In a Tedx talk in Toronto, Leadership Coach Drew Dudley asked the audience how many of them were comfortable with calling themselves leaders. Only a scattering of people raised their hands. His message then was this: if we make leadership into something bigger than us, we learn not to expect it from others, and we learn not to expect if from ourselves. This may seem like a small idea, but it’s not. Better leadership applies to all areas of life, and can even help you succeed in business. Leigh Branham, author of the book “7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave,” surveyed 20,000 people to find out the reason they quit their last job. Above all else, the number one reason was poor senior leadership. Hence, better leadership could have seen staff retention for these companies.
Below are 5 steps to better leadership:
Remember and use names
People value connection. They value when you have made an effort to get to know them. Bill Clinton baffled and amazed employees and voters alike by remembering people he’d met once or twice on the campaign trail. When he spoke, he used the name in a sentence, and those he talked to claimed it felt like they were talking to an old friend. So when you see someone on the street, or in the office, don’t just nod and smile. Say, “Hi Michael,” or “How’s it going Paige?” A little effort goes a long way.
Make eye contact
Whether in a one-on-one conversation, or when making a speech to a room full of people, making eye contact with whomever you’re talking to is very important. A study from the Journal of Safety Science found cars were more likely to stop for pedestrians if they looked directly into the driver’s eyes as they crossed the road. The act of making eye contact enhances your authority and makes you appear more reliable.
Perfect your handshake
We all remember Mark Latham and (then) Prime Minister John Howard’s infamous handshake on the eve of the 2004 election. Politics is littered with stories of bad handshakes swaying the tide of public opinion. The same thing goes for everyday leadership. When going to shake someone’s hand, face your palm upwards with your arm outstretched as you walk forwards. This displays openness and confidence. Clasping with both hands indicates sincerity and control, especially when combined with eye contact. Ensure that you don’t leave the person feeling like they shook hands with a wet fish, but also don’t make the same mistake as Mark Latham, and maintain a respectable distance from them.
If you’re trying to implement a new system in the workplace or are deciding on a new direction based on ideas from your team, you need to know what you’re talking about. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wowed a journalist at a press conference who condescendingly asked him to explain quantum computing by providing a full description of the differences between the two computing systems. If you have to reject an employee’s idea, make sure you understand it first. If you are setting up a new system, do your research. It’s far easier to respect someone’s decisions when they are coming from a position of knowledge.
It’s a cliché saying, but good leaders lead from the back. If you have the chance to participate in a team activity below your pay grade, or see something being organised that you know how to do, get your hands dirty and get involved, even if it’s only a few minutes of chatting to someone about their ideas. People will see you as someone who worked to get where you are, and your achievements will be more than words on paper.
These changes can go a long way in making people respect and value your presence, and raise your leadership status for your future interactions. If you learn to expect small acts of better leadership from yourself, your employees will look to emulate your good work.