How to be a good team leader: 7 top qualities
In the corporate world, we often hear the expression “be a leader, not a boss” or a variation of the kind.
What exactly distinguishes these two words, that end up carrying some of the same load? The answer seems to be a matter of empathy and encouragement, as key to success. Find out what makes a good team leader, and how to become one.
A good team leader, with good communication skills, among others, can deeply impact a team. Because, in reality, anyone can delegate tasks and define deadlines.
Good leadership is defined by its impact, by the way, it encourages and supports a team, and by the results, it brings to the company as a whole.
A good leader is by the workers’ side, helping them achieve their goals, and helping them be happier, more productive, and more connected to the team and their work.
Remember that before being a leader of others, you need to learn how to lead yourself.
As we’ll explore further in this article, self-awareness is a quality team leaders must have. Make sure you truly understand your strengths and opportunities and understand how you are perceived by others.
Ask yourself what motivates you and the type of impact you’d like to have on others. Being this self-aware helps you lead others most effectively.
Keep reading our article to learn how to be a good team leader in 7 steps. You will soon find out what are the top qualities to succeed.
How to be a good team leader in 7 steps
1. Promote (and participate in) open communication
It seems obvious, but transparency and honest communication are often sacrificed in work relationships.
An open line of communication is one of the most important elements of effective leadership.
A leader’s honesty and transparency should serve as an example for the team members he or she leads.
The employees are a reflection of the leader. Communicating openly about what is expected of them, preferably in a customized way, in the right way for each person, is key.
Take time to figure out which communication apps or modes each team member favors: phone, e-mail, face-to-face… Don’t shame anyone for their preferred way of communicating.
If you embrace the fact that someone prefers e-mail, they’ll feel more comfortable with you.
Showing active communication skills and transparency can build trust and improve overall morale.
Read our blog and find out how to improve team communication.
2. Be open to new and fresh ideas
This step follows the concept of open communication.
Encourage your team to share thoughts and opinions freely. Having this open field for sharing and communicating encourages innovation and motivates the team members.
This prevents teams to get stuck in old patterns of behavior.
3. Lead by example instead of giving orders
As a leader, you can, and should, be part of the team, instead of one step above everyone else.
Show your commitment to the team and inspire others by doing your share of work every day.
This includes cleaning the workspace, running errands, or accepting extra or weekend shifts when needed.
By acting like this, you’ll lead by example. You’ll show others what is required rather than simply telling them.
You’re a coach and a teacher, and you can make your workplace more collaborative without having to coax anyone. Growth is encouraged by teaching and working right alongside others.
Always remember that a good leader creates more good leaders.
4. Pay attention to team dynamics
The busy daily grind can get in the way of a team’s intention to fortify relationships and simply exchange ideas.
As a team leader, you carry the responsibility of taking the time needed to check in on team dynamics.
- Are people happy?
- Are things working well?
- Are people getting along?
- Is someone, in particular, more affected by an obstacle to a task?
Take the time to build stronger relationships, and manage emerging conflicts before they have time to grow into larger issues, and find the best ways to keep your employees motivated and productive. Being a team leader is like having a relationship. You need to take care of them.
5. Set clear goals
For the team effort to work its magic, your team needs to have clear expectations on what’s wanted from them and what they’re working towards.
As a part of a good communication effort, involve the employees in setting objectives and goals, both group and personal ones.
Setting clear and realistic goals is critical for your team to succeed. Having them participate in this process increases engagement.
This prevents a team from going static and being lost in their work. Revisit goals to modify or rearrange them as needed if you want to build a high-performing team.
6. Provide candid feedback
Honest feedback, be it positive or negative, is the best way to guide your team in the right direction.
People won’t be aware of their work performance if they don’t receive honest feedback. Be direct, be assertive, provide constructive feedback, and highlight the employee’s accomplishments.
Let them know when they do something great, and be as transparent and direct as you can, when necessary. The good rule is to praise in public and criticize in private. This way, you make sure that any negative feedback you might need to give will not affect the team morale.
It’s also important to acknowledge successes by outlining how they impact the business. Your employees will feel encouraged and motivated.
Read our guide and find what you can say to motivate your team.
7. Ask for feedback
Giving honest feedback and evaluating someone’s work need to be a two-way street.
Your team members, superiors, and fellow professionals are the best people to provide the necessary perspective on your leadership skills and style.
Firstly, because they’re the ones directly impacted by your work. Secondly, a true self-assessment can be difficult.
By receiving this feedback, you can identify the areas that you need to improve, in order to achieve leadership goals.
After all, you also need to be motivated yourself and eventually feel supported by your peers and staff, when changes need to be implemented.
Your team can give you essential insight into what’s working, what’s not working, and what blocks you must overcome to achieve success.
The top qualities of a good team leader
- Emotional intelligence
- Ability and time to provide feedback
- Strong ethics
- Technical expertise
- A growth mindset
- Ability to delegate and be flexible
1. Emotional intelligence
This is a fundamental quality, as successful work relationships don’t work if they’re simply built on technical expertise.
A good team leader can manage their emotions and influence and recognize others’ feelings.
It’s important to be self-aware, motivated, and eager to learn and develop more hard and soft skills. With emotional intelligence, stress and anxiety are better managed and subdued.
How does stress affect work productivity? Find out in our post.
2. Ability and time to provide feedback
It’s incredibly important to develop a rapport and relationship within your team.
Obviously, good working relationships need to exist across the company, with other team leaders and departments, but these are secondary to the team you lead.
Ensure that these team relationships are strong since you should have a bond in order to be able to give feedback on things the team does well, and in areas in which they need to and can improve.
Giving feedback to the team is a job that cannot be taken lightly.
3. Strong ethics
Your team will look up to you for guidance, but even more importantly, as an example to follow.
It’s critically important for the team leader to act in accordance with a strong set of ethics.
These ethics must match the company’s values, and leaders must hold themselves to high standards.
This attitude toward ethics can help people feel more inspired and motivated to achieve certain goals.
4. Technical expertise
As a leader, you should be able to coach and advise your team members.
Having the technical expertise and the necessary skills (in this case, hard skills) to perform the work, is a mark of credibility and growth.
Keeping a curious spirit and listening to others is a great skill and asset to have.
Without curiosity and the ongoing desire to learn, leaders stop growing and evolving.
6. A growth mindset
Can a person be a leader and help others evolve, if they haven’t a growth mindset?
People with this kind of mindset enjoy and embrace challenges, are always looking for new ways to learn, and believe that all skills can be developed.
With this kind of mindset, leaders can help their teams feel comfortable taking risks and making an effort to improve.
Read also: How to be more efficient. Achieve more in less time
7. Ability to delegate and be flexible
This is one of the critical steps in how to lead a team effectively: delegate.
Recognizing other people’s strength’s can be done by delegating tasks to specific team members. If you try to do everything by multitasking, you will not succeed.
Actually, multitasking decreases your employee’s productivity. It’s also one of the reasons why people are unproductive and why they lose track of time.
A good team leader has the practical and emotional intelligence to know which parts of a project need their action and which ones can be delegated to others.
This will make the team members feel more motivated and valued. The same thing goes for flexibility: as the work progress is monitored, the team leader must be ready to make the necessary challenges along the way.
If you need some help prioritizing and delegating tasks, the time management matrix quadrants might be what you need.
Companies are going through massive changes, still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, and the ongoing generational shifts. As this happens in organizations, the role of the team leader is more important than ever.
Most of our work is done on teams, after all. Even athletes in single-person sports like tennis or swimming, have a team that keeps them going.
In order to lead their teams well, leaders must try to grow continuously and help their team members do the same. Engage with them, share your knowledge and enable them to keep doing the best they can.
Note that it isn’t enough to measure what the team accomplishes. Team leaders also need to consider how the work gets done, how the processes are, and what the relationships are like on the team.
Paying attention to results, processes, and relationships provides a holistic way to ensure the team’s, and its leader’s, long-term success. Don’t ever stop learning from the examples of leaders you admire, inspiration is everywhere.
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