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Seven Tips for New Leaders (Or anyone who wants to be a better leader)

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Whether you’re a new leader, or just moving to a new leadership position, you’ll probably approach your new job with at least a little trepidation. That’s natural and you should only be concerned if you don’t feel at least a little uncertainty. Even if you have some leadership experience, never become too comfortable. Always strive to learn; about the job, about other people, and about yourself. When you stop learning, your effectiveness as a leader will rapidly decay. The following seven tips are fundamentals I learned from all those who mentored me and from my own, often hard won experience. 1. Develop Your Own Definition of a Good Leader What is a good leader? You’ve probably heard that someone was not a good leader when, in fact, they were quite successful. Don’t confuse good person with good leader. You may know someone who is a good person but an ineffective leader. Or, perhaps know someone who you think of as a bad person, but is a successful leader. Use your accumulated experience to develop your own model of a good leader. Write down a few of the best examples of leadership you’ve experienced. Then, write down a few of the worst examples. Strive to emulate the good examples. 2. Don’t Try to Change Everything the First Day Things are seldom in such a bad state that you have to take immediate action or make drastic changes. Usually, major changes instituted immediately by new leaders are wrong and fail. Take a little time to really understand what’s happening in your team. Then suggest changes that will move the team forward. Of course, in rare cases you may find yourself in a situation that does require immediate action. In that case, take the minimum action necessary to stabilize the situation, then slow down. As soon as possible, give yourself time to accomplish the next tip. 3. Watch, Learn, Listen, Ask Questions This is how you actually learn what is good and bad and it will be the best time you can spend with your new team. You’ll also realize two important results. First, your team will see you don’t think you know everything and are interested in their thoughts and opinions. Second, you will begin to develop that inside knowledge which will be more complete and reliable than what others may tell you. The most important step is listening. Give genuine attention to what people tell you. That doesn’t mean you have to take action on every little comment and complaint you hear, but your attentiveness will go a long way towards developing trust between you and team. 4. Get to Know Your Team These are the people who will help you succeed. You and they form a team and how you interact with that team is critical. Of course, in large organizations it’s probably impossible for you to know everyone, but you should have fairly complete knowledge of those you work with most closely. As you meet your team, you’ll develop a first impression. Be careful about acting on that first impression. People don’t always have their best foot forward when they meet the new boss. Some are uncomfortable, some are nervous, and some just don’t care what you think. Always take the time and effort to dig a little deeper. An interesting dichotomy of leadership is that a leader must always strive to make the best possible first impression, while never accepting the first impression of those they meet. 5. Know What You Want To Accomplish Know the organization’s strategic plan and what your boss expects. Be able to communicate it to your team and tell them where they fit in the overall plan. This is extremely important, but often overlooked. People want to know where they fit and why they are important. Also, they want to know what you see as important. So, you should also have your own plan. 6. Take Care of Yourself Don’t let your new job destroy you. Many times new leaders get deeper and deeper in their responsibilities at the expense of everything else; like families and health. They don’t take time for themselves and their families and eventually they burn out. At first, your new position will seem like 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. That’s normal, but should taper off. If it doesn’t, you need to evaluate why. Take care of yourself from the first day on the job. Sufficient sleep, exercise, and nourishment are important for your health. Take care of your brain too. Give it a little rest now and then by developing a hobby or interest that can take your mind off the job. You should always be learning, but not only about the job. Let your brain work on something else; unrelated and enjoyable. 7. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Values Compose a list of your values. If you do things that are counter to your values, you will experience inner conflict. Let your values be your guide, not just for making the big decisions, but for your everyday actions. Following these seven tips won’t guarantee you’ll be a good leader, but they will get you off to a good start. Notice most of these tips involve respect for your team members. It’s the critical element that will lead to success. Remember, you are a leader but leadership isn’t about you. It’s about what you do for others. Always take care of the people you lead. Study leadership, observe others, and constantly evaluate your own performance. Making mistakes is natural. Not learning from your mistakes? Well that’s just dumb and the key to failure.

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