05/04/2014

By Tracy Ewen, Managing Director at IGF

Before you can lead a team effectively, you need to be unshakable in your knowledge of yourself and your company:

Your core values: What are these? Knowing what your ethos is means that you can promote and encourage those values within your team. Values establish boundaries as well as expectations of performance and behaviour; if you can effectively display these as a leader, then you can ensure that you and your team are all singing off the same hymn sheet.

Your vision: To lead effectively you need direction. Direction gives a team purpose; it sets goals and targets and gives you something to strive for, rather than just getting up each day and toiling away until the clock strikes five. To be an effective leader, your vision needs to be clear and you should be excited by it. This is your chance to make your mark, and if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect your team to help you get there?

Once you know these crucial things you can work on how to implement these within your team. It is in the implementation of your values and vision that effective leadership skills come into their own. Here are three that I believe are crucial:

Communication: What good are your carefully constructed values and vision if you fail to share these effectually with your team? Communicating what you want, need and expect from your team is mutually beneficial. Clear communication goes a long way to alleviating problems and negating any crossed wires. Work on explaining simply and concisely what it is you want. Remember, that being a strong communicator means not just expressing yourself well, but most importantly listening to those around you. The more effective you are as a communicator, the more cohesive you will be as a team and the more successful you will be leading that team.

Individual Approach: The importance of taking an individual approach is often under rated. These are your values and vision, express them in a way as individual as you are. However, be aware that not every member of your team is the same; each has their own strengths and weaknesses, to lead effectively you may be called upon to adapt your approach to capitalise on the different working skills of your team.

Empathy: Not a skill traditionally associated with leaders, but crucial none the less. Knowing your team, understanding the stresses and strains of the roles you work with will improve you as a leader. At IGF we have really embraced this and spend one day annually taking on someone else’s role. Last year saw me spend a day in our mail room helping to manage the sea of documents flowing in and out of our head office. It is a valuable exercise that quite literally puts you in another’s shoes. You will find that your leadership style is greatly improved by applying empathy. Understanding the pressures of roles outside of your own is a virtue of a truly effective leader.

There is no one definitive way to be a great leader, but there are many ways to be an effective one. While traditional values like strength and authority will always have their place in effective leadership, it is the more nuanced skills that will help make the transition between “employees” and “team”, to ensure the benefit of all.