaboration leads to power struggles and lowered productivity.
Managers must be able to promote collaboration by unifying teams, setting common goals and incentivising collaborative working.
No two people are the same – everyone has a different style of working. An essential skill for managers is the ability to adapt their management style to the diverse needs within their team.
Moreover, the workplace of the future is flexible. Managers need to be able to oversee an increasingly mobile team, with more and more people choosing to work remotely.