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What Makes a Good Leader?

What Makes a Good Leader?
Photo Credit To DOCRabeMedia/AdobeStock.com

Zara Ross, Chief Executive at Ben, the not-for-profit organisation that partners with the automotive industry to provide support for life to its people, shares some top tips for being a strong leader.


Leadership and management are not the same thing, but being a strong manager goes some way to being an effective leader.

We will each have our own style of management, but it’s important to recognise that research shows 42% of people leave jobs because of a bad manager (Approved Index, 2015). That fact challenges any of us who are managers to be reflective about our impact on others. When an employee leaves, this can negatively impact on a business with a whole host of consequences including a potential loss of customers, a ripple effect on other staff members and work slippage. Therefore, when staff leave due to poor management, it can have a huge organisational impact.

For employees who stay and put up with bad management, their health and wellbeing can really suffer. Research shows that employees with bad managers are more likely to suffer with high blood pressure, chronic stress, sleep problems, anxiety, substance abuse issues, overeating, heart attacks and other health problems (various sources, including Harvard Medical School and the American Psychological Association). Furthermore, an article by Management Today states that “Looking after employees’ mental health might not always have been seen as a top priority, but the business case is very simple: happier staff equals increased productivity and lower levels of absenteeism, thus impacting positively on the bottom line.”

With this in mind, I have put together my top tips on what I believe makes a good leader, getting the best out of your team, whilst also protecting their health and wellbeing.

1. Put the right person in the right job

Hiring the wrong person in the first place can be a costly mistake, so do your due diligence on whether the role fits the person and the person fits the role and company. Gallup research shows that people are happiest and most engaged when they apply their strengths to their job. Instead of changing people to fit a job, good managers play to the strengths of their team members and put the right people in the jobs in which they can do well.

2. Accept feedback, but find your own way

Whilst it’s a good idea to listen to what your mentors have to say, try to develop your own style of leadership. If you are new to management, ask yourself ‘Why would anyone want to follow me?’ Overall, I believe that people follow leaders because of what they stand for and how they help their team develop.

3. Be open, honest and straightforward

Trust is key to building a connection with your team, so be as open and honest as you can about yourself, the company, the key goals and what you need from your employees. According to a study by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) in 2010 (referenced in Forbes), ‘firms whose culture encourages open communication outperform peers by more than 270% in terms of long-term (10 year) total shareholder return.’

4. Delegate wisely

Delegation is one of the most important management skills, however it’s important to do it right. The following advice, derived from various experiences, is a good start: Define the task, pick the right person for the task, assess ability and training needs, explain the reasons, state the required results, consider resource needed, agree realistic deadlines, support and communicate and provide feedback on results.

5. Set realistic goals and deadlines

When there is a job needed to be done, we can easily become unrealistic about what is achievable. However, it’s good to remember that there’s nothing like an unrealistic target or deadline to de- motivate an employee and cause unnecessary stress. In fact, too much work and unrealistic deadlines have been cited as the top two reasons for workplace stress in the UK (Slater and Gordon, 2014). It’s important to set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) targets and objectives for your team members.

6. Make time to communicate with employees

Keep the lines of communication open – regular catch ups and 1-1s are a good way of doing this and make sure it’s two-way. It doesn’t have to be formal. Research has shown that communication is connected to higher employee engagement (Gallup, 2015).

7. Recognise achievements and say thanks

To develop a good culture, give credit to your employees when it’s due. If you regularly recognise and thank your employees when they do a good job, it will create a positive work environment.

8. Don’t take things too seriously

Try to keep things informal and have a laugh with your team if and when you can. Humour can be a good release in a difficult situation and when a task gets too tough, so don’t be afraid to use it, but use it wisely.

9. Model management

Try modelling your management style on a boss you really looked up to and admired, but be yourself because that’s what matters most.

10. Be understanding during tough times

Everyone has a personal life as well as a work life, and managers need to understand that. Be understanding if your employee is going through a tough time, listen and offer to help by planning ways to alleviate workload together and allow for reasonable time off when needed.


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