Posted on June 25, 2014

5 Ways to Be a Better Leader

It’s a simple yet complicated question: How can I be a better leader?

Whether you’re running a small business or managing a department within a larger organization, leadership makes or breaks your success and the success of your team. And whether you’re new to your role or you’ve been in the same job for years, there’s always room to improve!

Leadership isn’t about having an MBA or reading the latest book. Paycor’s Chief HR Officer, Karen Crone, discusses the five ways anyone can be a better leader.

1. Show people that you care

People have to believe that you’re concerned about their well-being, not just as a business professional but as an individual. You can demonstrate your interest by simple informal interactions, quick exchanges in the hallway. Ask your colleagues how their weekend was. Ask about the people in the photos on their desk. Make a point to know about their families and their personal interests so you can have authentic conversations that aren’t just about work.

By building true relationships, you gain a better understanding of what people bring to work with them—selling the house, dealing with a sick child—so you can care for them during the hours of the day they’re with you.

During formal interactions, make sure your conversations are two-way discussions. Engage your associate by asking questions and talking about his or her professional development, not just the tasks being accomplished from week to week. Learn about what your employees love to do—and what they hate to do—and focus on occasionally getting out of your routine structure.

2. Recognize and leverage strengths

As managers, we tend to push on the weaknesses in an attempt to drive improvement. Of course we all can learn new things, but our core strengths are what they are. Some people are innately better at developing big ideas; others are the doers who implement those ideas. Some associates are great at strategy; others are aces at execution. Assess and understand your team’s individual strengths, and then put people in situations where you can help them be successful.

Be realistic about where your employees are. Expect a lot and push, yes, but be clear on where your team members are in their development or interpersonally.

Similarly, be open about your own weaknesses. Are you a task person or a relationship person? An idea person or a planner? Invite people into those areas of opportunity and give them the chance to succeed by supporting you with their strengths.

3. Treat people the way THEY want to be treated

We all know the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. But when it comes to leadership, the Golden Rule often needs some tweaking. Remember: leadership is not about *you!* So take the time to understand each of your associates—from direct reports to the C-suite—and treat them the way they wish to be treated.

Different people have different communication styles, learning preferences and comfort zones. Respect those needs and desires, and treat your colleagues accordingly.

4. Be available

It’s important to be visible and be out and about, amongst your team, not hiding in your office with your door closed. Be approachable. You might have numerous meetings or tasks, but block off time in your calendar that’s intentionally unstructured. And remember: Don’t bury your nose in your mobile phone! Be attentive and focused.

An aspect of availability is reliability, being the kind of leader who is consistent even while being flexible to meet the needs of various circumstances. Make sure you are equally accessible to everyone on your team, regardless of job title.

5. Offer feedback

Feedback is a gift. Your people want to know how they're doing, and they want to be challenged. During those conversations, effective leaders strike a constructive balance in their comments. People like to be pushed. Offer them stretch assignments that get them out of their comfort zone with the knowledge that you’ll be there to back them up.

The bottom line is: Leadership always goes back to caring.

Your work family tree has lots of branches, and you want all the people on those branches to advocate for you. Strong ties are built when both you and your associates benefit from the relationship.


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