Nine Skills of a Leader Who Creates More Leaders
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The great business writer Tom Peters put it best when he wrote: “Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.”
It’s the kind of quote that makes intuitive sense on the surface and reveals its depth upon closer inspection. We often think of leaders as the people in charge – the men and women who assign roles, divvy up work, and give directions. But being a great leader is more than that. Great leaders don’t just bark orders and expect everyone to fall in line. They understand that great organizations imbue a culture of responsibility and actively work to cultivate new leaders.
Becoming the leader you respect is a difficult path to see, let alone walk. But it is possible, and that’s what I’m going to discuss in this article.
I’ve identified nine skills and practices that will help you become a great leader and foster a culture that’s conducive to developing future leaders, not just followers.
- Be authentic
You don’t need to compromise your principles or hide your personality to be a great leader – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t act like their authentic self, and people are much better at seeing through our work facades than we believe.
Your team will instinctively trust you more if you’re honest, honorable, and human. There’s no need to drop your filter or start acting in an unprofessional manner, but don’t hide behind a disingenuous “boss” mask.
- Show empathy
Empathy is an integral part of developing trust and deepening relationships with those you lead. Few things build loyalty in your team quite like being a good listener, acknowledging your teammates’ feelings, and providing support when you can. An employee who feels they can trust you personally will trust you professionally.
Sometimes it’s important to prioritize humanity over business.
Great leaders inspire their teams to come together and do their best every day. But that doesn’t always mean office pep rallies and big speeches.
Great leaders inspire by example. They set the tone and give their team opportunities to step up. They share their vision and help each member of the team see where they fit in and why they’re crucial to the overall mission.
- Listen to hear, not to fix
When a team member brings a problem to your attention, your first instinct is probably to fix it. It’s a natural instinct – you didn’t become the boss by not addressing problems, after all – but it’s not always the right one.
Sometimes people just need to vent. They don’t need you to fix their problems for them; they just need you to hear them out. Be present. Actively listen. If they want help, they’ll ask for it. If they don’t, chances are they just want to know you’re on their side.
- Encourage failure
Great leaders let their team members fail sometimes. They encourage action and initiative instead of just telling their team what to do, and they allow for the inevitable (but temporary) failure that comes with learning by doing.
You want your team to feel like they can try new approaches, make suggestions, and voice ideas and opinions that may miss the mark. Encouraging innovation means allowing your teammates to fail sometimes without fear of retribution.
- Give the gift of going second
Leaders define the subject of discussion and set the tone. Great leaders are vulnerable and create safe spaces and open environments where teammates feel comfortable voicing their opinions. Creating these spaces shows your teammates that they can trust you, which promotes group cohesion and encourages self-growth.
- Be patient
Everyone learns at their own pace and in their own learning style. Give them the time they need to grow. Organic self-growth is more powerful and longer lasting than forced growth.
- Be available
Great leaders make themselves available to their teammates. Those you lead will naturally be hesitant to disturb you, so make it easy for them to connect with you in whichever way they’re most comfortable. While your schedule may be busy, remember: Without your team, your schedule would look very different.
- Be self-aware
Understand how you come across to others. Recognize the effects your emotions, expressions, demeanor, words, and even your attire have on the people around you. Don’t let your title go to your head.
Leading by example
Being a great leader requires constant vigilance and never-ending self-improvement. These nine skills and practices will put you ahead of legions of bad bosses and mediocre managers, but you need to practice them every day. You have the power to build teams, departments, or entire businesses that cultivate leaders and run on a steady supply of trust and respect.
Think you’re up for it?
Matt Reiner is a CFA, CFP®, and partner at Capital Investment Advisors, a $2.8+ billion RIA in Atlanta. Reiner is also CEO of Wela Strategies, a sister company to Capital Investment Advisors, and is the founder and CEO of Benjamin™. Benjamin is an AI technology created by Reiner after seeing the gaps in technology used in his own firm. Reiner's true passion is using his vast experience to coach other advisors across the country, helping them evaluate their firms' practices and find the best strategies for future success. To reach Matt Reiner, visit www.MattReiner.com.
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