Leadership is one of the most fulfilling activities that a person can undergo. It represents the exercise of power and authority for the benefit of the entire team. Yet, no matter how fun it is to tell people what to do, leadership is also a burden. Authority goes hand in hand with responsibility, and the leader will be liable for negative results. Be it running an HR department or coordinating a proessay review, a project’s lackluster results will be blamed on the team leader.
If you are a leader and want to get better at your job, here are a few tips to increase your leadership skills and enhance employee engagement:
1. Avoid volatility
Certain aspects of your personality must be suppressed in hopes of becoming a better leader. Emotions have often been described as a rollercoaster because they fluctuate many times per day. Yet, while an emotional person is usually more relatable and charming, an emotional leader is seen as unstable and volatile. A leader is not just an order giver. One of the main functions that come with the job is arbitration. You are supposed to be stable, steady, and fair, regardless of your emotional state.
In a business world that can fluctuate wildly, the leader must be the constant that anchors all else. It is impossible to make fair decisions if said decisions are based on whatever hormones are floating through your bloodstream and not the actual facts presented. An emotional leader will cause his/her employees to be reticent and avoid engagement or discussion.
2. Learn to scout talent
A positive-oriented mindset must be developed. Instead of punishing employees who are underperforming, try and find a post that fits them better. Of course, this advice applies to employees who are underperforming despite working hard, not those who are unwilling to be productive.
Not every person has the same inclination or the same intelligence type. Some people may have a mind for mathematics and analytics, while others’ high verbal skills can cause them to be excellent salesmen. Detached and reasonable, you must learn to identify and scout talent, which can be easier said than done. A leader peels back layers of personality and perception and forms an accurate picture based on hints and actions. If you just rely on what is obvious and in your face in any area of life, you will be destined for mediocrity. All nuance and truth are hidden in fine details.
3. Learn to perceive morale as a resource
Changing one’s perspective is often vital while tackling business issues. Your leadership position’s most challenging aspect is to start thinking about resources, assets, and liabilities. This part of the job is also the most distasteful. Because you have to develop an analytical mindset, most leaders fall into the trap of treating their employees as rows in an Excell spreadsheet. The corporate environment is almost always mentioned in the same sentence as the words “soulless” and “dehumanizing.”
As a leader, you must strike a ballance between analytics and empathy. This isn’t just a piece of overly-emotional advice. Demotivated employees are far less productive than their happy and engaged counterparts. Even if the difference is somewhere around 10%, it will still impact your business significantly. Imagine improving your productivity level by 10%, without hiring any additional staff or paying for a single hour of overtime. Meanwhile, if you make your employees think that they are just cogs in a machine, their morale will drop, and with it, your department’s overall productivity will follow.
4. Challenge your employees
The best tests occur when the employee doesn’t even know that he is tested. As a leader, you should evaluate your subordinates constantly, and not just during an annual evaluation. Make excuses that you are busy with urgent matters, and mitigate some of your responsibilities to an employee that shows potential.
Watch how he reacts to the news, and observe how he coordinated with the team in your absence. This doesn’t need to be perceived as a major event, only as a temporary change of plans. From time to time, ease this employee into responsibilities, but watch him like a hawk. You are supposed to create the illusion that you are detached from the situation. In reality, even if the person you are testing fails, you will be there to grab the reins swiftly.
5. Get people to talk about themselves.
While the previous points are business-oriented, this final piece of advice applies universally. You can use it to make friends, bond with employees, and talk to your bosses. The reality is that people care about themselves, their family, and their circle of friends. Thus, if you are outside of these groups, they will rarely care about you as a stranger.
This emotional detachment is normal and rational, given that our brains would short-circuit if we cared about the tens of thousands of people we see during a lifetime. This phenomenon is also called Dunbar’s number. Dunbar’s number creates an interesting effect in conversation. Since people don’t really care about a stranger while talking to him/her, their interest will be peaked only by talking about themselves. To put it plainly: most people don’t care what you have to say; they are just waiting their turn to speak.
As a leader, you can bond with people just by getting them to talk about themselves. You have to be interested and ask follow-up questions to prove that you are listening. Most people will talk your ear off if you give them a chance. And the best part is that your contribution is minimal. The employee will do most of the work. Of course, you have to accomplish this in the mindset of a casual conversation. You can’t make it seem like a boss interrogating his underling. As mentioned, this advice can be applied to all areas of life and make you seem more social and likable.
Your employees are your most valued resource, and it makes moral, financial, and rational sense to treat them well. Good leaders are emotionally detached yet sensitive to their employee’s strife, and generally, they seem to promote an environment of meritocracy. Leaders must arbitrate disputes, evaluate performances, and prepare those who will follow in their footsteps. You have to strike a fine ballance and seem like a personable and caring mentor while also acting like a detached and fair authority figure.