Being a leader is really not that hard. Of course you will encounter difficult situations, but ultimately leadership is just ordinary interaction between two people. It’s all about people skills.
The essence of leadership is genuine interest in other people and their work at the workplace. Unfortunately many bosses have no idea, what employees really do, let alone how they are doing. Interest in other person’s work shows respect and of course we all hope to be respected. That is to say we all want our work to matter.
Showing interest is not the same as micromanaging. Employees are the best experts in their own work. At least my employees have usually done their work remarkably better than I would’ve ever done. This is especially true, when you are leading an expert organization. It’s not an overstatement to say that a good leader always hires people, who are smarter than herself. Talented employees make the boss shine.
Responsibility is an important motivator. When people trust me, I want to be worthy of that trust. At least that motivates me to strive hard and exceed expectations. Positive expectations produce positive results.
No one succeeds every single time, neither the employees, nor the boss. Even this situations can be resolved by relying on good manners. You have to admit mistakes and fix them. And preferably also apologize and forgive. You shouldn’t get stuck on failures, but you should learn from the mistakes.
We carried out a significant organizational and cultural restructuring in my workplace, and one of the most important things was that managers took responsibility and really made changes. The initiatives came from the employees. Top management’s message to the managers was that you’re allowed to make mistakes and nothing should be left undone because of the fear of failure. If you make a mistake, don’t worry about it, fix it. But most importantly, changes have to happen. No one likes to be in stagnant water for too long.
Giving feedback is an essential part of interaction at work, both critical and especially positive feedback. A thank-you will encourage you to push forward. As for corrective feedback, it’s every employees’ right. Nothing is worse than doing wrong and having no one to tell you that. The employee has to have the right and the chance to adjust her actions. In the worst case scenario, mistakes are caused by misunderstanding, which can lead to large-scale problems.
Performance appraisals with my employees have always been the highlights of my work year. It’s great to be able to listen to people talk about their work, accomplishments and expectations. What’s even greater is when you can give feedback, perhaps trust an employee with even more responsibilities, and begin to execute development plans together. I’m extremely impressed about how different things motivate people and how different jobs people like. I’m glad we’re not all the same and we don’t want the same things. This is why every job will eventually find its doer.
When the relationships at work work, work can also be fun. My own principle has been that you should be allowed to laugh as much as you’re paid at the workplace. Honestly, it’s really fun to work with me, when things are going well and everyone is doing their part. Of course other kinds of situations can occur as well, but those can be resolved professionally.
I’ve done my leadership career in the public sector, where the ways to reward are quite limited. When you can’t use money as a motivator, the other sides of work are emphasized. Job satisfaction, responsibility and challenges are even more sustainable incentives than cash. There isn’t that much money in the world that would keep me in a bad workplace. I bet the same applies to you.
The writer is the Director of Urban Planning at Järvenpää city until the end of the year and the Director-General of the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland starting from 1.1.2015.