May 25, 2023

From Emerging to Exceptional

From Emerging to Exceptional
Shivana Khoza
From Emerging to Exceptional

Do you feel the pull inside you to be a leader? Do you envision yourself empowering others to experience more joy in their work? Does the idea of seeing others blossom in their potential drive you?

Being a leader is so much more than managing tasks or completing the performance reviews of team members.

Some of us might be familiar with the saying “a natural born leader” and question if we have it in us to be good or even exceptional leaders. Or we might think our introverted styles will certainly exclude us from escalating in higher leadership roles.

Well, let’s settle this. All leaders are born (duh… it is one of the two things we all have in common, being born…. And then… well, you know, when we leave this earth… Ok, that is not what this blog is about, so let’s re-focus ☺️). And we all have the potential to be strong leaders – regardless of our personality style, or if we are extroverted or introverted.

One of the most important traits of strong leaders is the ability to connect with others. The strength and quality of our connection determine the level of influence we have with others, and hence how effective we are at leading. And while aspects of our personality might predispose us to being more relationship or not, forging genuine and strong connections is a skill that can be learnt.  

Whenever I talk about leading others, I have to be transparent about where I started.  When I first started managing teams, one of the immediate challenges I faced was balancing the drive for performance and results with connecting with my team members.

As an introvert and someone who is focused on high quality results, the art of connecting was not where I initially dedicated my efforts. And I paid the price. The influence I had with my team suffered.

As an emerging leader in your organization, you can probably relate to this. The lack of connection and influence with our teams can cause feelings of frustration and overwhelmed. And it is not uncommon to start questioning your own ability to be a strong leader…

No need to question yourself – you have it in you to be a highly effective leader. I know this to be true because leadership skill, like everything else, can be learned. So, if you are willing to do the work, you can become an exceptional leader!

Strategies to Grow as a Leader

Here are some strategies you can quickly implement to start engaging with your team to improve your influence, while also increasing collaboration and delivering results.

1. A big part of being effective leaders is developing our emotional intelligence. We can do this by intentionally seeking to understand team members. (This is an area where I faltered as a young manager and because I was not clear on each team member’s development needs, the expectations I had of each member were not realistic.)

It's essential to understand that each of your team members is unique, with different motivation drivers and strengths, and very different needs for support.

Taking time to intentionally understand team member’s specific motivators or challenges allows you to apply situational leadership principles which means adapting your leadership style to fit the situation or task at hand.

Author and leadership expert Ken Blanchard says,

“To bring out the best in others, leadership must match the development level of the person being led.” - Ken Blanchard

Blanchard developed the situational leadership model and this approach helps build trust with your team members, fosters collaboration, and improves overall team performance.

Organizational Health expert, Patrick Lencioni says,

“People want to be managed as people, not as mere workers.” - Patrick Lencioni

When team members feel seen and heard and that their leaders are genuinely interested in their well-being, they are more engaged in the workplace, which naturally contributes to more collaboration and productivity.

2. Equipped with a good understanding of the strengths and potential of the team members, you can now set clear expectations and goals. Make sure your team members know what's expected of them and help them understand how their work contributes to the success of the team and the organization.

When leaders are deliberate about letting employees know the impact of their contributions, they facilitate a more rewarding work environment. Patrick Lencioni describes this as the relevance that employees feel and says,

“Employees get a great deal of satisfaction and energy when their supervisor thanks them for what they’ve done and explains to them what a difference they’ve made for them personally.” - Patrick Lencioni

3. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Have regular check-ins with your team members and make sure they know they can come to you with any questions or concerns. Be open and transparent about what's going on in the organization and how their work fits into the bigger picture.

When communicating, remember that listening is perhaps more important than speaking. Listen to team members’ ideas, their suggestions, listen to their challenges, and listen to them share their understanding of their role or objectives. This will allow team members to feel heard and will certainly allow them to feel valued and that they are contributing to the direction of the team. Another priceless benefit of listening is that it gives you, the leader, the insight into the places where the team is working well and also those places where more attention is needed. And listening more also helps you to clarify and streamline the messages you share with the team.

As John C. Maxwell says,

“Everyone deserves to be lead well.” - John C. Maxwell

Remember, as a leader, you are in a privileged position to create a positive work environment and inspire your team to do their best work. You are holding the opportunity to lead others well.

If you're struggling to connect with your team, try implementing some of these tips and see how they work for you. There are many other strategies and tools available to help you grow in both emotional intelligence and in discovering and leveraging team members strengths.

Keep working at it and stay connected with your internal motivation to be a good leader. With consistent practice and application, you will emerge as an exceptional leader.

P.S. Looking for the practical tools to develop yourself as a leader? Book your complimentary discovery call here!

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