How to be a good leader – from a good employee
I try to be a good employee. I care if my work is meeting expectations and I care that I am making an impact. And to be honest, I think that I do ok at it. I am by no means the best, and I still have a lot of learning to do, but I think for a gal who started working straight after her A-levels, I have done alright in my nearly decade-long career.
I will admit, I am lucky and have always worked for companies that provided me with opportunities to grow. Even back in my first job, 18 and on the phones in a contact centre, I ended up managing a team of inbound sales advisors. Please don’t mistake this as some sort of not-so-subtle brag, because I was absolutely awful at this job. But it definitely taught me something about leadership – maybe even more now when I reflect as a slightly more grown-up version of myself.
Even more lucky than that, I don’t think I have ever had a bad manager. I have worked with really great people. People who not only invested time in my development but brought me along with them and provided the space to really learn how to do the job well. Did we disagree at times? Of course. Maybe even p**s each other off a bit? I’d say almost certainly. But all in all, their support has been invaluable to my growth and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
So, across all these managers, what shared traits did they have? What did they do that made them so great? What about them helped keep me motivated and driven to do well?
This is probably one of the biggest things for me. Just trust people to get stuff done, and deal with those who aren’t. And when I say deal with, I do not mean reprimand – you need to support these people and get them to a place where they have the confidence to own their role.
Trust goes both ways, so trusting them will help them trust you. And when your team have faith in you as a leader, you will get a hell of a lot more out of them. They will be more open with their ideas, collaborate with you to find solutions that work for everyone, and be motivated to work toward an overall goal. It also means they will be more open about their mistakes or challenges, helping you to solve these problems before they become a real threat to your business.
Being honest is quite closely tied to trust, but I think it deserves its own section. Let’s be real – we can all tell when someone isn’t being 100% truthful. So trust me, you may think you’re being subtle, but there are raised eyebrows throughout your team when you say something a bit off. I know that sometimes certain topics can’t be discussed however, if you have established an honest and open relationship with your team, they will 100% understand that. It’s about saying what you mean (and doing what you say), admitting when you don’t know something or if you were wrong, giving honest feedback (good or bad), and sometimes just sympathising when things are a bit rubbish.
You are just a person – like every single one of your team. You may have a fantastic education or a stellar work history, but when push comes to shove, we are all just here to do a job.
The best leaders are the ones who are ready and willing to help. The ones who acknowledge their teams’ contribution and don’t treat them like their underlings. It’s worth remembering that every cog has a place in the machine, and no matter how great you are, you would not be much of a leader without a team to follow you.
Some people are quick to blame their teams when things go wrong, and even quicker to take the credit when they go right. Treat people how you expect to be treated – and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty now and again!
While there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to great leadership, these qualities form (in my opinion) the bedrock of strong leadership, regardless of the sector or industry. As you continue to grow and lead, embrace these qualities, stay open to learning, and cultivate a supportive and empowering environment for your team. By doing this, you will undoubtedly inspire and impact others, just as my managers have done for me throughout my career.
Written by Natasha Agnew
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