5 Critical Lessons All Effective Leaders Must Learn

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What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt this past year?

As a leader, you have to wear a lot of hats. This week alone, I took on the tasks of the director, designer, writer, HR manager, marketer, cleaner, receptionist AND lunch lady of Web123. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not complaining about doing more.

In fact, I like doing tasks that get me closer to my employees. I like knowing what they go through everyday and the struggles they experience at work. And I’ve heard them comment to others how hand on we are and how much they like that. I think that’s kinda cool.

But perhaps one of the things I dislike about being a leader, is when I need to make difficult decisions for the good of the business that affect the work status of my employees.

Today, I’d like to take a break from the usual (amazing) stuff we post in this blog. Instead, I’d like to take this moment and write about something I’ve been pondering about these past few (and tough) months. I’d like to talk about the five lessons I learnt to be an effective leader.

Lesson #1: A good leader is a good follower.

Rules are very important to any business. They’re imposed to maintain peace and productivity in a company, no matter what the size.

As leaders, it is within the boundaries of our duty to follow ALL the rules – no exceptions.

Web123 employees, myself included, follow a schedule for garbage disposal. One might say that I don’t need to be a part of any garbo roster, but I say otherwise. Even with tasks as small as this, I know that I have to participate and follow the rules.

Remember, if you want your employees to follow the regulations, you have to set an example. You must show them how it’s done, because that’s what effective leaders do – they LEAD by example.

Lesson #2: Getting to know your employees is part of your job.

If you feel that your employees aren’t performing as well as they normally do, it’s time to stop being their boss, and start being their friend.

In the past, I used to lose focus when I have personal problems. I was the type person who could not stop feeling anxious until that problem got solved. Needless to say, my personal problems dragged me down at work.

Over the years, I’ve learned that talking to someone about it and knowing that I have friends behind me who are always willing to listen made me feel so much better, which is why I truly understand what my employees are going through.

It is important that you talk to your subordinates, not just as their boss, but also as their friend.

Ask them if they’d like to talk about the things troubling them over coffee. If it’s work related, see if there’s anything you can do that could make things easier for them.

Lesson #3: Draw a line between friendship and professionalism.

Here’s another important lesson I’ve learned: respect boundaries. Although it’s essential to be a friend to your employees, you have to impose the boundaries of professionalism when in the workplace.

Yes, it’s okay to joke over somethings during lunch break, but if you’re in a meeting, you have to act like a leader that everyone will respect and not make fun of.

We had an incident a while ago where I had an expert doing a workshop for my team (which wasn’t cheap by the way), and a few of my staff were on their mobile phones watching a baseball game throughout the workshop. The next day I banned all mobiles from desktops and meetings unless people are on a break.

If you give people too much leeway it can lead to them taking advantage of you, sometimes ‘if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile’. So make sure you have boundaries and make sure people stick to them.

Lesson #4: It’s okay to say “I don’t know what to do.”

Let’s face it, no one “knows it all”. There’s not a single book in history which has all the business secrets or better still, a procedures manual we can follow to get it right. I wish there was believe me!

I agree with Socrates when he said, “All I know is that I know nothing.”

So if you feel disappointed in yourself, because for the first time since the inception of your business, you absolutely have no idea how to face your current struggle, be comforted in knowing that you’re not alone.

A lot of entrepreneurs don’t know what they’re doing, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Remember, whatever you’re trying to do, someone has already walked in your shoes before and done it. They’ve made the mistakes, learnt the lessons and are most likely happy to share their experience with you.

So gather all your brightest minds and get advice / help from your colleagues. We’re in this together!

Lesson #5: Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Perhaps one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is that “sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind.”

When you see that some of your employees are not living up to the standard that you expect; when they keep on being absent or tardy; when they start to procrastinate; or become short with you… you have to call them out, even when it hurts.

It may seem rude for some, but a leader has to do what needs to be done to make sure that everyone plays their role excellently.

In the end, it will be beneficial to your employees too because they’ll learn valuable lessons and improve their skills. Even if they do move on.

Being a leader of people with different personalities is one of the toughest tasks in the world. But when done right, it can be so rewarding.

When I started my business, I had no idea how I was going to lead. I had to start from scratch and learn from my mistakes. The first year I was a mess! lol

Fast forward to today however and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I hope these lessons will make your journey to being an effective leader much easier as much as it helped me be the kind of businesswoman / leader that I am today. Good luck!



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