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How you can improve your leadership skills to inspire your team

There’s more to being a leader than simply getting promoted. A good leader commands respect not because they’re in a position of authority, but because of their professional and interpersonal skills. A good leader inspires others to follow and aspire to do their best. However, many managers, particularly young or new managers, struggle to establish themselves in this position.How can you earn the respect of your subordinates and establish natural authority when you take on a leadership position?

The connection between respect and authority

You’ll have encountered numerous authority figures throughout your life, such as teachers, doctors, parents, etc. However, most of these people don’t necessarily have natural authority. They are followed because they are in a superior position of power. As a child, you need your parents to look after you; as a student, you have to pay attention to your teacher, for example. Even in the workplace, many executives rely on their position to do the leading for them rather than working to build natural authority. Unfortunately, the older you get, the less effective relying on automatic superiority becomes. As adults, we have greater independence and anyone who doesn’t enjoy their work can move on whenever they like. This willingness to leave has increased due to a shortage of skilled workers as well as a move away from the ‘job for life’ to a more varied career. Staff turnover is on the rise and as it becomes more socially acceptable to change jobs whenever you like, employers are losing the ability to control their staff through a fear of unemployment.

Given all of this, if you want to succeed as a leader, you’ll need to discover new ways of establishing authority beyond a job title. This is where respect becomes so important. Authority is conferred upon you by your subordinates, giving you a so-called ‘natural’ authority.

This is all very well and good, but how do you inspire respect?

What is respect anyway?

We bandy the word ‘respect’ around almost without thinking, but when you stop and think about it, can you actually say what it means? The Google dictionary definition states that respect is “the attitude that one considers a person and their professional and social position to be important and shows this clearly in his behaviour.” Synonyms include recognition, admiration, appreciation and awe. Respect is innate to our self-esteem and self-image. If you are not respected by those around you, or even actively disrespected, your self-esteem will decline. Respect is crucial for you as a leader, on both a professional and personal level, just as it is for your employees. This is why Kippure Corporate provides workshops designed to help leaders build respect with their team to improve performance and team cohesion.

Respect goes both ways

Respect always has to be earned and it can be lost at any time. The simple reality is that if you treat those around you disrespectfully, they’ll soon lose respect for you. Conversely, you’re more likely to receive respect if you show your employees they’re valued and appreciated. Everyone benefits when respect goes in all directions. The atmosphere becomes more pleasant, team members become self-confident and everyone feels motivated, productive and happy about their work. On the other hand, when you disrespect your employees, nothing good can come of it. Staff will ignore your instructions or even actively work to undermine you. When you’re constantly fighting to maintain your authority, work becomes a struggle for control, and power games become more important than the task at hand.

Fortunately, there are 13 simple ways in which you can establish respect as a manager, building natural authority for yourself.

1. Reciprocity.

We’ve said it already, but it bears repeating. Respect breeds respect. Treat those around you with respect and they’ll give it back in return. Never insult your staff, put them down or treat them unfairly. Your team are people, not robots there to do your bidding. While reciprocity won’t automatically guarantee respect, it’s a strong start.

2. Experience.

Frequently, those with experience earn natural authority because of their skills and knowledge. It is worth sharing anecdotes about your career or how you dealt with a similar issue to one your staff are currently facing. While you should be careful not to come across as boastful, your experience can be very useful for others to learn from.

3. Expertise.

It may be that you do not have a great deal of experience. Indeed, you may even find yourself leading employees with more experience than you, which runs a risk of losing respect from older employees. This is where your expertise comes in. You need to be the best in your team, the one who drives through progress. Maintain the high standards that saw you achieve your leadership role and focus on increasing your expertise so you really know your subject.

4. Humanity.

Many leaders see themselves as playing a role, so when they come to work, they cover up aspects of their personality they believe may be unprofessional or behave differently to how they normally would. While it would be unprofessional to bring your personal problems to work, you should always stay your authentic true self. Be open and honest with your staff and be yourself, albeit the professional version of yourself. It’s a fine line to walk, but well worth it.

5. Criticism.

To err is to be human. We all make mistakes, including your employees and you. Show yourself as being open to learning new things and willing to hear criticism. Actively seek feedback from your employees and work to improve your leadership skills and hold your hands up if you’ve made a mistake. At the same time, set clear boundaries, so your employees know where to draw the line.

6. Humour.

Humour goes a long way to establishing rapport and showing your human side. Don’t take yourself too seriously. While no one should be coming to work to mess around and there will be times when you’ll be stressed out by pressure, there’s always time to laugh with your team. Not only does this make you more relatable, it also helps to relieve that stress and make the workplace a more enjoyable place to be. Just make sure you keep it appropriate and professional and no jokes at the expense of your staff.

7. Affiliation.

As you work to build rapport with your staff with humour and sympathy, you’ll foster a sense of belonging. Frequently, people view leaders as antagonists and instinctively resist their instructions. This is a natural side effect of the human need for autonomy. It makes sense to deal with your employees on a more level footing rather than from a higher position. However, don’t take this too far and let friendship complicate the situation. Once you become the office clown or everyone’s best friend, no one will take you seriously. It’s all about finding balance.

8. Predictability.

People like the reassurance of knowing what to expect. Be clear in your boundaries and expectations, and clearly communicate your instructions. Censure everyone for the same mistakes and offer praise for the same achievements. If you give more credit to a member of staff than others, people will think you have favourites, and if you’re arbitrary in your behaviour, people will write you off as moody. Your staff don’t care whether you’re having a good or bad day. The important thing is you stay the same predictable person.

9. Reliability.

This one’s bound up with predictability. Be on time and do your homework so you’re always prepared for any situation. Be a role model and behave the way you would like your staff to emulate. Do what you say you will, when you say you’ll do it. Show your team they can count on you, no matter what.

10. Courtesy.

Simple manners cost nothing but they go a long way. Regardless of whether you like or dislike someone, have a disagreement with you or face reprimand yourself, be polite at all times and never ever be offensive, either professionally or personally. Behave the way you’d like to be treated and you’ll receive the same in return.

11. Justice.

Treat everyone equally. You probably have your preferred members of staff, but nobody should be able to tell who they are. All employees should be bound by the same rules and expected to follow them. Resolve conflicts as fairly as possible, bringing in a mediator if need be. If a team member feels they have been unfairly treated, they’ll lose respect for you.

12. Self-confidence.

Always project an air of self-confidence. A strong posture and innate faith in your abilities increases your chances of being accepted as a natural leader. Humans instinctively look to those with the confidence to lead to show them the way to go. Even if you’re not the most confident person in the world, pretending you are will really help until that fake feeling becomes real.

13. Fun.

Enjoy your work! Leadership should never be viewed as a burden. If you don’t enjoy leading others, people will sense your discomfort and lose respect for you. If you don’t think it’s fun to lead others, find a different position. You won’t be able to succeed.

While everyone’s leadership style is different, if you bring these qualities to your work, you’ll find your natural leadership will go from strength to strength. If you understand why you want to be a leader and work on these 13 basic principles, you’ll find your team’s respect for you will grow.


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