How to be an Active Leader for your Small Business
Leadership is a process, not a thing you can simply accomplish and be done with. At any point, inconsistent approaches to management and poor decision-making can undermine it, and that’s why you need to know how to actively maintain your status as a leader by actively working to improve your processes for demonstrating the qualities a strong leader should have.
There are three key traits to work on if you’re improving leadership processes, and those are accountability, transparency, and setting expectations. There are a lot of other important aspects to managing employee morale in the long-term, but when it comes to your ability to lead a team in the right direction, those three determine the level of trust people place in your knowledge and your decisions.
To start building an institution with a culture of integrity that also delivers results, you need to start by being accountable to your employees. That means learning to apologize when you were wrong or when you failed to listen to the knowledge they bring to bear on a topic. Accountability as a leadership trait is about more than just admitting when you did wrong, though. It’s also about owning the decisions that sometimes cause employees pain, like downsizing or promoting one strong candidate over another. You don’t want to feel like your decisions are constantly questioned, but if they are, you need to be able to state why the choice you made was the best one you could, and you need to be prepared to accept the responsibility if things don’t go as planned.
This trait goes together with accountability, but they are distinct from one another in key ways. Transparency involves making sure employees understand what’s happening in a big-picture way, so they can make decisions daily that pull toward a common goal. That means being accountable when you have to introduce changes they find uncomfortable, and it means being clear about what you can’t say when there are confidential matters you have to keep that way.
The last aspect of leadership you need to make sure you master is setting and maintaining expectations. Employees need to feel that they’re all being held to a consistent standard, that those who don’t meet it are seeing intervention, and that those who exceed it get rewarded. Constantly raising expectations to wring more work out of a labor force will ruin morale. So will working some people harder because you know they will work harder. It’s also vital that interventions be geared toward retaining and retraining employees, to show you value them. When you put all these things together, your team will flourish.