How to be an effective leader

How to be an effective leader

Anyone has the potential to become an effective leader but you need to go about it in the right way in order to get the best results, says empowerment coach Nicola Harker.

Here’s how to do it right:

1. Manage your inner critic

Nicola says: “In order to be an effective leader you have to start from within. That involves building the skills of self-compassion and managing your own fear and internal emotional landscape. Many leaders operate from a place of fear because they have a voice running in the background saying, they are going to notice that I’m not good enough, I shouldn’t be in this role. But if we are feeling self-critical we tend to be critical of other people, and if we are self-judgemental, we tend to be judgemental of other people. Judgement is important but being judgemental is less helpful. So you need to learn to manage that.”

She adds: “Many people feel quite resistant to the idea of self-compassion because it feels like a weakness or being too soft and unmotivated. But you need to take some time to find strategies to manage your fear and your inner critic. Interestingly, research has shown that the skills of self-compassion tend to make people more resilient and motivated, not less.”

2. Share your vision with your team

Nicola says: “To be an effective strategic leader, you have to be clear about your direction of travel and what you are trying to achieve, so that people understand where you are focussing your energy. Often we communicate thinking it is all completely clear but other people don’t understand what we are talking about and they are trying desperately to please you and to do the right thing. So take that step to clarify that they do understand what your goals are and what success would look like. When you are having a conversation with a new team member ask them to tell you what they understand by what you have been asking them to do. Taking that time to build that clarity is so important.”

3. Be curious and start listening to your team

Nicola says: “To be a good leader you need to have curiosity; you need to be looking to develop the people around you rather than doing everything yourself; you need to develop the skills of deep listening and asking open questions, and not feeling like you have to know all the answers yourself.”

She adds: “When we ask questions we tend to have often already prepared an answer in our own minds. But if you practise really listening and opening up the dialogue with your team, you will inspire their thoughts and through that comes creativity and action.”

4. Take the time to develop the people within your team

Nicola says: “When you see what needs to be done, it is very easy to find yourself thinking, ‘oh I will just do it myself’. Delegation when you are under pressure can be difficult, but as a leader you need to look at how you can grow the strengths and qualities of your team, rather than being critical of people for not being able to do things well. As a leader one of your biggest roles is to be able to see what your team needs and how you can help them develop in a way that allows everyone to be more successful and effective.”

5. Recruit carefully

Nicola says: “If you have been a sole trader and you are starting to take other people on, be prepared to share your mission and look to take on people who share the same values as you. Often what happens is that an entrepreneur starts to feel overwhelmed and overworked and they look for the solution by taking someone on without remembering the values that are intrinsic to them but which may not be obvious to someone else. One really helpful phrase is, ‘what would success look like to you?’”

6. Make the most of the situation we are currently in

Nicola says: “Home working, blended working or returning back to the office bring up challenges but this is really good opportunity to look at what is working well and what is not, where your team is more productive, and where can you make some conscious adjustments.”

Three things that you can do right now

1. Start with yourself and take some time to find strategies to manage your fear and your inner critic

2. Practise listening to your team

3. Work on your clarity. To be a strategic leader, you have to be clear about your direction of travel and what you are trying to achieve

Nicola Harker is a women’s empowerment coach at

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