Brian Bacon
Oxford Leadership Academy

Ten tips: How to be a successful leader

What does it take to become a successful leader? Thousands of people are asking themselves this exact question. There are certain strategic skills that need to be taken into consideration, in order to become a leader you need to strengthen and develop your best qualities.

One of the world’s top leadership consultants and creator of the Self Managing Leadership® training programme, Brian Bacon has spoken to Oxford Leadership Academy’s top partners, fellows and management to find out their top tips on how to be a successful leader.

The best business leaders need to be firm, decisive, sympathetic and forward-thinking, and it can be hard to strike a balance. People often think that they will be good leaders, but for many senior managers it is often the one area where they are actually really bad. Effective leadership isn’t as easy as it looks and few of us are naturals. But effective leadership can be learned.

So here are our top ten tips on becoming a successful leader, and how you can earn the trust, respect, and confidence of your staff:

  • Be approachable - have an open door policy. A good leader is about being available to your team. You have to be an active listener, be open to ideas and encourage diversity. The key is the ability to communicate well and give honest feedback. A leader will acknowledge when certain things are done well. Employees need to feel they can approach their manager as and when needed.
  • Ability to inspire – A leader will influence rather than instruct. Effective leaders need to communicate their vision and excite people by enabling them to see the benefits. This will help employees commit and overcome barriers within their career paths. True commitment means you have succeeded in influencing people so that they’ll endorse and truly support you.​
  • Lead by example - This seems like a pretty obvious one but it’s not as easy as it seems. Leaders need to be aware that the people who they have inspired are constantly watching them on how to take the next step. Do the task how you would somebody else to do it, work as hard as you’d like somebody to work for you, treat people how you want to be treated.
  • Leaders grow leaders - Create space for others in their team to step up and become leaders themselves. If you lead by example, this will enable others to follow your same path and become just as successful.
  • Humility and honesty – Have the humility to be able to detach yourself from your role and position. You should have a selfless spirit of service and be observant of others’ needs. If you can detach yourself then you are more likely to connect and develop a relationship with others. Effective leaders understand the different motivations people have and tailor their approach accordingly.
  • Be consistent - In your behaviour and actions. A successful leader will be reliable in decision-making; employees don’t want a leader whose actions are based on mood. When a rapid response is required, a leader should act on instinct. When you act on your intuition, your decisions are likely to be consistent as you are likely to make choices in line with your experience and values.
  • Constructive criticism - A leader will help others strengthen and develop their best qualities. There should not be unqualified criticism but teaching on how to improve and how to do better with existing assets.
  • Flexibility, Courage and Patience - A successful leader will have a clear sense of purpose, a clear vision and practice consistency at all levels. All three attributes are found to some extent in the other nine tips.
  • Know your subject - To be a leader, you first of all need to know at what you are a leader. Your area of expertise should be second nature to you, particularly when it comes to articulating what you know. If you are smart, precise and knowledgeable, you will reflect that to others. Confidence shines.
  • Be original - Don’t fear being different, nobody ever forgot a pioneer. You’ll always be remembered for your ideas; an incredibly successful leader relies on intuitive intelligence.

What business leaders are finding is that the traditional premium afforded to IQ is being reinterpreted. Today, ‘intuitive intelligence’ has become arguably the greatest weapon in the business leader’s toolkit. Intuition needs to be trained. It’s a learned skill, and the more you use it, the more reliable it becomes.

When looking over all of the top ten tips, it becomes clear how they all integrate. In order to be an effective leader you need to inspire, encourage and be honest. The most important legacy of a great leader is to create a legacy of even greater leaders who can take the business to the next level.

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