Never stop striving to improve. The best leaders across history and today combine myriad strengths developed over time. Those at the very top are there because they continue to learn and enhance their skills.
Simon Cooper knows a thing or two about leadership. He recently became the new managing director at print company Solopress, and previously held executive roles at Tradeprint and Exaprint. Here he shares his 10 top tips on becoming a better leader.
- Lead, don’t manage: Leadership is all about developing a strategy and inspiring team members around the vision. Whereas management is organising tasks and people to get things done. Both are important in developing your leadership skills, but the former is the more effective long-term strategy.
- Empower others: The collective ideas, creativity and energy of a group ultimately makes it successful. Create the space your team members need for them to demonstrate their true talent. Leadership is all about empowering others to flourish, not telling them what to do and when.
- Trust your team: Show your team you believe in them and trust they will reach the right outcomes and they will deliver their best work. The more you check and instruct your team, the less autonomous they will become.
- Respect: Treat your team the way you would want to be treated. Demonstrate that you have genuine respect for them to ensure they show you the respect you require. Both little things, such as giving them space to work, and bigger things, like taking on board their opinions around projects, are important.
- Show humility: The role of a leader is to enable the group to perform at its best and achieve its objectives. Showing an understanding that the leadership position is no more important than each individual team member’s role will enable everyone to perform at their optimum.
- Fail fast: I know it’s a cliché, but it’s so important that failure isn’t seen as a dirty word. If things don’t go wrong from time to time, I prefer to think we’re not trying hard enough. Of course, you don’t want to encourage sloppiness. However, there’s nothing worse than individuals covering up their errors for fear of retribution, as this just slows down the business’ ability to improve.
- Be decisive: The best thing to do is to make the right decision quickly. The next best thing to do is to make the wrong decision quickly. The worst thing to do is to make no decision at all. If you’re not making decisions fast, your team will start to look elsewhere for leadership.
- Read: Learn from the best by reading leadership tips by the experts. Some of the books I read feel like cheating – the content and ideas are so good it seems like an unfair advantage. I can’t really say that without giving a book recommendation, so if you’re interested, try HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Leadership.
- Remain firm but fair: I believe in being fair with team members, working hard with them to achieve objectives, doing everything possible to boost their confidence and giving them space to realise their potential. It’s also important to recognise when things aren’t working out and take action that will deliver the best outcome for both parties.
- Have no fear: Don’t worry about your own career outcomes. As the leader, you need to prioritise the team and the objectives, not yourself. Those who focus on their own careers can fall foul of poor decision-making, based on point scoring and office politics. Team members will spot this for what it is and you’ll lose their trust, making it impossible to succeed. Do what you believe to be right for the team and the business, being prepared to lose your job over your decisions.