The manager vs. leader discussion has been raging for the last few decades. Endless literature has been compiled on the perfect leader and the make-up of a leader. Training, conferences and seminars have been centered on actionable ways to become a prominent leader in the organization.
But, what does it mean to be a leader, and what impact do leaders actually make on a company? Unlike managers, leaders can be found in non-authoritative roles, and are rather colleagues and employees that have a natural ability to guide peers. Leaders will naturally make their way into managerial roles, so their roles and skills need to be carefully molded and developed. So, we took a look at the factors that make a good leader.
Leaders Focus on Reward and Recognition
Natural leaders will understand the impact that recognition has on hard-working employees. Apart from reimbursement and money, employees are largely driven by recognition and reward in the workplace. Upon reaching a goal, target or completing tasks, employees have been shown to be motivated, through a reward system, to set higher goals, and work harder to achieve those.
Rewards and recognition can come in various forms, from public recognition and award ceremonies to bonuses, paid days off or gifts or certificates. Promotions, added responsibilities, or more prominent clients are also a popular way of recognizing and rewarding hard-working employees.
Astute leaders know enough about their team members to choose rewards that will motivate them. Whether it be time off from a chaotic work environment, or a corporate gift box for the colleague who has just reached a significant target, the recipe is knowing your team and how to keep them motivated in their roles.
They Focus on Empowerment and Self-Development
Education, learning, empowerment and upskilling is a vital part to anyone’s development and growth in a company. And good leaders will make sure that this is taking place in their teams. Employees who have been provided with the latest skills and knowledge are able to perform their roles quicker and more efficiently than employees who are lacking in updated training.
The lack of training and skill-sets can also increase the amount of frustration experienced by the employee, which will, in turn, heighten conflict in the workspace. Leaders, therefore, focus more on providing the team with the essential tools and knowledge they need to perform.
Whether it be regular internal exercises, and skill updates, or sending employees to conferences, or skills-based training sessions, the employee will feel and be more equipped to tackle the job. Highly effective leaders include one-on-one coaching sessions in their management style. This adds personalization into the training, especially if the leader is highly successful at their role. This kind of coaching is incredibly effective and motivational to employees, especially if the leader acts as a mentor to the employee.
Leaders Believe in Innovation and Strategic Thinking
Historically, companies have taken a very strong, “here’s your script and stick with it” approach to employees. This has left very little space for innovation, growth and development in teams and in the company as a whole. Research, however, has proven that employee innovation can be one of the biggest drivers of business scalability, especially over the next five to ten years.
Leader support is a concept that drives away from the traditional authoritative concept of management. It allows employees to feel safe to come up with new ideas that question existing practices and are different from management’s view. This can, in turn, result in new ideas, concepts and practices which could benefit the organization as a whole.
In general, it is difficult to manage a number of employees, their ideas and expectations. Effective leaders are, however, able to create an environment where employees are free to express creativity, provide feedback and are able to input ideas. Engaged employees are active and motivated employees, and an effective leader will create this environment for them.
They Understand and Enforce Well-Being and Work-Life Balance
Numerous studies have been conducted on the importance of the work-life balance and its impact on the employee’s work. With ever-increasing responsibilities in workers’ lives over the years, more and more emphasis has been put on the balance between working life and personal life. It has proven to reduce stress, increase productivity and heighten overall employee satisfaction in their role.
Employers and managers have, over the years, been encouraged to start encouraging wellness programs, exercise clubs and remote working for their employees. Flexible hours and an increase in paid leave have also been nodded at due to the improvement in productivity, reduction in conflict in the workplace and overall stress relief, especially in highly stressful work environments.
A strong leader understands that every employee’s needs are different, that they are motivated differently and have unique requirements to perform optimally.
In wrapping up, the modern employee now needs a leader who will be able to understand and motivate them based on their unique personalities. Employee engagement needs are at an all-time high, especially during COVID- related restrictions and remote working. The role of a leader has significantly evolved over the last decade, and will most likely continue to do so in the upcoming months and years.