How To Be An Inspiring Leader

How To Be An Inspiring Leader

Many of us aspire to becoming an inspiring leader; getting the best out of our team and being well-respected. But it can all too easy become something you wish you’d put more focus on. SL contributor Bianca Barratt shares some of the most common management mistakes – and advice from the inspiring female leaders who’ve sidestepped them.

1. Avoid Confusing Bluntness With Honesty 

There’s nothing worse than hearing your manager start a sentence with the phrase, “this might sound blunt, but…”, bluntness is not the same thing as directness, despite many people believing it is. The former is lazy – it shows little attempt on the speaker’s part to consider the feelings of the receiver whilst the latter is respectful. As a leader, it’s your job to give direct and constructive feedback but it is possible to do this without being emotionally abrasive. By focusing on resolving the issue rather than berating the problem, you’re more likely to achieve the result you want which is, of course, the whole point of giving the feedback in the first place.

2. Praise When It’s Deserved 

We all acknowledge the power of positive reinforcement for children but sometimes forget that adults need it on occasion, too. If a member of your team has worked really hard on a project, achieved success or met one of their targets, be sure to acknowledge it. 

“What great leaders know is that it is far more motivating to be praised than to be criticised,” explains Hephzi Pemberton – Founder and CEO of consultancy firm, Equality Group. “Valuing and appreciating people's contributions creates loyalty and a sense of belonging.” 

Gallup’s research paper, The Power of Praise and Recognition, supports this. It concluded that employees who receive regular praise are more productive, engaged and loyal. 

3. Earn Respect Rather Than Command Respect 

Though taking on a management position puts you in the place of ‘leader,’ it doesn’t automatically entitle you to the respect of your team members. Inspiring leaders earn, rather than demand, the respect of their subordinates. Jane Kenyon, founder and CEO of Girls Out Loud , believes respect comes naturally when you’re trustworthy, dignified and lead by example: “My philosophy has always been to be an example of the behaviour I would like to see. Making those around you feel they can relate to you definitely helps them to respect you.

“Respect is a by-product of authenticity - if you're faking it, you will be found out and you'll lose respect as a result. I feel strongly about being open about my vulnerabilities, especially with my team, as it helps to build a level of trust. I don't like to think that I'm leading a one woman show, but I am the boss and I am accountable for the end result.”

This is something that PR and business owner Amanda FitzGerald agrees with: “Some leaders lead by intimidation and that probably comes from their own insecurities. This is toxic as it puts the workforce on edge, making them unable to deliver, to confidently express themselves and perform well. 

By leading through example, your team will reap the benefits of an engaged workforce with mutual respect.”

4. Have Clear Expectations Of Your Team

If you find yourself constantly disappointed with your team’s progress, it could be because your expectations are unclear. Engaged employees are usually committed to achieving success for themselves and the company they work for but if they haven’t been given clear goals to work towards, this becomes really difficult. A Willis Watson Towers survey found that around half of all managers do not set effective goals for their team members, even though companies that put a focus on this are generally more successful. If you’re not sure how to do this, the SMART goal strategy is a highly effective one: focus on setting targets that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. 

5. Don’t Micromanage 

You know that old saying, “if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself”. This mindset does little to help employees’ perception of you as a leader. A truly inspiring leader recognises the qualities of their team members and understands that a strong team is one that needs less, rather than more input from you. Micromanaging someone – controlling or observing every small task that you set them – usually has the opposite effect to what was intended. It makes people less, rather than more, productive; discourages loyalty, kills creativity and reduces respect.

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