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5 Ways to Become a Better Leader

During a Tedx talk in Toronto, Leadership Coach Drew Dudley put a question to the audience and asked how many of them would be comfortable referring to themselves as a leader.

Just a small scattering of people put their hands up. Following this, his message was clear: if leadership is made into something that’s bigger than us as individuals, we learn not to expect it from ourselves and others.

While this might seem like a trivial concept, it definitely isn’t. Leadership can apply to every aspect of life, and can help drive success in both professional and personal contexts. Leigh Branham, who penned the book 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, did a massive survey of 20,000 people to find out what caused them to quit their last job. The most common answer was dissatisfaction with senior leadership.

To help you avoid this same problem and keep your staff happy and engaged, here are five tips for building leadership in your business.

  1. Call people by name

As humans, we place value on connection. Staff are no exception, and they will notice if you make the effort to get to know them. On his campaign trail, Bill Clinton amazed the public and his own staff by remembering people by name even if he’d only met them once or twice before. He used names in sentences when he spoke, causing those who listened to feel like they were chatting with an old friend. Try to implement the same strategy in your workplace: even if you just walk past an employee in the office, upgrade your smile and nod to a “Hi Peter” or “How are things Emily?”.

  1. Look people in the eye

Whether it’s delivering speech to a crowd or a one-on-one conversation, eye contact can make a world of difference. The Journal of Safety Science studied this concept and found that drivers were more likely to stop their vehicle for pedestrians crossing the road if the pedestrian made eye contact while doing so. Looking someone in the eye shows you are listening and gives you an air of reliability and confidence.

  1. Practice your handshake

Do you remember that infamous handshake between John Howard and Mark Latham the night before the 2004 election? Politics is rife with stories of public opinions being affected by bad or awkward handshakes, and everyday leadership is no different. As you go to shake an employee’s hand, turn your palm upwards and extend your arm as you approach them to demonstrate confidence and openness. You can even clasp with both hands to add control and sincerity, which is further emphasised by eye contact. Don’t make the individual feel like they just clasped a wet sock, but don’t pull a Mark Latham and get too close or physical with them.

  1. Know your stuff

If you want to take your business in a different direction or implement new processes based on staff input, it’s important that you have the knowledge to do so. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shocked a journalist who scornfully asked him to describe quantum computing by offering a detailed explanation of the differences between the two computing systems. If you are going to reject an idea presented by an employee, be absolutely sure you understand it fully. Similarly, only implement a new system if you have done your research. Employees will find it much easier to respect your decisions when it’s obvious that you are backed by the right knowledge.

  1. Get involved

It might sound a bit cliché, but quality leaders lead from the back. When you get a chance to get involved in team events or activities or see a task below your pay grade that needs to be done, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work. Whether it’s in a social or professional context, it demonstrates that you earned your position through hard work and truly understand what your employees do.

Taking these simple steps can make a huge difference when it comes to your presence within the workplace and how much your employees respect you. If you get used to expecting even the smallest acts of leadership from yourself, you will create an environment where staff will want to emulate you.


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