Develop these qualities and habits to help build an effective management program.

The best leaders make managing people look easy, but in reality, it’s a whole lot harder than it appears. When you spend so much time and energy keeping the doors open and the lights on, it can be challenging to find time to work on your own professional leadership growth. But letting healthy management habits slip when you’re busy can diminish engagement and morale, which ultimately leads to employee turnover.

The good news is that leadership, like any other skill, can be improved. Read on for five qualities and habits that the most successful leaders possess and how you can cultivate them yourself.

No. 1: They are sincere.

We have often discussed the importance of authentic marketing and brand voice. But there’s a difference between authenticity and sincerity. As a leader, it may be more important to be sincere. Simply put, authenticity is defined as being true to yourself, while sincerity is more about how true you are to others. It’s possible to be true to yourself and yet be someone others don’t want to follow. You don’t want that.

A sincere leader is mindful of how others want to be treated and considers how their speech and behavior can impact others’ thoughts, feelings, and actions. Genuine leaders have a higher level of emotional intelligence and can effectively self-regulate their behavior during interactions with others.

No. 2: They manage their emotions.

Self-regulation is one of the most critical behaviors that a leader can cultivate. Getting it wrong can immediately impact your team’s performance. Consider how you handle stress. Your natural tendency might be to react aggressively, to shut down completely, or perhaps even to quip sarcastically when you feel extra pressure. But acting on those instincts with your team can erode trust and relationships, and they’re probably not in line with your values either.

It’s perfectly normal to be real and somewhat vulnerable with your team at times. But during a stressful situation, it’s a good idea to stop and gauge whether your intended response will help or hinder a favorable outcome.

If that fails, consider whether your future self would be proud or embarrassed to watch a video clip of this moment. Imagine how many fewer viral videos there would be if more people self-regulated! 

To learn more about self-awareness and managing your emotions and responses, check out this article Managing Your Emotions at Work.

No. 3: They recognize and work to improve personal weaknesses.

Self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence, and the best leaders can acknowledge their own weaknesses and work continuously to improve upon them. According to this list compiled from the Gallup Organization and HR consulting firm TowersWatson, some of the most common leadership weaknesses according to surveyed employees are:

  • Setting unclear expectations
  • Lacking follow up
  • Discouraging employee ideas and suggestions
  • Being overly critical
  • Tolerating poor performance
  • Micromanaging or not trusting your team
  • Being disorganized
  • Being unapproachable (discouraging ideas and sharing)
  • Oversharing
  • Being overly friendly/too chummy

Do any of these behaviors or actions sound like you? Take some time to be honest with yourself about the type of derailing behaviors or traits you may possess, and decide which ones you wish to change. From there, spend time reflecting and researching how to improve in those areas. You don’t have to be perfect; it’s more important to make progress. Like any other skill, your rate of improvement will closely match the amount of effort you put in.

No. 4: They make space for meaningful check-ins.

During a recent webinar on manager effectiveness, cognitive psychologist Dr. Jeff Smith discussed the importance of meaningful check-ins with staff, especially in periods of uncertainty and crisis, such as a global pandemic. According to Dr. Smith, consistent check-ins will help prevent employee stress, burnout, and disengagement, while maintaining motivation and higher performance levels.

You might not conduct one-on-one meetings with every frontline team member, but consider establishing this routine with your managers or shift leaders. This consistent practice can strengthen your management team’s effectiveness and set the stage for how they interact with their teams, and so on. Real leadership comes from the top, as they say.

When meeting with staff one-on-one, follow these best practices:

  • Be mindful.
    At any given time, a team member could be going through challenges in their personal and work lives. Leave therapy to the professionals, but try to make space for your team to share how they’re feeling. Start by asking team members how they’re doing, what challenges they are facing, and even what worries they might have. Doing so can relieve stress and help keep morale high.

Consider asking, “How can I best support you right now?” Dr. Smith suggests this question rather than “How can I help you?” because, he argues, team members may not feel comfortable asking for help and might be reluctant to show what they perceive as weakness.

  • Focus on performance and growth.
    A productive meeting gives staff encouragement, recognition, feedback, coaching and provides insights to help the team member move forward.
  • Be prepared.
    Don’t “wing” meaningful interactions with staff. Be prepared with performance feedback, previous conversation details, or action items to follow up on.
  • Be present.
    You might be tempted to multitask during the meeting, but it’s vital to give your team member your undivided attention during a one-on-one. Carve out the time to get and stay on the same page with your managers. Remember that many of your managers and shift leaders are taking their leadership cues from you, so if you want them to devote their energy to develop their teams, you have to do the same.

No. 5: They do what they say will.

No matter how many great qualities or how good you are at the habits above, you risk losing progress if you don’t follow through on your assigned tasks or fail to hold your team members accountable and on-track with theirs. Your team wants to trust you, so be sure you have a way of keeping up with the commitments you make. Carry around a notepad and write yourself notes, send yourself emails, or use a list app on your phone to track “to dos.” But whatever you do, don’t let your team down by not following through.

You might be tempted to try and completely overhaul your leadership style, but that could be overwhelming. Instead, focus a little at a time where you need it the most to build the strong habits you need to be at your best – and bring out the best in others.

Do you have other leadership tips to share? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter.


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