How would you describe a strong leader? In one leadership study, qualities such as assertiveness, adaptability, intelligence and conscientiousness were cited as the most important. "Research clearly shows that transformational leaders - leaders who are positive, inspiring, and who empower and develop followers - are better leaders," explains psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio. "They are more valued by followers and have higher performing teams."
So what can you do embrace these characteristics and become a better leader? Transformational leaders are usually described as enthusiastic, passionate, genuine and energetic. These leaders are not just concerned about helping the group achieve its goals; they also care about helping each member of the group reach his or her full potential.
Consider some of the following tips for how to become a better leader and think about ways that you can implement these strategies in your daily life.
1. Learn More About Your Leadership Style
Understanding your current leadership style is essential. What are your strengths? Which areas need some improvement? One way to start assessing your skills is to take this leadership style quiz to get a general idea of how you lead. Once you have completed the quiz, read about the major characteristics of your dominant style. Are these qualities helping or hindering your leadership? Once you've determine which areas need some work, you can begin looking for ways to improve your leadership abilities.
2. Encourage Creativity
Intellectual stimulation is one of the hallmarks of transformational leadership. Followers need to be encouraged to express their creativity. Effective leaders should offer new challenges with ample support to achieve these goals. One way to foster creativity is to offer challenges to group members, making sure that the goals are within the grasp of their abilities. The purpose of this type of exercise is to get people to stretch their limits, but to not become discouraged by barriers to success.
3. Serve As a Role Model
Idealized influence is another of the four key components of transformational leadership. Transformational leaders exemplify the behaviors and characteristics that they encourage in their followers. They walk the walk and talk the talk. As a result, group members admire these leaders and work to emulate these behaviors. If you want to become a better leader, work on modeling the qualities that you would like to see in your team members.
4. Be Passionate
Would you look to someone for guidance and leadership if they did not truly care about the goals of the group? Of course not! Great leaders are not just focused on getting group members to finish tasks; they have a genuine passion and enthusiasm for the projects they work on. Start by thinking of different ways that you can express your zeal. Let people know that you care about their progress. When one person shares something with the rest of the group, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate such contributions.
5. Listen and Communicate Effectively
Another important characteristic of transformational leadership involves a focus on providing one-on-one communication with group members. Good leaders should express sincere care and concern for the members of their group both verbally and nonverbally. By keeping the lines of communication open, these leaders can ensure that group members feel able to make contributions and receive recognition for their achievements.
6. Have a Positive Attitude
Transformational leaders have an upbeat, optimistic attitude that serves as a source of inspiration for followers. If leaders seem discouraged or apathetic, members of the group are likely to also become uninspired. Even when things look bleak and your followers start to feel disheartened, try to stay positive. This does not mean viewing things through rose-colored glasses. It simply means maintaining a sense of optimism and hope in the face of challenges.
7. Encourage People to Make Contributions
Let the members of your team know that you welcome their ideas. Leaders who encourage involvement from group members are often referred to as democratic or participative leaders. While they retain the final say over all decisions, they encourage team members to take an active role in coming up with ideas and plans. Research has shown that using a democratic leadership style leads to greater commitment, more creative problem-solving and improved productivity.
8. Motivate Your Followers
Transformational leaders also provide inspirational motivation to encourage their followers to get into action. Of course, being inspirational isn't always easy. Fortunately, you don't need motivational speeches to rouse your group members. Some ideas for leadership inspiration include being genuinely passionate about ideas or goals, helping followers feel included in the process and offering recognition, praise and rewards for people's accomplishments.
9. Offer Rewards and Recognition
A good leader knows that offering effective recognition and rewards is one of the best ways to help followers feel appreciated and happy. It may also come as no surprise that happy people tend to perform better at work. According to researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, leaders can help group members feel happier by offering help, removing barriers to success and rewarding strong efforts.
Susan M. Heathfield, About.com's Guide to Human Resources, offers some great tips on how leaders can express recognition and reward team members. Some of these strategies include listening without distraction, putting your praise in writing and publicly thanking people for their efforts.
10. Keep Trying New Things
Who says leadership is a one-way relationship? As you work toward honing your leadership skills, don't forget to look to your followers for feedback an inspiration. Pay attention to the things that have been effective in the past and always be on the lookout for new ways to inspire, motivate and reward group members.