5 Ways to Become a Better Leader in 2016
January 8, 2016

5 Ways to Become a Better Leader in 2016

by Brian de Haaff

Leaders are not winning a popularity contest of late. Even though companies spent record amounts investing in leadership programs in the past decade, a recent poll by Harvard University found that 70% of people believe we are in the midst of a leadership crisis. That’s sad.

If you are in a position to lead others, statistics like these should be a wake-up call. The ability to lead others has never been more of a privilege as it is now in today’s fragmented work environment.

We can strive to do better. After all, leadership is an art. Like other disciplines, it takes determination, practice, and refinement — and continual improvement.

To that end, have you taken a moment this week to reflect on how lucky you are to have a team?

Ultimately, sharpening your leadership skills will not only help you be a better you, but your effort will have a multiplier effect on others who depend on you for direction.

Here are 5 ways you can start becoming a better leader right now:

Get to know your team Before you launch into your meeting agenda, connect with your team on a personal level. Take time to ask about life, hobbies, or even weekend plans. Engaging personally builds professional trust as the two worlds are harder than ever to separate. This works both ways, so be willing to share glimpses into your personal life as well. These moments, however brief, will build camaraderie and strengthen your team.

Share the big picture How often do you share the long view with the members of your team? It can be difficult for others to grow in confidence if they are always in the weeds completing their daily tasks — and never get to see where they are headed. Sharing a high-level view of the company strategy — and how each goal ties back to it — will help each person to see where they fit and how their work matters.

Communicate with clarity Every single word you say matters. Keep track of how often sarcasm, cautious language, or even “innocent lies” obscure your real intentions. This causes confusion for those who need direct leadership. They now are forced to interpret the true meaning behind your words.

Demonstrate kindness When you show kindness, you set the example for how you expect your team to treat each other and other people that they interact with. This may sound elementary, but too many work environments are hostile to humans, and hostility does not breed cooperation or achievement. We have gone so far as to make kindness one of the core drivers of the way we work at Aha!

We do not shy away from difficult conversations, but are mindful of how others feel and perceive what is being said. We also look for opportunities to share praise when it is due. When a team member receives hatitude (which is gratitude, but with a special flair), they know that it is genuine and well-earned.

Be humble Being humble may seem like the polar opposite of of being a leader, but it is important to stay grounded, rooting out arrogance in your own leadership. No person is self-made; remember what you have learned from others, and how those lessons have informed the person you are today. Throw praise when it looks like you accomplished something great, but know that it was a team effort.

Think for a moment about leaders who have made a positive impact on your life. They likely have one thing in common: They take their responsibility to lead seriously and want to improve the lives of the people they work with.

To grow as a leader you must be confident and clear, which makes you vulnerable as well. You must identify goals that you want to achieve. You must challenge your old ideas and upset your patterns of thinking. Your small steps can start a transformation in yourself, others, and your entire organization.

What are some other ways to become a better leader? Leave a comment.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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