True leaders know the difference between influence and authority. Instead of leading by fear, influential leaders use their contagious passion and keen emotional intelligence to help their team reach its goals.
Leaders may not have all the answers. However, they’re willing to put in the work to learn and consistently take the best course of action for the organization. As their leadership skills mature, they also help employees reach their full potential and professional development goals.
We’ll highlight 10 habits and best practices that help managers grow into influential leaders and share leadership mistakes to avoid on your professional journey.
The three C’s of leadership include character, competence and communication. Others must respect your character, you should be able to handle any task you delegate and everyone must understand what’s going on.
Being a good leader involves self-awareness and a desire to improve. It also requires self-care. Ensuring optimal physical, mental and spiritual health frees you to focus on your team’s needs proactively.
Consider the following 10 habits and best practices for influential leadership.
Everyday management situations can incite fight-or-flight emotions in any reasonable person. Predatory customers, leadership misdirection and toxic employees can create frustration and rising emotions in even the most seasoned managers.
Maintaining your composure ― no matter the scenario ― is essential to leadership. Speaking respectfully, with tact and reason, is critical to being heard by others.
A true leader can respond to emotionally charged situations with a sound mind and calm disposition. They consider all possible effects of their response and act accordingly.
No matter the risk of success or failure, a leader exudes confidence and courage in situations others may question. Employees may fear a decision’s outcome but willingly support it when they witness confidence in their leader’s verbal and nonverbal messages.
Demonstrating confidence in your decisions ― or your team’s decisions ― encourages confidence all around. When leaders are confident enough to take the helm, employees are inspired to follow.
Accessibility can be challenging for new managers accustomed to working independently because they’ve only ever been accountable to their managers. In contrast, a leader is accountable to everyone they manage.
Strive to be accessible with an open-door policy in the office. Additionally, you must be proactive with your employees and actively seek opportunities to support their efforts and professional growth. To be a good people manager, come out from behind your desk, walk the floor and visit your team. Determine their roadblocks and commit to solving problems and setbacks together.
Leaders don’t seek recognition. Instead, they offer it up freely. Give credit where it’s due and recognize others’ hard work and efforts.
Leaders know recognition isn’t just about occasional rewards, employee bonuses and promotions. Recognition means identifying the daily accomplishments and tasks that benefit the team and its goals. When you convey an attitude of appreciation for workplace accomplishments, you help improve employee engagement, morale and motivation.
Every move a leader makes is consciously or subconsciously evaluated by those they wish to influence. If you make body language mistakes that send the wrong messages, your team will see the disconnect and trust you less.
For example, leaders know to stand when speaking and listening. They strike a neutral position that provides access to their space and demonstrates confidence in the message. When you stand with your arms crossed or speak with uncontrolled mannerisms, others become distracted and question your credibility.
Leaders speak succinctly, using only words that add value to their message. You can perfect this skill by practicing the less-is-more method.
Eliminate all nonwords, such as “um” and “uh.” Pause to transition between thoughts and topics, allowing listeners to consider what you say. Provide messages clearly and concisely to avoid rambling and confusion. Clarity builds confidence in listeners and credibility in the message.
What you say to your team is particularly crucial in crisis communication. Be transparent with your employees during a crisis ― especially customer-facing team members likely to face the brunt of the stress.
You can demonstrate respect to others with the following tactics:
By giving this level of respect while others talk, you strengthen your credibility and earn your team’s respect instead of driving employees away with disrespect, thoughtlessness and rudeness.
Leaders understand that no success is achieved alone. While recognizing others is essential, a true leader’s gratitude and humility inspire others to act.
When you acknowledge you can’t perform alone and show appreciation and humility toward your team, you encourage more focused, deliberate work. Humility demonstrates that you recognize that improvements are always possible, no matter how experienced you may be.
Leaders know there’s always room for improvement and never rest on their laurels. They seek feedback from trusted mentors and coaches to hone communication and management practices and continually improve business skills.
Inspirational leaders want to know how others perceive them and work diligently to earn trust and credibility from their teams.
True leaders know it’s their responsibility to mentor, guide, set performance goals and continually provide employee feedback. It goes further as you must also champion those ready to seek promotional opportunities and recognition.
Seek out the best leadership books to inspire your leadership journey. Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In are excellent places to start.
Being a leader adds much weight to your shoulders. Even if you deal with conflict, provide adequate feedback, are the “fun” boss and take care of yourself, sometimes mistakes happen.
Consider the following leadership mistakes to avoid. Don’t beat yourself up if you make them ― the leadership growth process is never-ending:
Building relationships with employees doesn’t end after signing the employment contract. Take time to bond with employees by consistently listening, observing body language and offering praise.
Every manager can improve by developing the right leadership habits and best practices. Even without a formal management training course, you can hone leadership skills with mindfulness and diligence. By doing so, you’ll elevate your position from manager to leader, gaining the influence and respect to change your organization and team for the better.
Stacey Hanke contributed to this article.