The power of a leader does not lie in making great speeches and being perceived as unapproachable; it lies in his/her ability to relate to people’s problems and motivate them to find solutions. Leaders need to strike the right chord with their teams. There are no bad or unproductive teams, just bad leaders. As a leader, your first and foremost job is to know and understand your team. Once you understand their strength, weaknesses and priorities it would be easier to find a way to make them effective. Leaders are as good as their team.
With this article I would like to describe what are my expectations from an effective team leader:
Effective communication is the most critical aspect of successful leadership and with the increasing virtual environment working setup, this has become indispensable. On a regular basis, a leader should be able to communicate all necessary information, ideas and should be able to set up the right expectations within the team. Even if there is a new idea which has not been formalized yet, the team should be aware of it. Team members should feel completely responsible and involved at every stage of the implementation of a plan. There is a reason agile methodology is more successful than the waterfall approach. In agile each and every team member is communicated about every part of a sprint right from the start. Everyone in the team inherently feels more responsible towards the outcome. Similarly, team members expect clear and direct communication from their leader. Thus, always communicate with the team before developing any plan of action.
Don’t just hear their words but listen to them. Show real interest in what they have to offer and find practical solutions to their problems. Set timelines to address their issues and capture the progress made. I had worked with a team lead who used to prepare a summary of all the open issues (technical or behavioral) of each team member. And every week during the one-on-one discussion he used to track the progress of the resolution of those issues. If he saw there was no change in the state of an issue for two weeks, he would immediately schedule a meeting with all the parties impacted and try to understand why there was no progress on that particular issue. His method was a success and in a span of two months, 90% of all the complex issues were resolved. Team was very happy as they no longer had to face those issues. Active listening makes the team feel valued and motivated. A team member feels that not only their leader is empathizing with their situation but also trying to resolve their issues. Encourage their ideas and take out time to listen to their future plans.
Support the team
The real character of a leader is displayed at the time of crisis. It is very easy and convenient to praise your team when a project is a success. But good times never show one’s real strength bad times do. As a leader if things go wrong you need to stand up for your team and not throw any individual under the bus. When a team has failed and is being criticised by all the other hierarchies, their leader should show his/her unconditional support for them. If the team has failed due to an individual’s mistake, the leader should have a private discussion with the individual and find the causes of failures and things that can be done to avoid them in the future. If a leader protects his team at the time of crisis, the team will never let him down. Team will be ready to work extra hard and deliver on time when their leader needs them to. This sense of duty must be earned and not forced upon.
Respect and appreciation
If the leaders want respect, they must first learn to respect their team members. Ask their opinions, include their suggestions and encourage their ideas. Make them feel that their efforts and opinions matter and they are valued. Appreciate their hard work from time to time by sending small notes of gratitude. Surprise them with rewards – sometimes monetary and sometimes let them take a day or a week off so that they can spend quality time with their families. This will lead them to value the leadership and they will always be loyal towards you.
I hope these attributes can be used as powerful tools for leaders who are willing to put the effort into developing them. Finally, I would like to end the article with this inspiring quote:
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others – Jack WelchTweet