The role of a leader has evolved over the last decade. Being a leader used to entail telling people what to do and taking charge of the “important” stuff.
But in modern organizations and with newer generations, the definition of leadership is changing. Good leaders now care more about the impact they have on their people than on their bottom line. They set a positive example that attracts people to willingly follow them. In addition, they support and nurture the growth of those around them, ultimately multiplying their influence through others.
This means a huge part of leadership is really how effectively you communicate with the people around you, which is why the best communicators tend to be great leaders.
This means being a leader doesn’t require a designated title. In fact, there are great leaders in all parts of an organization and at all levels of the hierarchy. So regardless of the title you hold, you can start being an effective leader now.
Here are the three ways that the best leaders communicate every day:
1. They exemplify the organization’s mission and values
This is probably the biggest mistake that many leaders make when it comes to leadership: they hold their people to a different standard than themselves. They want their followers to be team players, hard workers, trustworthy individuals and innovative risk-takers, but then they say and do things counter to these traits.
Millennials and younger generations are considering a company’s culture more when choosing where to work. They care about social issues and having an impact beyond earning a paycheck.
“2 out of 3 Millennials state their organization’s purpose is a reason why they chose to work there.” — Deloitte study
For this reason, leaders should embody the organization’s values and recognize their employees who do the same. They must visibly show their people how what they do every day is in service of these values, otherwise employees find themselves disconnected from their leader.
Not only this, but leaders must continually reiterate the importance of the organization’s values and highlight how the organization can only achieve its broader mission with the effort of everyone on the team. In this way, people following a leader feel connected to a greater sense of purpose and to each other.
The best leaders have a strong mission and vision and use these to guide all of these actions and decisions.
2. They reveal their authentic selves
Too often the case is that leaders feel they must be fully composed and stoic, never showing their personal emotions or true personalities. But leaders are genuine people and in order to be respected as such they must represent their true selves each and every day. They shouldn’t have to hide or pretend to be something their not.
The key here is that the greatest leaders show their authenticity in the form of vulnerability, by owning their mistakes and shortcomings. Instead of pretending to know everything and have all the answers, great leaders recognize their abilities and trust in others to support them in their leadership.
“If you don’t understand vulnerability, you cannot manage and lead people. If you’re not showing up vulnerably as a leader, you can’t expect anyone to follow you — period.” — Brené Brown
The best leaders also aren’t afraid to publicly acknowledge their mistakes and bad decisions, instead of hiding or covering them up. In this way, they gain the trust of those around them to continue leading, because people value openness and honesty.
And after all, we’re all humans who understand that no one is perfect. So a leader who pretends to be just that can never gain the respect and buy-in from their people.
3. They show genuine interest in their people
Leaders have an incredibly difficult job. They must make important business decisions and be strong in the face of competition while at the same time they must be kind to their team and support them in their growth.
Unfortunately, it’s often the business part of a leader’s job that starts to dictate all their actions and decisions. Business-driven leaders start distancing themselves from their people and see them as means to an end. They see them as a cost and business liability instead of as their greatest strength and competitive advantage.
Since leaders are themselves human beings, it is quite a challenge to separate the work mindset from more personal interests.
But the best leaders know that in order to create a high-functioning team, they must tap into what motivates their people. They must understand the person behind the employee — their background, strengths and weaknesses.
When leaders care about their people in this way, they are able to set high standards for them and mentor them to achieve those standards. In turn, this sets the expectation that when a leader struggles or fails, their people will understand and support them, too.
And, ultimately, leaders utilize this knowledge to capitalize on the team they have created. They leverage the talents and interests of their people and create opportunities for them to shine. And this, in turn, becomes the organization’s biggest competitive advantage.
“What produces loyalty, that irrational willingness to commit to the organization even when offered more money elsewhere, is the feeling that the leaders of the company would be willing, when it matters, to sacrifice their time and energy to help us.” — Simon Sinek
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