Effective leadership in the workplace is an essential element of any successful organization. When a company is struggling to meet its goals and seems to be unable to turn things around, the problem may be the result of poor leadership. Having the right leaders in place, however, can provide a number of benefits.
The Role of Leaders in the Workplace
Leaders are responsible for establishing goals, promoting accountability, and facilitating collaboration in the modern workplace. The best leaders also set an example for behavior and performance that is in keeping with the organization’s culture. They inspire others and keep their teams focused on key objectives while also providing support where it’s needed.
Leaders are often tasked with implementing the policies and procedures associated with major change initiatives. They must build consensus and work to secure buy-in as organizations adapt to new challenges. When setbacks occur, it falls to leaders to provide the resilience needed to bounce back and learn from failures.
Given the role effective leaders play in shaping an organization’s success, identifying and developing employees with strong leadership potential is extremely important for any business. For companies with geographically-distributed remote working teams, leaders are even more valuable because they are often the glue that holds the team together.
Types of Leadership Skills
When developing competency models for leadership at work, organizations typically divide skills into two broad categories: hard skills and soft skills.
Sometimes referred to as “technical skills,” hard skills consist of strictly defined knowledge and expertise gained through formal education or hands-on experience. The ability to code in a particular programming language or operate a specific piece of equipment would fall under the category of hard skills.
These skills are usually easy to measure and assess. Someone either knows how to do something or they don’t. Hard skills are valuable for leaders because they bolster their credibility and help them to support their teams. A group of software engineers, for example, will expect their team’s leader to have the skills and experience needed to understand the work they’re doing.
For most leaders, soft skills tend to be far more important than hard skills. These skills are more focused on social interactions, personal communication, and conflict management. Leaders with strong soft skills tend to be better at listening and empathizing with others, have a good sense of how their behavior is perceived, and understand how to use influencing techniques to achieve positive outcomes.
When leaders lack soft skills, they’re more likely to be seen as abrasive, uncaring, or distant, which can cause employees to become frustrated and disengaged. In a worst-case scenario, this could result in conflict, toxic behavior, or high turnover.
Benefits of Effective Leadership in the Workplace
Having strong leaders throughout an organization can provide a number of benefits. Here are just a few ways that leaders can promote business success:
1. Building Trust
Trust is the foundation of any team, especially in a mobile working context where team members may never be in the same place at the same time. When team members trust one another, they are more likely to be accountable in their own work and hold others accountable for theirs.
Collaboration is difficult to facilitate when team members don’t trust one another to follow through on commitments or are perceived to be out for themselves. Leaders can help to establish trust by building relationships and bonds between team members over time.
2. Facilitating Communication
Information is power in any organization. When people withhold information or fail to communicate effectively, it can be difficult for teams to function. Effective leaders promote communication throughout their teams, encouraging people to share information when it needs to be shared and establishing an open-door policy that ensures they are aware of new developments as they emerge. Facilitating communication also makes it easier for leaders to manage conflict in ways that produce positive outcomes.
3. Increasing Employee Engagement
One of the most underrated challenges leaders face is keeping employees engaged in their work. This doesn’t mean simply making sure they complete assigned tasks (although that’s obviously important). It means helping employees to stay passionate and excited about their work.
Engaged employees are more likely to provide innovative solutions and perform tasks at a higher level. When employees become disengaged, their productivity tends to decline and they are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere or engage in negative behavior.
Unfortunately, research has found that only about a third of American workers are engaged. By regularly communicating with their team members and helping them to address their issues, leaders can keep engagement levels high.
4. Being Resourceful / Helpful
Leaders are often in a position to provide support and resources that help team members to do their jobs more effectively. This could mean coordinating with another department or securing specific resources for a task, but it could also mean advocating for changes based on employee feedback.
Good leaders find ways to help their teams become more effective and efficient, which often means taking their concerns or opinions into consideration and becoming an advocate for change. From a day-to-day standpoint, however, leaders often have the ability to address impediments that are preventing their teams from accomplishing their goals.
Whether an organization’s workforce is colocated or remotely distributed, effective leadership is essential for building long-term success. They bring the right combination of expertise and soft skills to help their teams overcome challenges and collaborate effectively in support of key organizational goals. Regardless of a company’s structure, having strong leaders in place will make it easier for employees to adapt to changing circumstances and recover quickly from setbacks.