It takes effort, time, and a lot of practice to become an effective leader. To honor the fresh start and kick off a new calendar year, here are 22 ways to become a better and more effective leader in 2022.
1. Understand the Responsibility
Leadership is a privilege and a tremendous responsibility. This is not something to take lightly. As a leader, you have an opportunity to change someone’s life forever, both professionally and personally. To become an effective leader, you must keep this in mind at all times.
2. Forget the Title
Despite what some may believe, a person’s job title has very little to do with whether or not they are able to be an effective leader. It is all about your influence and impact on another human being that matters most. The title will eventually come, chase influence and impact first.
3. Be Authentic
It’s important to learn from others and have mentors in your life, but never forget that the most powerful force in the world is bringing your authentic self to work each day. Being an effective leader requires living and leading with authenticity, and your impact will soar as a result.
4. Lead From the Heart with Hope and Kindness
Bring your whole heart to work each day, not just when it is convenient. When you lead from the heart, you don’t just go through the motions. You devote kindness, hope, and wisdom in every ounce of energy that you have towards doing the absolute best you can, regardless of how miniscule the task is.
5. Lead with a Servant Mentality
We have all heard about servant leadership before, but very few actually lead others with a servant mentality on a consistent basis. It’s human nature to think about ourselves and what we will receive in return. Ignore this temptation. Serve others and serve them well. Over and over, again. Those who serve the greatest prosper the most. It is fundamental to becoming an effective leader.
6. Never Stop Learning
Those who are effective leaders never stop learning, regardless of their position or prior accomplishments. They understand that it is impossible for them to know everything, and their ego never gets in the way of their desire to learn and get better. Dedicating yourself to becoming a lifelong learner will pay off in every area of your life.
It is nearly impossible for a leader to communicate too much. You have to understand that the first five times you communicate something of importance, the majority of people will forget everything you say. Find creative ways to say the same thing, over and over again, whether that is sharing a story, role-playing, watching a relevant video, or using symbols to drive home key points.
8. Focus on Purpose
If you want to be an effective leader who is also an excellent communicator, don’t just talk about the goals and objectives of your team or organization. Highlight the purpose of your organization. How does that purpose fit into the personal context of every team member within the organization? Focus on purpose, talk about purpose, and build a purpose driven organization every chance you get.
9. Obsess About Culture Building
Nothing will drive your impact as a leader to enhance team or organizational performance more than intentionally building a more connected and high-performing culture. Don’t just talk about core values or express the importance of culture. Highlight specific behaviors required to win and most importantly, make sure you are living the culture yourself. Every effective leader I’ve ever met understood that culture is at the heart of team and organizational success.
10. Become a Coaching Leader
The leaders that get the most out of team members are the ones who coach others. Coaching leaders never miss an opportunity to guide their teams and do it in “real time” instead of waiting for quarterly or year-end reviews.
11. Show Your Face
Get out and visit with key customers. Lead from the front. Sitting in an office and never showing your face, whether with internal or external people, benefits absolutely no one. Make it a priority to be seen and schedule specific days on your calendar to devote entire days doing so.
12. Prioritize Training
If you don’t do anything else in 2022 other than prioritize training, I am fine with that. Building a solid foundation to develop and train your people on the competencies and capabilities that will drive the greatest impact on the business has to be an organizational imperative. It amazes me how many businesses still don’t place a strong emphasis on training. Your favorite sports team doesn’t just wing it and accidentally win a championship. They constantly train. You need to do the same.
13. Engage Your Team Often
Whether it is during team meetings or one-on-one meetings, consistently engage team members. Ask them how they are feeling and what you can do better as a leader to help them do their job better. Don’t assume you know what someone thinks or how they feel. Engage them early and often.
14. Provide Clear Expectations
A huge barrier when it comes to moving with more speed and navigating through the complexities of a constantly changing environment is a lack of clear expectations. Share what’s expected of team members and then have them recite back to you those expectations. It is alarming how many employees have been with their employer for a decade but still don’t clearly know what’s expected of them and what their role consists of. What seems like common sense is often not commonly practiced.
15. Practice Being Vulnerable
Displaying vulnerability as leader doesn’t mean you are weak or will come across in a negative way. As a matter of fact, it does the exact opposite. When you as a leader displays vulnerability, you let the rest of your team know that it is completely fine to not have it all figured out and speak up. Vulnerability is the pathway to building a more trusted and connected team.
16. Don’t Place a Strong Emphasis on the Competition
A common and significant mistake most rookie leaders make is spending way too much time on the competition. Thinking about the competition and constantly talking about the competition elevates the competition, not the performance of your team. Placing a strong emphasis on the competition produces reactionary behavior from your team, rather than being a disruptor and innovator.
17. Be Fanatical About Driving Alignment
We as business leaders often have the tendency to make simple matters way more complex than they need to be. When an organization is extremely aligned on who is responsible for what and what the overall objectives are and those are communicated frequently, the clarity created improves decision making and speed. Be fanatical about driving alignment in everything you do. It will always pay off.
18. Become More Self-Aware
Increasing your self-awareness as a leader is crucial in maximizing your overall impact. A practical way to become more self-aware around the behaviors that will make the biggest difference with your team is to conduct a self 360 analysis. This is accomplished by anonymously asking team members what you excel at as a leader, what you can improve upon, and let them provide one or two action items you can immediately start doing. Instead of wondering about the impact you are having on your team, ask them. When it is anonymous, they are more likely to open up and be forthcoming on ways you can improve.
19. Increase the Frequency of Performance Reviews
If you are conducting performance reviews only once or twice a year, you are missing a massive opportunity. Your team members deserve to know every month exactly what you think of their current performance, where they stand, and what they can do differently to improve. Shortening the performance feedback gap can do wonders when it is approached the right way. When you establish a monthly cadence, you open the door for more coaching opportunities and don’t catch team members off guard as much compared to conducting them once or twice a year.
20. Put Your People First
A people first approach to leadership is not only a surefire way to get the most out of team members, but it also unlocks the full potential of the entire organization. When customers and key stakeholders come before your team members, it may seem like you are doing the right thing, but it will eventually backfire. Who is in charge of delivering an incredible experience for your customers and hitting the numbers each month? Your people are. When you treat them better, with compassion and understanding, they will treat your customers better in return. This is a business and leadership strategy you can never forget.
21. Control What You Can Control
As a leader, the challenges that you will experience are endless. But strictly focusing on the challenging events or problems will never provide the solutions that you are looking for in order to move forward. Focus on what you can control. You can’t control pandemics and most external factors, but you can control how you and your team decide to show up, adapt, and respond in the face of adversity.
22. Take Decisive Action
There are many talented leaders who will throw around grand ideas and talk about their bold plans for the future, but then get paralyzed by overthinking the situation or deciding where to start. You don’t need to be perfect to get started, but you do need to get started to achieve anything of significance. Commit to a decision and then take decisive action. A focus on relentless implementation is far greater than a list of bold and wishful ideas.