Leadership & Productivity

What are the key traits that make a good leader? How do you make sure you’re leading your team in line with your company’s values and mission? This section looks at the key leadership strategies making waves in business today, as well as strategies to ramp up productivity and behavioural success in your company. 

It can be lonely at the top. Running a business can be isolating, but being at the helm of your own SME means you’re more than just a business owner. You’re the driving force of your business, a source of inspiration, and the one person who sets the tone for employees at every rung of your company.

What makes a good leader? 7 traits that stand out

A leader can come in many shapes and sizes. What counts is that you’re inspiring your team to drive your business in the direction you want. Here are seven characteristics of a good leader.

1. Honesty and openness

A good leader invests in clear and transparent communication to set up honest connections with everyone in the organisation. A relationship based on trust and reliability makes the team know that their leader is always there for them, which in turn inspires them to be there for their leader.

Further reading: Bosses have far more to lose than productivity if they can’t inspire trust

2. The ability to delegate and empower

You’ve hired the right people in your business for a reason. Each person in your team brings their own special set of skills to your business, which can be your biggest strength. A good leader recognises each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and isn’t afraid to delegate work that suits the team’s capabilities. This goes back to trusting your team, and in turn, empowers employees to bring their best to work.

Further reading: 5 tips that will teach you how to delegate effectively

3. The ability to communicate

A good leader can clearly express themselves to get the desired outcome. When every member of the team is working towards a common goal, then productivity and efficiency are almost a natural effect.

Further reading: What are the reasons for poor office communications and what can we do to stop it?

4. See the big picture

The ups and downs of running a business may get the better of you at times, but good leaders know when to shake it off by keeping their eyes on the big picture. Managing a stress-free work environment can double productivity, so good leaders pick their battles and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Further reading: The happiness advantage: How a little bit of positivity can improve productivity

5. Confidence

Confidence is everything when leading from the top. A good leader faces challenges with confidence and grace, showing the rest of the team that barriers and obstacles are only small setbacks, not a reflection of their capabilities or self-worth.

Further reading: Public speaking: How to emulate the confidence of your business idols

6. Commitment

Entrepreneurs famously work long hours, as do their teams. Working hard doesn’t mean working all hours of the day, but it does show commitment. Teams work better when they see the boss working alongside them, rallying them along and sharing the gore and glory.

Further reading: How companies can effectively establish flexible working policies

7. Creativity

Competition can be fierce, both in the marketplace and in your business. Managing difficult situations and staying ahead of competition requires creative thinking and innovation. A good leader demonstrates creative thinking and unorthodox approaches to business that can inspire teams even in their darkest hour.

Further reading: Where the wild thoughts are: How you can boost creativity throughout the business

What does productivity actually mean?

The UK is facing a productivity crisis. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the difference between post downturn productivity performance and the pre-downturn trend was at about 15.6% in 2016, compared to a G7 average of around 8.7%. How can SMEs keep their growth momentum if national productivity is down?

Productivity, for all intents and purposes, is a guide to how good a country is at delivering the goods and services that are bought and sold. At a fundamental level, it is measured by hours worked against money made. Nationally, output is measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Labour input is measured in two ways – by total hours worked and by the number of workers in employment. According to 2016 Eurostat figures, the average EU worker spent 41.4 hours a week at work, while the average Briton put in 42.8. This suggests that the UK’s low productivity levels are a result of long work hours compared to output and GDP.

What affects productivity and what can you do to change the downturn?

Office wellbeing and promoting a positive culture play a significant role in boosting productivity (happy workers and productive workers!).

Company leaders are not exempt from fostering office productivity on the ground. In fact, the leadership personality of the boss and senior staff have a direct effect on how employees feel about working in the office space. Make sure you set the right tone at the top, enabling an environment of positive culture to filter down to the grass-roots of employment.

Further reading: 15 tips to boost your productivity during the day

Business owners, CEOs and senior staff must also remain aware of the latest developments in management relations including management changes and designating senior leadership responsibilities to others.

Authentic leadership: How to inspire from the top

Authenticity is everything in today’s workplace. The strongest companies are mission-led, and that means leading authentically; bringing all of you to work, not just the corporate ‘you’.

Further reading: How imposter syndrome impacts productivity

Guiding company culture

No matter if your the founder, CEO, or part of the senior management team, you have additional cultural responsibilities alongside your other strategic and management ones. These cultural responsibilities pertain to the effect your business personality has on other employees, the culture it will create, and how happy and productive they will be in return. These responsibilities start at the top echelons of management, and will influence more junior staff to learn and emulate this positive culture.

Developing effective leadership skills is something business owners and senior management must continually learn. As work cultures are constantly in a state of metamorphosis, senior staff must update and learn relevant leadership skills concurrently. This also includes business owners and senior staff allocating themselves the time to brainstorm on wider company-culture and operational ideas going forward.

Managing change seamlessly

Part of being an effective leader is listening to members of staff and implementing positive changes at a micro level as well as macro. Whilst establishing a ‘ruling culture’ starts with senior management, implementing smaller changes that boosts employee productivity at a grass-roots level requires a more levelled and collaborative approach with other members of staff. But these considerations should also be balanced leadership level foresight. CEOS and senior management should also look to the bigger picture, and make use of their experience and influence to root out ineffective work methodologies within the business  that may revolutionise productivity in the long-term.

How to set your business course

Every business is different. This is not only done to the varying industries in which businesses operate, it’s down to the different kinds of personalities you encounter at all levels of employment. As workplaces are largely collaborative in structure, business owners and senior management must negotiate these differences to foster a happy, productive and results-driven workplace. Whilst leaders can take inspiration from the various ways famous business leaders achieved success in their field, to foster their own success, business owners on the ground must pursue a strategy that is in keeping with their own goals and company culture. This also includes how leaders run their business, don’t attempt a 24hr work culture if you’re functioning well on a 9-5 format.

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