team leader
Photos by Getty Images

Tips for Becoming a Better Team Leader

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: My goal is to be the best leader I can be for the people who report to me. Can you share some best practices or resources to help me improve?

A: I applaud you for wanting to lead your team well. There is a lot of information available on how to become a great leader, including books, articles, podcasts, and other resources to help you reach higher. I've summarized some of my best tips here:

  1. Acknowledge that you don't know everything. Although you may be a leader at work or in your field, you can still learn something new. Too many leaders think if they admit they don't have all the answers, they won't be respected, but in reality, the opposite is true. Letting your team see that you're human will earn their respect and loyalty. Be ready to apologize when you've made a mistake, and take responsibility for your direct reports' actions.

  2. Get to know the people you lead. Know your team well enough to understand what motivates them, what encourages them, and what's important to them at work. This effort may be difficult for people who aren't comfortable with the interpersonal side of work, but developing these relationships is a critical step to being a highly respected leader.

  3. Live your organization's values in a way that shows your staff that you believe in the mission and that you uphold ethical business practices.

  4. Learn to be a good listener. Focus full attention on the people who speak to you, and listen with the intent to learn—not to respond. You'll be amazed at the knowledge you'll gain by listening to your team, and you'll also build their self-esteem, which will make them more successful.

  5. Reward successes and learn from failures. Too many leaders don't stop to reward success or recognize employees' outstanding work but are quick to point out what people do wrong. While it's good management to learn from what went right or wrong on a project, it's also important to celebrate achievements.

  6. Be a positive role model. Live your organization's values in a way that shows your staff that you believe in the mission and that you uphold ethical business practices. People want to work for leaders they respect, and nothing will lose you respect faster than violating one of your organization's values.

  7. Provide developmental opportunities for all. No matter how high employees rise in an organization, they can always use skill building. Model your commitment to employee development by improving your own skills and promoting life-long learning.

Following these steps will help you become a better leader, but don't think this is a one-and-done process. Always look for opportunities to observe great leaders and to keep upping your game.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

Leadership Development Coaching and Mentoring