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10 tips to lift your leadership

Elizabeth McCormick

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Listening and learning create opportunities to lead the way.
Good leaders are hard to find, and great leaders are even more elusive. Whether there’s a team reporting to you or not, you have the ability to lift your level of respect with your peers while also improving your capacity for greater leadership opportunities.

To enhance your abilities as a leader, begin with a mindset of being open to new ways of thinking and interacting with your peers, your team and your organization. To lift your leadership, start with this list.

Listen to your team
It’s not necessary for leaders to know everything, but you do need to know what your team members’ individual skillsets are, so you will know who to approach to get the answer you need.

It is also important to ask your team for input, and listen to what they have to say. They will appreciate being included in any decision made — especially if it affects their workload, their department, their budget or the amount of time they have allocated. When your team feels like a valued part of the process, it helps improve both their personal connection and overall commitment to the desired results.

Make tough decisions
Your team may not like every decision you make, but don’t let that scare you into not making the right decisions, or worse, no decisions at all. Do your research and get feedback from your team. If you are able, explain your decisions diplomatically and address the concerns.

Delegate to team members
Great leaders are also great delegators. If you’re not sure what you can delegate, here’s a general process to consider:
  • Make a list of your specific tasks and duties. Put your name next to the ones you absolutely must do yourself. For example, signing checks, attending client meetings and certain high-level approvals are not tasks you can delegate.
  • For the tasks that are left, think of people on your team and their specific skillsets. If they are capable of doing a task at least 80 percent as well as you, delegate.
  • Empower your team with delegated tasks and duties while also allowing them autonomy — don’t micromanage them. Be sure to give them the authority necessary to ask questions and get help if needed. People will surprise you with their skills and abilities.

Everyone makes mistakes, and leaders are no different. When you make a mistake, be upfront with your team.

Admit when you’re wrong
Everyone makes mistakes, and leaders are no different. When you make a mistake, be upfront with your team. Your honesty and vulnerability will help open a pathway to better trust and communication. When you show your willingness to trust them with your mistakes, they will feel more valued as a team member and work with you to help correct mistakes.

Show appreciation
When your team members do good work, let them know you noticed. Write a handwritten thank-you note, give them a special gift card and take time to recognize them publicly. Appreciation goes a long way, and as you incorporate a culture of gratitude, your staff will reciprocate that appreciation through loyalty and quality work.

Get your hands dirty
The most successful leaders won’t ever ask a team member to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves. People in general acquire much more respect for leaders who aren’t afraid to jump in to accomplish any task needed.

Mentor team members
If you can help your members become more successful, the whole team will benefit. The more you invest in your team members, the more they will be willing to give in return. As you lead by example in a mentorship role for those in your organization, others with similar capabilities will follow your lead. This creates a culture where leaders develop a mindset of helping others succeed.

Bond through a social cause
To lead a team effectively, you need to be a part of the team. Start a new social cause as a team-building activity and make sure you lead the way. To add even more lift to your leadership, adopt a charity to support within your local community. Get away from the office, where you can get to know your team members on a more personal level.

Let your team see you learn
Leaders are learners. Let your team observe you reading a book or a trade publication in the break room, and encourage them to do the same. You could also start an optional book club focused on self-improvement and leadership books where you can discuss how those books have made an impact on you, and how they helped change the way you lead.

Keep meetings as short as possible
Everyone generally has a list of tasks and duties that take up their entire workday. Although necessary, meetings can be seen as disruptive and nonproductive, especially if nothing was ultimately accomplished. Meetings should have a specific purpose and agenda that involves everyone in the room. The more you respect the time of your team, the more they will respect you as a leader.

Elizabeth McCormick is a speaker and author who specializes in leadership. For more information, visit

The most successful leaders won't ever ask a team member to do something they aren't willing to do themselves.


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