Do These 6 Things to Be a Successful Leader

UPDATED: February 4, 2016
PUBLISHED: December 28, 2015

Great leadership takes place every day, in the smallest of ways. Pieced together, these moments might not seem notable. But put them together and over time they will make for a successful career.

By taking your leadership journey seriously, you will grow not only your own capabilities, but also those of the people you lead and others around you.

How can you ensure a successful outcome? Tacy M. Byham and Richard S. Wellins share six steps in their book, Your First Leadership Job:

1. Make the choice to be a leader.

Leadership is a career journey that can span years. No one has come to the job with all the skills, knowledge and experience they need to be successful—yet they witness leaders learning to lead well every day. Ask yourself, Do I have the potential to lead and lead well? To help answer that question, consider if: you are motivated to lead, inspire performance, show confidence, are open to criticism, learn from past mistakes and success, have a sense of urgency, and can respond to unclear or ambiguous situations.

2. Hire the best team.

When the right people are in the right jobs, performance soars. There are many reasons why this matters—a wrong hiring decision can cost a company three times the person’s salary. So a hiring mistake can be costly—and not only monetarily. Your judgement and credibility can be called into question, the new hire may be unproductive and unable to meet goals, hiring a replacement costs more time and money, and managing the person’s workload will be difficult until that replacement is found.

3. Fix performance issues.

Eighty-five percent of your employees are not likely to have any issues. But what does that mean for the 15 percent who do? To turn these situations around, you need to focus on the behavior that needs to change without attacking the character or personality of the person involved. By focusing your comments and feedback on the situation and not the person, you are far more likely to achieve the results you want and need.

4. Be a coach and not a judge.

Frame your performance management conversations as a series of coaching conversations instead of a single review. Since people want to know where they stand, and because they own their performance, they should own their performance discussions. If you have been talking candidly about where they are in the performance cycle, candidates will candidly address their success and areas where they came up short.

5. Network.

Your ability to develop a wider, broader network is critical to your success as a leader. Not only is your ability to engage and motivate your team members vital, but your ability to form positive working relationships throughout the organization is equally important. Networking also provides an effective way to learn from others and get support.

6. Use your emotional intelligence.

People come to work with both practical needs (to get work done) and personal needs (to be respected and valued). Instead of jumping right in and addressing all the issues of your team, consider their personal needs hand-in-hand with their practical needs. The five key principles to help meet people’s personal needs and unlock their true potential include:

Esteem: Maintain or enhance self-esteem
Empathy: Listen and respond with empathy
Involvement: Ask for help and encourage involvement
Share: Share thoughts, feelings and rationale to build trust
Support: Provide support without removing responsibility in order to build ownership

There are 8 common leadership interaction styles—and if you understand yours, you’ll be able to leverage your strengths and manage your weaknesses with skill.

Rich Wellins, Ph.D., is a Development Dimensions International (DDI) Senior Vice President and head of research. He has written six books on leadership, including his new book with co-author Tacy Byham, Your First Leadership Job, and has spoken around the world. His work has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company. He also serves as a judge for CNBC's Asian Business Leaders Awards. Rich is a co-author of DDI’s High-Resolution Leadership assessment research report.