Do you remember the day you became a leader? You were probably told something like this: “Congratulations, you’re a leader, starting next week! Let us know what you need, your assistant will have your new office keys and access card ready.” But did that overnight turn you into a respected and effective leader? Probably not.
The sad truth is that many new leaders don’t receive the training, mentorship, and support they need to excel in their role. While measuring success, updating team schedules, and submitting reports are indeed crucial administrative tasks, they won’t make you a great leader. Real success comes from mastering five leadership superpowers, all of which revolve around one thing – navigating interpersonal relationships. It doesn’t matter which company you work for, how long you’ve been a leader, or your exact job title – these leadership skills are crucial for building healthy relationships and boosting productivity.
So let’s begin!
- Know the Path
Who are you? Before you can excel at anything – communicate, problem-solve, or mentor – you must know yourself first. Self-awareness is the initial step towards becoming an effective and respected leader. By understanding who you are and what your default approach to situations is, you can overcome your limitations and focus on effective strategies.
These are challenging questions that do not have simple and quick answers, but they will certainly help you find the right path.
Communication skills play a crucial role in all the “superpowers” I write about in this blog, so remember and regularly practice the following communication techniques:
- Be concise yet specific.
- Communicate in a positive manner.
- Express yourself calmly.
- Actively listen.
- Acknowledge what the other person says without disagreement.
- Effectively manage transitions
As businessperson Robert C. Gallagher once said, “Change is inevitable.” This holds true everywhere, and the business environment is no exception. Leaders are expected to effectively manage changes and transitions, especially when team members resist the changes. Even positive changes can cause stress, and your team will remember how you supported them through the changes, for better or worse.
As a leader, the first transition you must manage is your own shift into the new role and team. Assuming a leadership position comes with many unknowns, especially if you’ve taken on the role in a new, previously unfamiliar organization. What happened to the leader whose position you are now occupying? What were the previous leader’s relationships with the team? It’s essential to understand that you and your new team are undergoing a transition together and that not everyone is starting from the same place. Some may be excited that you’re there, while others may be dissatisfied with the departure of the previous leader. Moreover, transitioning from a team member to a team leader can also be challenging. Applying the advice mentioned above can help you navigate these types of transitions.
- Take Control
Employees crave leadership, so take immediate control of your role and responsibilities as a leader. Your employees look up to you, including your emotions and attitude, which sets the tone for the team’s culture. How do you want to influence your team? With positivity, enthusiasm, and integrity? Or in some other way?
If you don’t take control, who will?
- Conflict Management
Self-aware leaders know how to deal with conflicts themselves and are willing to explore the outcomes achieved through conflict resolution. Managing conflicts is often challenging, as most people dislike it and would rather avoid it altogether. However, this is the leadership superpower that makes the difference between a good day and a developing tumor – a deeply rooted and unresolved conflict. How do you handle conflicts, and what are your typical results? Does your approach generally help or hinder the conflict situation? These questions are crucial for leaders.
There are five conflict management styles. While the temptation is to label them as proverbially good or bad, they are all right or wrong depending on the situation.
- 1. Accommodating – putting the needs of others before your own.
- 2. Avoiding – evading the conflict and hoping it will go away on its own.
- 3. Compromising – trying to find a solution that partially satisfies all involved.
- 4. Collaborating – seeking a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
- 5. Competing – standing firm in your position and disregarding others’ perspectives.
Although some of these styles may sound rigid and unproductive, a good and effective leader knows when to use each of them. For example, competing as a conflict management style is appropriate when deciding on workplace safety or compliance protocols. There is no room for compromise when it comes to respecting the law and avoiding harassment or workplace injuries lawsuits.
The least favorite style for employees is avoiding, as it attacks the deeply internalized idea of fairness. When someone notices that you see and hear but do not talk about something obvious to everyone else, it can eat away at the team’s spirit. However, sometimes you also have to address things in a way that may seem unfair, such as providing accommodations for only one team member. This is another reason to develop strong communication skills, as they will help you navigate the complex situations that leaders often find themselves in.
- Managing People and Personalities
The first four leadership superpowers are about self-management and dealing with potentially challenging situations. Now, it’s time to talk about the final leadership superpower that brings everything together: effective people management. If you lack this superpower, your other superpowers won’t be as effective as they could be.
For effective people management, you must:
- Know your people – Go beyond names and get to know the strengths, challenges, and professional ambitions of your team members. When you know your team, you can add value by fostering connections and helping people on your team achieve their goals.
- Be a supportive mentor – Create opportunities for your team to see you as a mentor who can facilitate career growth and transitions. Mentoring allows you to utilize your listening and observation skills to help your employees optimize their performance and achieve their goals.
- Provide training and development – Develop a team culture that values opportunities for training and development, maintaining a positive attitude towards continuous learning. Never treat additional training as punishment, as your team will quickly devalue and dismiss the importance of any training you provide. Collaborate with the HR team to offer relevant training opportunities to your team.
- Be kind – In a world of increased uncertainty, it’s especially important to be kind. When we’re stressed or in a hurry, it’s easy to forget the small courtesies that give human interactions the most significance and weight. Kindness also means checking in on individuals on your team. Does anyone have any issues? Is everyone getting what they need? The most skilled leaders can also combine kindness with determination.
- Take care of yourself – Being a leader is rewarding, but certainly not easy. Taking care of ourselves replenishes our own energy, allowing us to help others. Prioritize your hobbies and enjoy them. Regularly step away from work. Go for long walks. Develop your own professional development plan and work towards it. Taking care of your mental, physical, and spiritual needs improves your life and helps you become a more effective leader.
True leaders are recognized through their behavior, and only a respected and effective leader can be a truly good leader. By learning and mastering the five leadership superpowers, you will be well on your way to becoming the best leader you can be!