How To Become The Best Of Leaders – A Guide For Aspiring Leaders

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In order for an organisation to be run successfully, it needs to have exceptionally skilled leaders at its forefront. Great leaders have the natural tendency to exhibit practical qualities and characteristic values that hallmark their capabilities within the working world. 

In this article, we share some of the top practical qualities that leaders can acquire, some of the leadership mistakes to avoid, and we break down what ‘criticism’ and ‘feedback’ means. 

This collated information can hence function as a guide for people aspiring to become the best of leaders in the future. 

Firstly, The Secret To Success Is Confidence

Confidence can be defined as a combination of multiple abilities. This include leaders being able to deliver vocally, being influential, possessing a form of presence, and conveying decisions with conviction. 

This is why confidence is always one of the practical qualities that effective employers should aim to possess to become the best of leaders. 

According to Lollydaskal.com, “confidence comes from practicing your competencies”. As such, consistently working on your areas of expertise and working on improving the work you produce can immensely boost one’s confidence. 

On the contrary, when a leader lacks confidence – the consequences tend to affect the entire team. It could come at the heavy cost of team morale when colleagues feel easily discouraged under the influence of an unconfident leader. 

As such, confidence is one of the most important and practical qualities that leaders should build in themselves as it can allow them to persist steadfastly despite the obstacles and make them the best of leaders. 

Learn To Be Resilient

Resilience is also one of the practical qualities to be acquired to become the best of leaders within your workspace. Unforeseen and unprecedented events also radically affect the business environment. Subsequently, being able to move past these obstacles are what sets effective leaders apart from others. 

Moving past problems does not equate to avoiding difficult situations. Instead, resilience lies in the leader’s ability to face distress and bounce back from it stronger than ever

At the end of the day, a resilient leader will have the ability to evaluate situations to achieve current goals and build on the past to accomplish future goals too. As such, resilience is also one of the practical qualities that leaders should learn to instil in themselves to become the best of leaders. 

Bring Out Your Humane Qualities

One of the practical qualities that leaders tend to overlook is empathy. As mentioned in an article published by Forbes.com, the ability to see the world through the eyes of others can help leaders to truly and fully grasp the true complexity of reality. 

According to an article published by imd.com, individuals need to reach a level of emotional intelligence so as to be better, effective leaders. As a result of expressing empathy with those around them, leaders will also be able to better connect with both their employees and clients.

The alignment of visions with other parties, as a result of embracing the practical quality of empathy, could ensue in meaningful relationships to be fostered and projects to be carried forward ideally. 

As such, being humane is one of the practical qualities that leaders should constantly practice to truly become the best of class. 

Now that we have covered what practical qualities leaders should have, there’s also the flip side to talk about. With the immense pressures of the current working world, anyone, including leaders, could end up committing mistakes. What sets great leaders apart from others is the quality of humility and the ability to learn from and avoiding these mistakes. 

Owning Up To Mistakes Does Not Lose You Respect; Being Dishonest About It Does

One big misconception about leaders is that they cannot make any mistakes ever. Because of this, one of the greatest mistakes constantly made by leaders is to not admit when they are wrong.

Great leaders need to understand the importance of acknowledging their mistakes. Being accountable is one of the hallmarks of being a successful leader. Accountability from leaders will, in fact, improve employee engagement in the workplace as it addresses the 4 needs of followers. Employees will want a leader whom they can trust, rather than one who causes an unstable work environment.

Another misconception is that leaders admitting to their mistakes will cause them to lose the respect of their followers. However the contrary is in fact the truth. Being honest and accountable about mistakes will help leaders gain respect instead, if the situation is handled well. An article published by Forbes.com says that “admitting your mistakes [can] earn you the respect of those you lead and make your leadership human”. Followers rarely tend to scrutinise over the mistake committed. We are all humans after all. Rather, the focus will be on how the mistake is being handled. 

Long Meetings Are Not Necessarily Good Meetings

Nobody likes to be a part of long unproductive meetings. It drains the spirit and the soul. However, according to an article published by business2community.com, both the number and duration of meetings have increased over the decades. 

It has now reached the point where executives can expect to spend up to 20 over hours per week in them.

Increasing the frequency and durations of office meetings does not necessarily bring results. In fact, a study conducted by Harvard Business School and Better Work Institute has found that 71% of leaders found meetings unproductive and inefficient. 

Unproductive meetings may take place due to numerous factors. Some of these include the lack of a properly-planned agenda, interruptions by technological devices, or even because there are too many participants in the meeting. 

Getting these details right is the most basic step that leaders should always do. Unproductive meetings will only eat up precious time spent in the office for employees to get work done. Successful leaders understand the importance of time and will respect people’s time.

Constructive Criticism Should Be Two-Way

Another particular mistake made by leaders in the working world is that some avoid constructive criticisms altogether. This applies to two scenarios – When leaders should provide, and when leaders should receive constructive criticisms.

Due to a pressure of being liked amongst people in the office, many leaders hold back on constructive criticism. They do this out of the fear of being seen as disagreeable. However, it is essential to understand the difference between productive and non-productive conflicts. There are differences that exist as opportunities for improvement.

With that being said, the communication channel for feedback to flow upwards should be kept open as well. Leaders should be open to receive constructive criticisms from employees if it helps propel the project forward.

Providing and receiving constructive criticism when necessary is an important skill that leaders must possess in order to bring a team or organisation to the next level.

Nonconstructive Criticism V Feedback

However, there is also a very thin line between nonconstructive criticism and feedback. All the best of leaders understand the disparity between the two and the impact they can cause.

The importance and power of feedback should not be underestimated. In surveys conducted by leadership development consultancy firm, Zenger/Folkman, with over 8,000 managers, 44% of them reported providing negative feedback stressful. 20% avoided the practice altogether while 40% conceded to never giving positive reinforcements to their employees. 

These are dangerous results. Ideally, leaders should be equipped to tactfully handle both negative and positive feedback, and avoid nonconstructive criticism at work. 

What’s The Difference?

One way to understand the difference between nonconstructive criticism and feedback is to understand the words’ etymological background. 

Cambridge Dictionary defines criticism as to “express disapproval (of someone or something) ; to talk about the problems or faults of (someone or something)”. 

On the other hand, Merriam Webster defines feedback as “helpful information that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc”. 

Criticisms tend to focus on the negative side of things. Entrepreneurs Jim Ludema and Amber Johnson shared that “Criticism looks backward and points out the problems”. It does not provide solutions and makes employees feel worse off than before.

They mentioned that feedback, on the other hand, “sees those problems in the rearview mirror, then points out a future where the problems don’t exist”. This is because of the difference in perspectives that leaders adopt when providing employees with feedback and criticism. 

An article published on Forbes.com also mentions how criticism deflates, while feedback inspires.

This highlights that the simplest way leaders can turn a criticism into a feedback – by providing helpful information with your observations about the employee.

In order to help employees progress ahead and make improvements on their projects, leaders can provide constructive feedback instead of criticism by focusing on how something can be improved or solved, instead of harping over the problem.

Nurture Strengths And Overcome Weaknesses

An article published on Forbes.com shines light on how “well-framed feedback can actually help people connect to their strengths and capacities”. This is because it allows and helps them to improve on themselves for the future. 

On the contrary, criticisms tend to be judgemental and often accusatory in nature. It tends to have the effect of “taking someone down for their perceived faults rather than repairing them”. As such, it does not help employees to overcome their weaknesses either. 

Focusing on nurturing the strengths of your employees and helping them to overcome their weaknesses is another way that leaders can provide feedback instead of criticism. Organisations with people who focus on their strengths reports that employees are 6x more engaged at work, 8% more productive, and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. 

In conclusion, there are many worldly qualities that leaders should aim to achieve, and there are numerous mistakes that leaders should avoid making. The road to being the best of leaders is never a straight and direct one and there will always be ups and downs. We must always understand that leaders are still humans who may make mistakes. Knowing how to navigate through those mistakes is one of the hallmarks of a great leader. We hope that this article serves as a guide for all aspiring leaders of the future. 

 

StrengthsAsia has helped many individual and corporate clients all throughout the region in identifying and maximizing their talents, in driving engagement and increasing motivation in their work and life. If you want to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, feel free to reach out to us here.

Aly is StrengthsAsia’s marketing and communications guru and lead editor. She's over the top inquisitive and everyone in the company knows her as “The Googler” as she practically googles everything. Honestly, we all worry for her… She is also the Principal Trainer for our one of a kind ice cream team building workshops in Asia.

Reshma is StrengthsAsia’s content writer and research contributor. She enjoys spending her time writing anything from poems to screenplays, and everything in between. She also finds joy in reading novels, baking and catching movies with her family. Participating in creative activities helps her find inspiration and new ideas for her work.

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