Jessica Goldman
Graphic Designer

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What I've learned about being a leader

I have had numerous leadership and management roles throughout high school and college. Some were by choice, most, ironically enough, were not. Despite this, I still don't even consider myself that great of a leader sometimes. I have many flaws, just like we all do. But over the years, I've learned through my mistakes and successes, as well as others, and found some key qualities that are essential to being a good leader. It takes a lot to make a great leader, and funny personality and bold ideas just don't cut it. 

1. Empathy

Being tough and not being afraid to tell people what to do are, of course, essential when leading a team. Yet oftentimes what gets lost are qualities that can make or break the trust within a group - empathy and compassion. Seeing things from other people's perspectives gets you out of your own head, helps you see what needs to be fixed or addressed, and instills trust within your group. Learning to be empathetic can he hard, but taking a step back and seeing things from the perspective of someone not in your role can improve employee relationships tremendously. 

2. Honesty

On the note of empathy, honesty goes hand in hand. One might think that leadership qualities simply entail directing and enforcing - but the strongest asset you can have as a leader is knowing when to be real with yourself and your group. It is important to speak like it is, treat everyone around you with dignity and respect, and instill values and morals to create a healthy and friendly workspace.

3. Ability to Delegate

This quality is one I definitely struggled with the most. I'm a hard worker, and it was always tough for me to see the potential in team members to complete tasks properly and on deadline. As any member of a team would say, the most important thing is feeling like part of the team. A crucial part of that is feeling needed and fulfilled by his or her role. And a crucial part of that, for the leader, is knowing how to delegate tasks to ensure everyone has something to do and feels like they are positively contributing. It is easy as a leader to feel like you need to do everything yourself, or not trusting team members to do a task as quickly as you can. Learning to trust your team members is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.  The best way to delegate is understanding thoroughly the strengths of your team members and ensuring that the work they are doing caters to those skill sets. It isn't easy, but reminding yourself that the work you produce be better, but your team members will be happier definitely helps.

4. Communication

Communication covers a wide span of topics, from email to meetings to delegating tasks. I have always been great with staying on top of email and staying organized, but oftentimes in high levels of stress I found I was never mentally prepared to handle managing a team on top of completing a deadline. But, the first line of communication is listening. And if you have manager or leader in your title, it is inevitable that you make yourself available to do so. Team members are going to come to you first, and you need to be mentally prepared to handle a large volume of questions and concerns. This is where empathy plays a major factor. It can be frustrating if a team member doesn't pick up on a task or idea as quickly as maybe another team member can. Or it can be hard to find the time to properly train new team members when things are hectic. Yet staying positive, staying open and ensuring you retain an objective perspective will ensure that all members, new and old, are consistently in the loop and happy. Building this trust is essential.

5. Positivity

In every work cycle there will be calmer days and days where you feel like your head might explode. For seasoned leaders, positivity reigns throughout all of that. It is important to be sincere about workload, schedules, priorities and deadlines, but remain calm and positive throughout the process. Strong leaders are naturally helpful, are concerned for the group as individuals and as a whole, and know what to say and when to say it to ensure everyone is consistently inspired to do their best work.

 

There are, of course, many other attributes that make some leaders stand out among others. And being a leader is hard work; it takes time, practice and learning from your mistakes to become a great one. If you are in a position of management, remember to treat others with respect, find empathy, listen, communicate well and often, be honest with yourself and others, and remain optimistic throughout it all. It's a challenge, but I believe in you.

Jessica GoldmanComment