“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.” Joanne Ciulla
When we think of a great leaders, we might think of women Ketanji Brown Jackson, first Black woman Supreme Court justice, Stéphanie Frappart, first female referee of a men’s World Cup match, Madeleine Albright, first female U.S. Secretary of State or Indra Nooyi, first woman of color to head Pepsico – a Fortune 500 company, Margaret Thatcher, first female prime minister of the U.K., Marie Curie, first female Nobel Prize winner or Betty White, first woman to win an Emmy for hosting a game show (among her other amazing accomplishments).
But what makes a leader great in a less epic venue, like work?
“Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.”
A good leader at work is a good communicator and clearly spells out expectations. Not only that, they foster good communication between their team. A great leader goes above and beyond leveraging chats, emails, and texting groups to bring their team together around workplace issues. They don’t just offer tools for networking—they help develop a sense of how to communicate effectively.
“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” Jacinda Ardern
A good leader in the workplace cares about their employees and shows it. Remembering the details of their lives and asking follow up questions (in a non-invasive way) about spouses, children, parents, and life events shows that they care about their employees and view them as more than just human chattel.
“Approachable people are “straight-up.” It is comforting to know exactly what to expect when you see them. What you see is what you get!”
A good leader is someone who people are not afraid to approach with a question or concern. Sometimes the office door needs to be closed. But when it doesn’t, leave it open, and maybe even have a bowl of candy or some coffee for visiting employees. They shouldn’t dread your office like they did the principal’s; they should know it’s a safe haven they can turn to for help.
“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
Everybody loves a boss who does nice things for the team, whether it’s renting a food cart for lunch or taking everyone to a movie. Bosses and managers who use rewards to motivate their team rather than threats and punishments will find they have a much more effective workforce under their employ.
“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” Dolly Parton
As the captain of the team, you’ll find that leading with example is the best way to go. If you’re plugged into the mission of your company or care about what your business does, that enthusiasm will be contagious and spread to your workers. Read up regularly on your field, network at events and attend conferences to be a cutting edge player in your line of work.
“Part of leadership is knowing when to go ahead with a decision that’s within your authority because you’re really convinced it’s the right thing, even if other people don’t understand it at that point.”
Dr. Ingrid Mattso
Nobody wants a tyrant for a boss, but they also don’t want a pushover. A good leader needs to be firm and resolute and also know when to put their proverbial foot down in a respectful way, whether it’s breaking up a water-cooler party or discussing mismanaged time with an employee. Clarify your principles and rules and stick to your guns—although per our earlier points, know when to bend the rules for extenuating circumstances.
“If you want to run for Prime Minister, you can. If you don’t, that’s wonderful, too. Shave your armpits, don’t shave them, wear flats one day, heels the next. These things are so irrelevant and surface to what it is all really about, and I wish people wouldn’t get caught up in that. We want to empower women to do exactly what they want, to be true to themselves, to have the
opportunities to develop.” Emma Watson