10 Tips for Becoming a Better Leader

No one comes to the role fully prepared for the challenges.

Learning to lead effectively is one long continuous improvement process. No one comes to this role fully prepared for the rigors, twists, and turns created by people and conditions. It’s a learned process that emphasizes experimentation and adaptation in response to the ample surprises you’ll encounter daily. One great way to prepare yourself for success is to approach each workday with a deliberate commitment to striving to be your best leadership self.

Here are 10 ideas to help you get there:

1. Journal for success.

Maintain a leadership journal and start and end each day with the following entries:

  • Start: What are my top priorities today?
  • End: What did I do today that worked and that I need to do more of tomorrow?
  • Review yesterday’s entries as part of your start-up for the new day.

2. Build challenging conversations into your morning.

It’s human nature to put off things we don’t like to do. Instead of vowing to get to that overdue feedback or coaching conversation “later” lock it into your early a.m. calendar and bring your best self to the session. Focus on creating a dialog and remember to design solutions together.

3. Smile and engage your colleagues.

Your verbal and non-verbal behaviors wield significant influence over whether your team is creative, collaborative, and excited about their work. You want to keep your team in “discovery” mode and away from fear. If people perceive you are in a good mood, they are apt to mirror you. Make certain they are mirroring the positive, creative, collaborative you.

4. Aim for a daily ratio of 3:1 positive to constructive feedback.

Deliver earned positive feedback in a 3:1 ratio to constructive or negative feedback. Try it, and see what happens. Keep a tally of your daily totals and keep improving. And remember, effective feedback is always behavioral and tied-to business results. The goal is to strengthen behaviors that support high performance and change or eliminate those that detract from it.

5. Preach less and ask more questions.

Questions are powerful teaching tools. Quit preaching and start asking and listening.

6. Ask for help.

Instead of placing pressure on yourself to solve every problem, tap into the wisdom of your team and ask for ideas and approaches. They want to help.

7. Help your boss.

Make this a deliberate daily pursuit. Remember, someone must choose you to be successful.

8. Strengthen your network.

You have three fundamental imperatives according to Linda A. Hill:

  • Manage your team.
  • Manage yourself.
  • Manage your network.

Reach across boundaries to build and strengthen relationships. Help your peers when asked, and strive to connect groups in pursuit of solutions to broader problems.

9. Strengthen yourself.

What did you do yesterday to become a smarter, more effective leader and manager? Some of us go for years sprinting through our days but not pushing ourselves to grow.

  • Read one article.
  • Read a chapter in a book.
  • Listen to a relevant podcast.
  • Talk with a mentor.
  • Ask for feedback on your performance.
  • Watch a Ted Talk.
  • Attend an internally sponsored training event.
  • Connect with an expert on a topic you are interested in exploring.

10. Remember to enjoy every day.  

This may be the most important one. We’re all given an unknown, finite number of days. Enjoy each one as it comes, headaches and stressors and calamities and all. And then get up and do it again. Follow this positive cycle and strive to be your best leadership self daily, and you might just crack the code on succeeding in this difficult role.

Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.