What Makes A Great Leader

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We all dislike our bosses sometimes, but it's hard to see the forest for the trees unless you put yourself in their shoes sometimes. If you have been a boss then you understand the pressure associated with it – dealing with Head Office, commanding the respect of your peers, being "always-on," and never being able to put the phone down. Bosses may seem like the bad principal from high school, but we forget that sometimes they have long days, less holiday time, are expected to have a strong attitude, and in some industries might even make less money than their workers!

We expect our bosses to uphold our company's values even when we don't, and expect them to be there for us at a moment's notice. Our misconceptions of the duties of our chiefs are similar to those as when we walk into a convenience store or restaurant and see someone playing on their phone. In our snapshot perspective they might look lazy and undisciplined, working an easy job with little consequences. What we don't see is their 5 A.M. shipment orders; late nights at the bar, fights with patrons, or bathroom cleaning duties.

leader1. See the snapshot for the larger picture

One thing about being a boss is that it's hard to manage everything when you cannot see everything all the time. Employees are frustrated with their bosses when they show up and pass judgement on a snapshot of a situation. A good leader should be able to take the moment they have seen into the broader perspective and be able to use testimony of others as well as tertiary observations in order to make a conclusion. We all know what it's like getting caught playing on our phone, knowing that what our boss didn't see was the two hours of extra hard work we just put in!

2. Greet your employees with respect

A rather conservative manager of mine from a job long gone was noted for his rigid frame and unmoving emotional detachment to basically everything. He did his job at an OK level at best, but never used emotions or colloquialisms in his work ethic. What he did do however was greet everyone with respect. He said hello sir to our most playful colleagues and pardon me ma'am to younger women. He brought a level of respect to an otherwise playful environment that would have been complete childhood chaos had he not been present. As a whole, the entire staff was happier each day and it increased their appreciation for unearned respect. Respect your employees, and they will respect you.

3. Lead, don't command

Another manager I once had, had me carry two very heavy boxes of things downstairs one day. While I struggled with my balance, sight and the weight of the objects, he carried some papers and a small object. I also noticed he was walking in the same direction I was going into the exact same room I was to put the boxes in. I thought, couldn't he have carried one of these boxes? He was bigger and stronger, and we could have done it as a team. I actually quit the very next day. I knew I could not work for someone who showed such disregard for leadership. When I became a manager later in my career, I emphasized teamwork leadership and dismantled any form of physical hierarchy there might have been. And when I had to send someone downstairs with a heavy box, I made sure to help them carry one when I was going that way too.

4. Thanking your employees for little things

Our jobs seem thankless all the time. Our customers say thank you for our services but neglect to recognize the hours of behind the scenes work involved. Our bosses see us work everyday and simply expect things to get done. Don't be one of those guys. Besides staying on top of your duties you should also stay on top of your daily appreciation for your employees. Saying thank you never goes out of style and it could change someone who is having a bad day's day. You could make someone feel better without realizing it and increase productivity at an exponential rate. A happy family is a happy home!

5. Be diligent, and rational.

It takes a strong leader to put their foot down and make a point. It also takes a strong leader to be able to accept their advisor's advice and reverse a decision. Decide what kind of leader you want to be – you have been chosen for your job due to your aptitude for decision making and "know what you're doing" skills. You must be able to be firm with your professional decisions, and patient enough to realize that your ideas also have room for change when your instinct says so. It's a big job, but someone's gotta do it!

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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.