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How To Be an Effective Business Leader

Management and leadership are not the same thing. If you’ve ever worked in a place with a toxic atmosphere, you probably noticed that the negativity permeated down from the top and broadly infected the workplace. Maybe the manager was incompetent, petty or unfair. Perhaps the manager played favorites or demanded unrealistic results. Either way, it became a place people didn’t want to be.

When management is ineffective and true leadership doesn’t exist, a business suffers from reduced productivity, low morale, lack of cohesion, and higher turnover. Such a business may continue to get by, but it will never reach its true potential.

As the saying goes, with power comes responsibility. When a manager is a good leader, a business and its employees will thrive. This requires real commitment, and here are some ways to reach that goal:

Follow the Golden Rule

Having authority doesn’t mean one should wield it for its own sake. Treating others with the same dignity and respect you expect to receive yourself, even when there is a problem to address, goes a long way. So does setting an example by never asking an employee to do something you wouldn’t do yourself and by pitching in when a task is unpleasant or overwhelming.

Two examples from my own experience come to mind here.

Once, when I worked at a well-known fast-food store as a teenager, a customer left a horrible mess in the men’s restroom. One of the managers on duty ordered a member of the janitorial team, an elderly woman, to clean it up. After seeing the mess, she objected, and the manager fired her on the spot in view of customers.

Another time, the superintendent of a school system showed up at one of the elementary schools during its Thanksgiving luncheon. Showing his support for the hard-working cafeteria staff, he rolled up his sleeves, put on some plastic gloves and a hairnet, and served food to children and visiting parents alike.

Imagine the example and the impact had that fast-food managers acknowledged the bad mess and offered to help the employee clean it up. Imagine the boost in morale for the cafeteria workers when the highest-paid employee in the school system showed he wasn’t too good to do the work of some of the lowest-paid employees. The former did not show leadership, but the latter did.

Set Realistic Expectations

After treating employees poorly, asking for unreasonable results is the surest way to ruin morale. As the person at the top, don’t become disconnected from what your employees do. Understand the tasks they perform and know what their limitations are. Most employees want to be productive and take pride in meeting or exceeding expectations, but when the expectations are unattainable given the time, resources, or skill sets available, despair and negativity can set in. Put another way, if you own an auto repair shop, don’t lose touch with what it’s like to get under the hood and get dirty.

Make Good Middle-Management Choices

As an executive or top-level manager, you’ll have to delegate authority by hiring and promoting people to positions in middle management. Because you’re entrusting these people with executing the business’s goals and visions and overseeing its day-to-day operations, these are some of the most important decisions you will make as a business leader. Even if you yourself are a positive leader, hiring the wrong people for mid-level management can allow a negative atmosphere to develop and flourish. By the time you realize what’s happened, the damage can be incredibly difficult to repair.

One of the easiest things to do and also one of the most important things to avoid is promoting people because it’s “their turn.” Instead, it’s crucial to identify who has the assets necessary for the job, even if that means promoting people with less seniority or looking outside the company.

Another thing to watch for is complacency. Middle management represents better pay and job security to some people. It’s important to promote people who will continue to grow and learn so that your business and its culture don’t become stagnant.

Be Open to Other Voices and Ideas

One of the best ways to make employees feel valued is for them to know they can ask questions and make suggestions and that their voices will be heard. The boss doesn’t have a monopoly on great ideas, and there are a lot of people who can offer valuable input and what is and isn’t working, what can be done differently, and what can be done better.

Making yourself open to constructive dialogue and making it easy for employees to communicate ideas to management and among themselves creates an atmosphere where people feel invested. It also cuts down on the proverbial water-cooler gossip and cliques that can spread toxicity throughout a workplace in short order.

Give Yourself a Break

Finally, you have to take care of ​you ​ . In today’s business world, there is enormous pressure culturally and on social media to work, work, work. As a leader, there will be times you have to work extra-long days or through the night, but routinely working 16-hour days, for example, just leads to burnout. It also strains relationships with family and friends and can inhibit new relationships from forming at all.

As hard as it may be sometimes, step away in order to have some down time and to rejuvenate your spirit. This will add balance to your life, and it will keep you energetic at home and at work. In turn, that will help you be a strong, positive leader.

If you can apply these strategies daily, you’ll be more than just the boss; you’ll be a leader. As a result, you’ll see employees proud to be a part of the team and striving to be as productive as they can. High morale will produce a workforce that operates with a sense of unity, and lower turnover will mean better consistency. It all starts at the top!

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