Think Like a Leader

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Posted: 19/06/17

Good leaders are master manipulators. Even if that idea makes you cringe, you can’t get away from the fact that effective leaders are dab hands at getting their team to do things they might not want to do. More importantly, they make them feel good about it.

Many argue that these skills are innate; that good leadership is something you’re born into, not something that can be taught. Others boil leadership down to a checklist of behaviours that can be ticked off: decision-making √; conflict-management √; workload-delegation √. But real leadership isn’t developed in utero or an in front of a screen. It’s developed in the mind.

Business psychologists refer to this as Leadership Thinking. Understanding your own psychological strengths and weaknesses as a leader is essential in establishing a solid foundation upon which to build a mental model that enables your best leader to emerge. Who that is will depend on who you are, but there are a number of tricks good leaders use to get the most from their teams.

1 - Ask, don’t tell

Good leaders question. They ask themselves, ask their colleagues, ask their team, ask their customers. Asking questions leads to collaboration and creative solutions. Giving orders stifles creativity and, more importantly, motivation. Next time your team are challenged, instead of telling them how to enact your plan, ask everyone to contribute to coming up with a solution. You might be surprised at the ideas that emerge, and you’ll definitely be impressed with your team’s motivation to enact them.

2 - Give praise, not cash

Contrary to very popular business belief, more money rarely equates to better results. Studies have shown that, in many cases, a cash incentive actually results in a poorer performance. Dan Pink expands on this in this compelling TED talk. Good leaders motivate their team through praise and positive labels. Publicly recognising the strengths of individual team members further draws out those strengths and is a far more consistent predictor of results. 

3 - Go for team wins

Ask nothing of your team that you’re not willing to do yourself. Bad leaders give orders. Good leaders get stuck in with their team. Your team should know you’re with them 100%, even on the occasions when you can’t roll up your sleeves alongside them. Crucially, great leaders shy away from the glory, deflecting credit to their team. There’s no room for ego here.

4 - Dream big

Have high expectations of yourself and your team. Never set goals you know you can achieve. That element of uncertainty not only ensures your team are driven to succeed, but actually experience greater levels of satisfaction when they do.

 5 - Shake things up

In today’s business environment, resting on your laurels isn’t just naive, it’s foolish. Things are changing, fast, and great leaders move with the times. You should never be afraid to challenge the status quo when things aren’t working. Sometimes the most dysfunctional teams just need a good shake-up to get things running smoothly again.

Mastering your leadership style and developing your natural management skills is the essential first step in getting the most from your team. At BlueSky Experiences, we offer a range of courses that will help guide you on the path to becoming an effective leader. Whether you’re looking to communicate difficult messages, manage conflict or learn to be more confident leading change, our interactive courses are tailored to help you identify your unique leadership style. Interested? Drop us a line today.

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