As a CFO, I make it a point to be the best leader I can. I am always learning how to improve my leadership skills and relationships, both personally and professionally. Not only do I enjoy being a leader and my team enjoys me, but WE ARE A TEAM.
What does it take to be an exceptional leader?
1. Continue learning. Employees evolve, new generations come in, and frankly we should never stop learning. I don't care if it's someone that has been in the position for 30 years or 3 years. Sign up for that yearly conference or webinar and do not stop learning. Once you stop learning, you feel content and your leadership skills may become rusty and it will show.
2. Pay attention. Listen to your team. You know those leaders who think everything should be their way or the highway? In my opinion, that style of leadership doesn't work. Every member of the team has a valuable skill. Listen to the team's suggestions, ideas, or any other feedback they have to offer. Additionally, take a personal investment in your team members' personal stories. Authentically knowing your team members only improves your working relationships and your ability to adapt to different personalities.
3. Do not micromanage. A team member does not feel valued if they are constantly being critiqued with a magnifying glass. Trust that your team members were hired because they know how to do the job. Take the necessary time to review their work but let them do the work and show you how capable they are. Releasing control is a win-win. The leader doesn't have as much on his or her plate and the team member feels valued and empowered.
4. Leave your ego at the door. Just because someone is the leader does not mean he or she is better than the rest of the team. Every member is an integral part of the department, division and organization. I am the first to admit when someone on my team is better at doing something or if I have made a mistake. Being egotistical is a waste of valuable energy and time and does nothing for employee morale.
5. Communicate. Talk to your team. Hold regular meetings. Fill them in on updates so they not only feel clued in, but can help when there is a pressing situation. Be approachable and have an open door policy. Also, face conflicts immediately with respect, patience and a coaching mentality.
6. Set an example. Work as hard or harder than your team. Behave how you would like your team to behave. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Your attitudes and behaviors set the tone for the entire team.
7. Delegate. The team members want to be included. Involve them wherever possible and wherever it is more efficient to pass the work on. There have been many times I have handed something off because i know the employee enjoys the work, is good at it, and it frees up time for me to do other things. This also builds team morale because everyone is playing their part.
8. Be respectful. As I said before and in my "Break the Bias" post, treat others how you would like to be treated and even better, treat people how they would like to be treated. If you are having a bad day, then just sit back and wait until you can deliver a polite and respectable response. Take others' feelings into consideration.
9. Support the team. I know you have to support the organization you are leading, but it is critical to always think of the team when making decisions. We can not always make everyone happy but we can certainly take into consideration their thoughts and feelings when making decisions. When reasonable, you could even consider getting the team's input on a difficult situation so they know what's going on from the get go.
10. Celebrate. There is plenty of time to work. Make a little time to celebrate the wonderful team you work with. Treat them to a quarterly lunch. Plan a holiday celebration. Pick out some personable Tchotchkes and give them to your team when least expected. Show your team how much they and their hard work means to you.