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Influential Leader: What Makes a Good Leader?

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

"Leadership is an action, not a position.” - Donald McGannon

Leadership is precious, then, but unfortunately, it is not simple and easy. In fact, to prove just how challenging leadership can be, remember that many people – including those in leadership roles – have no idea how to be a leader!

We have an image of leadership and often think of it as “in charge.” That means we must micromanage our staff; if they do something wrong, we must shout at them. Right?

This could not be further from what a good leader is.

Many leaders make a mistake here of thinking they should act almost like a parent – where their team is the children. That means shouting when someone does something wrong, setting strict rules, and taking a “what I say goes” approach.

This is entirely the wrong attitude! When you approach your leadership role in this manner, you effectively smother your team’s creativity and free thinking. That makes them far less likely to do their best work. It also means they are highly likely to spend much of their time feeling extremely stressed and not doing their best work. This could eventually lead to them quitting!

Many an office has slowly crumbled because of staff being driven out of their organizations.

Apart from anything else, it is not your place to shout at or reprimand your staff. You have no right to do so. If someone does not hand work in on time, or if they are repeatedly late, and you then admonish them like a child in front of the entire team… what kind of message does this send?

Do you think they will be at all likely to do their best? Work the next day?

And what about their colleagues and friends?

You are not their mother or father. They are free people who can function as they so wish. You do not have any absolute authority over them, and you certainly are not superior to them.

Of course, if their behavior is not congruent with your team's needs, you can politely end their agreement. But that is different from yelling at someone until they run out of the office crying. You are equals who have agreed, and they have chosen to end the deal. Understand this.

Likewise, do not make idle threats about their employment or their position. Some managers will tell their staff that they “have the power to fire them, you know.” Again, do you think this is going to encourage the best performance?

Don’t you think they will end up just leaving the office entirely?

So how do you motivate a team that is not working at its best? We will get to that more in future chapters, but the idea is to guide and not force. Your team was selected because they should bring critical new skills to the table. Your job is to create an environment where they feel comfortable flexing that muscle and employing those skills.

At the same time, you must inspire them to want to work and help place the right person on the right task so they feel enthusiastic and excited to get to work. You need to supply transparent and concise instructions, but then step back and let your team’s skills come to the forefront.

An influential leader is nurturing, protecting, inspiring, guiding, and sacrificing. This guide will explain all that.


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