We’ve probably all had a boss that was difficult to work for, who focused on our mistakes and made us dread coming in to work. More importantly, some of us may also have been fortunate enough to work for a great boss – a strong leader who listened to us, valued us, and motivated us. The former typically leads to low morale and high employee turnover. The latter will increase the productivity of employees and create a culture of high performance. So, what’s the difference? Why does one lead well and the other lead poorly?

How to Be a Leader

While one in a million may be a born leader, the vast majority of good leaders are taught. Those who wish to pursue management roles often find it necessary to earn an advanced degree. At Ottawa University, you will gain the knowledge and skills to become a leader. The following eight leadership qualities will inspire you to become a great leader.

1. Be an empathetic leader

Empathy has been identified as the #1 leadership skill. Unfortunately, many leaders have been promoted to their positions based on past performance or because of their industry credentials, but they have little or no leadership training. The result can be a heavy-handed, order-giving manager with unclear expectations and little empathy for his or her employees. Low productivity and morale are usually the result.

Being genuine with your team shouldn’t mean becoming best friends with them. It means sharing our common human experience, bringing down the defensive walls, and showing that you’re a real person too. It makes you seem more approachable and helps you earn respect. Are you still the boss? Yes, but by exhibiting empathy and mutual respect, employees are far more likely to give and accept honest feedback. 

2. Be a good listener

Who doesn’t want to be heard? Hand in hand with empathy, a good leader values the input of his or her team members, wants to know what makes them tick, and helps them set and achieve career goals. Will you always agree? Of course not, but demonstrating you value them by truly listening and acting on what you hear will earn you a huge amount of respect and loyalty. Is there a conflict with another employee? Address it as quickly as possible. Is there a family emergency? Offer a way to adjust their work schedule without worrying about their job security.

Don’t forget that listening to employee feedback can prove invaluable. When they have good ideas, then let them know! The more you are able to build that professional relationship with your staff members, then the easier it will be for them to be honest about the positive improvements that should be made.

How to Be a Good Leader at Work

3. Be a model for embracing change

Change can derail the best of leaders. In fact, a recent study found that the primary leadership challenge among 1,000 senior executives was managing change & innovation. Learning how to lead through change, then, is a critical skill that leaders must have, whether it’s adopting new policies and procedures, introducing a new business model, or adapting to a new CEO’s leadership style. Effective leaders model a positive and professional response to change and set the standard for how to move forward. Ottawa University’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Arts in Leadership both prepare future leaders in this important leadership area.

4. Incorporate a shared vision

A top-notch general doesn’t worry that the warriors will follow him or her into battle when the cry is given because the leader has made it crystal clear what they are fighting for and what the stakes are. A forward-thinking business leader will do the same. Every employee should understand the importance behind what they are doing. Employees who are given a voice in the decision-making process understand the purpose behind the vision of the organization and are more willing to support the goals of the organization. In other words, employees support what they help create. That’s why understanding how to become a leader will bring unity around a shared vision.

How to Be a Great Leader at Work

5. Develop your followers

It’s important to have your team’s back. A leader achieves high performing teams by understanding how roles interface with each other and by keeping communication lines open. Let them know that you care about their contributions. A committed leader empowers team members with the information, skills, and resources needed to do their jobs effectively. This should be done by providing professional development. You should also offer them opportunities to utilize their skills in new ways or ask them to step up to lead a meeting or a project if you see that potential. They’ll see that it’s not all about you getting the credit.

6. Communicate realistic and clear expectations

Too many employees get frustrated when they are reprimanded for not doing something that was never properly communicated. Rather than simply expecting employees to do their jobs, effective leaders provide clear goals to be met, clear expectations of what happens if they are or aren’t met, and a roadmap to getting the job done. Effective leaders also assess all of the factors that contribute to accomplishing the goals and make sure they are attainable. Morale suffers when employees continually experience failure. On the other hand, acknowledging when goals are met and providing positive feedback motivates them to continue to work hard.

How to Become a Great Leader

7. Learn how to handle failure

Failure is a part of life. How you handle it as a leader speaks volumes to your employees. Anger and finger pointing id often counterproductive. Instead, if you want to know how to be a great leader, explore with your team what went wrong and how things could have been done differently to ensure success. Take responsibility for any part you played in the missed goal. Together, identify things that can be improved going forward. And hold employees accountable as needed – with grace.

8. Continue your education

There’s no perfect leader, and given that change is constant, it’s imperative that leaders keep improving their skills and stay abreast of industry innovations. If you want to learn how to become a leader or improve your leadership style, you should evaluate your leadership qualities, along with its strengths and weaknesses. There are a multitude of assessment tools to help you do this. Once you identify the areas you would like to strengthen, then it is time to learn new actions and behaviors.

Earning an accelerated, online degree with Ottawa University is an excellent way to bolster your leadership skills. You may want to foster and exhibit leadership on the administrative side with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources or you may wish to seek career advancement in a leadership position with a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Arts in Leadership. All of these programs will help you develop the leadership qualities outlined here.

As the best, fastest, and most affordable online university in Kansas City, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and surrounding areas, we are at the forefront of leadership education. To find out which program best fits your needs, reach out to an enrollment advisor today!