No matter what your specific management position entails, being a leader is not an easy job to have. You must wear many different hats and respond to the needs of many different people — not just your own team members and employees, but your managers and the people you are serving and for whom you are creating and delivering your product or service, too.
Everyone has a different leadership style, philosophy and way of executing her vision while leading her company or team. However, great leaders must always fill certain roles in order to do their jobs well, achieve progress and make their personal and company vision a success.
As a leader, your work involves developing a plan for your company and the work you and your team members do. Your responsibilities include outlining specific goals for your company and determining the steps you and your employees need to take to achieve them. You should also establish what metrics you will use for evaluating whether you have achieved your goals and plans. Determine what success means upfront:
• Do you want to increase sales numbers?
• Are you looking to streamline your processes?
• Is there a particular area, product, or department that you would like to improve?
Figuring out what success looks like will help you hone your strategy and the steps you will take to achieve it. Clearly define the best measures to evaluate specific goals, too. What kind of data will you generate? How can you use it to measure your efforts?
Communication is crucial for all organizational leaders—and really any employee at any stage in her career. You need to be able to communicate your ideas to your employees, the public, and your managers. You will also communicate with people on a regular basis; even sending a quick email, running or participating in a meeting and making a phone call are forms of communication. Whether you're a new manager relaying plans for the company, implementing organizational change or simply communicating day-to-day procedures and expectations, effective communication is one of the most important skills a leader can have.
You didn't rise to the top solely because you possess strong skills in your industry—although that is surely the case. Your capacity for innovation helped get you there, too. Good leaders don't just continue to do things the way they've always been done or sit back and let "followers" carry out the responsibilities; they continually develop new ideas. Not all your ideas will pan out, but failure is part of the innovation process. In order for a business to thrive and grow, change needs to take place—and you are the one who should drive that change.
Leaders certainly have their moment in the spotlight, but effective managers also give their employees time and opportunities to shine. Part of being a team leader or company leader means you should help your employees grow and thrive in their roles. That means giving feedback—both positive feedback when they've done something particularly well and constructive criticism when you notice a skill or task upon which they can improve—, offering direction and celebrating success, even if it's not your personal victory.
This one goes hand-in-hand with coach. A leader can't and shouldn't do everything. If you're good at your job, you'll know your own limitations and recognize when somebody else could be doing a task or project better than you could. Furthermore, you'll understand that others need to to learn because it takes many people to run a successful organization, and you need to give them a chance to develop their own skills, even if you may have already mastered them.
Management is not without its hiccups and bumps along the road. All leadership positions require a fair degree of flexibility. If a plan isn't panning out the way you wanted or expected it to, you need to be capable of recognizing that and changing course when it becomes necessary. No one likes admitting defeat, but part of being a leader means that you have to stop wasting time and resources on something that just isn't going to pan out.
You also need to adapt to changing environments. Sometimes market trends force a company to adapt and change with the times. For instance, new technologies are changing the way industries across the board perform their work, and as a leader in your industry, you need to make sure your company keeps up with trends. You don't want to be the one lagging behind.
Networking, networking, networking. It is a crucial aspect of any professional's life, and none more so than a leader. Depending on your specific leadership position and function, you may be the face of your company; if that's the case, or even you're not at the very top, you need to constantly promote your company and its values. Networking isn't just important for your company's growth; it's also essential for your personal growth.
• Attend industry events.
• Participate in company events, even those that seem unnecessary or unimportant to you personally. People may want and expect you to be at your organization's weekly happy hour, for example, and it will reflect poorly on you and your level of commitment to your employees if you don't show up.
• Look for learning opportunities and ways to improve your own skills and your business.
• Attend conferences and professional development workshops and courses. Not only will they help you build new skills or hone your existing ones, but you'll also expand your professional network by meeting other leaders in your industry.
No one said being a leader is easy, and with so many different roles you have to fill at a given time, it can feel like you are working around the clock. But great leaders who manage to juggle their responsibilities can accomplish great success for both themselves, their employees, and their organization. Take your responsibilities seriously, spending time and care on each individual role. It will be well worth it when you achieve your vision.