It’s no secret that the success of a company depends largely on the quality of its leadership. When it comes to team performance, the success of employees can greatly be impacted by the leadership in place. On the one hand, a great leader can bring out the best in employees, inspiring them to work together towards common goals and achieve remarkable results. On the other hand, a bad leader can stifle creativity and productivity, leading to team disharmony and failure. Let’s take a closer look at the impact of leadership on teams and explore some of the most effective ways to bring out the best in employees.
So, what makes a great leader? Many qualities are essential for successful leadership, but the most important ones include empathy, strong communication, decisiveness, and integrity. A good leader must be able to put themselves in other people’s shoes and understand their perspective, they must be able to make tough decisions quickly and efficiently, and they must be honest and transparent in their dealings with others.
I often think of a great leader as a captain, setting sail on the ocean with coordinates locked and all engines full speed ahead. Leading a team requires setting direction to land on success island (too much? Ay matey, we’re on a ship after all). Setting a direction and working towards a goal also means aligning with other leaders in the organization and creating a vision for all teams.
When sailing a ship, you do your best to account for storms ahead, and all important resources are available, but when the compass turns South when you need to go North, you can pivot and guide the team to a new course when necessary. Part of being human is making mistakes, leader or not, but being able to make decisions on the next best course is crucial for every team. Not every direction or decision you make will work out the way you planned, but pivoting and adjusting are just as essential to keep all engines running smoothly.
Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
This is where I believe many leaders fail. They may be very business savvy or speak the right words in the conference room but cannot connect with their team: you know, the humans who help do the work to grow the company?
Empathy doesn’t mean agreeing with others or condoning bad behavior; it simply means trying to understand where someone is coming from so that you can work better together. It’s the ability to see things from another person’s perspective and understand their feelings. Leaders who lack empathy often have trouble building trust and rapport with their team, which can lead to communication breakdowns, resentment, and ultimately, a loss of productivity.
You may have heard the phrase “read the room” several times before, and that’s where emotional intelligence comes in. Leaders must understand the emotions of those around them and use that information to communicate better, connect, and work together. After all, we’re all human beings with feelings, and when we feel valued and understood, we’re more likely to do our best work.
A good step forward to making sure you’re keeping both of these at the forefront is to talk with employees regularly. And no, I don’t mean always talking “shop,” this means having conversations with employees as if they are humans and allowing them to share as much or little with you. In other words: show that you care about them as people and not just as employees.
Ah, communication. The pain point of many, many organizations and teams. It’s the ongoing battle to improve and streamline it. Here’s the truth, though: it can cause more harm if it’s not used well by leadership.
If we go back to the ship analogy and the captain has changed the coordinates but doesn’t communicate that to the engine room or the team taking care of guests, then confusion and misinformation run rampant. Frustration, emotions, and low morale increase, and not course-correcting could mean team members start abandoning ship.
Finding the best way to communicate to your team takes some upfront work but creates smoother seas in the long run. Providing updates, doing 1:1s, and, yes, having hard conversations when necessary are all important to keeping team members moving in the right direction.
Leadership is a complex and multi-faceted topic, but these are just a few key points that I believe are important to a team’s success. What do you think? How have you seen leadership positively or negatively impact teams?