11 Ways to be A Better Leader
1. Set the right intentions.
Being a leader is regarded as a privilege but in truth, it is a trust (amanah) and to fulfill your responsibility you must begin with the right intentions. It is easy to say “I’m doing this for the sake of pleasing Allah subhanahu wa taala” but setting intentions also include knowing your purpose, goals and priorities. This reflects your sincerity and calibre as a leader.
Be aware that good intentions can be corrupted by various factors along the way, such as the desire to feed one’s ego by gaining fame and recognition. Fame is a by-product of our actions but it should not be our primary aim. At the same time, should one become famous it is only by the will of the All-Knowing and All-Wise and our goal should be to use it to serve Him and benefit His creations.
2. Understand your leadership style.
Personalities vary from one person to another and so do leadership styles. For instance, extroverts and introverts have very different ways of communicating and interacting with people and this impacts the way they lead and manage their teammates and organisations. In order to know your harness strengths and weaknesses it is important to improve and develop your leadership without “faking” your abilities but cultivating the skills that will make you a genuinely better leader.
While having a dominant and outgoing personality is beneficial in many ways it is a misconception that extroverts are better leaders than introverts. A study done by Harvard Business School (2010) has discovered that in certain situations introverts may in fact be better leaders and bosses.
“In a dynamic, unpredictable environment, introverts are often more effective leaders—particularly when workers are proactive, offering ideas for improving the business. Such behavior can make extroverted leaders feel threatened. In contrast, introverted leaders tend to listen more carefully and show greater receptivity to suggestions, making them more effective leaders of vocal teams.” The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses, Harvard Business Review
Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, the key is to trust yourself and be confident with your ability to achieve the goals and tasks you have as a leader, and you do not need to be outgoing, talkative or enjoy socialising to do that. Once you have established trust among your colleagues, they will respect you as a leader.
3. Accept that you do not know everything.
As a leader, people will turn to you for answers and solutions but that does not mean you must have the answers to everything. Instead, you must know how to find and create practical solutions and that begins by acknowledging that you do not know everything but you have the skills to assess the situation, collaborate with others and connect the dots. In order to do so, you must be prepared to learn new things all the time.
Leaders are not know-it-all’s and that is a good thing because nobody likes a know-it-all. Your team mates and colleagues are there to support you so lead them with rahmah (mercy). Encourage them to ask questions and give feedback. Give advice tactfully. Inspire them to be more productive and proactive by moulding them to become leaders themselves and not mere followers or yes-men.
4. Read this.
21 Ways to Be a Better Leader Without Breaking a Sweat. Enough said.
5. Identify and communicate your vision and mission effectively.
When you imagine yourself doing something great in school, in your organisation or with your family, what is it? Now, that’s your vision. Prepare a vision statement but do not get it confused with a mission statement. It’s important to know the difference so you can effectively communicate them.
A vision is a long-term goal whereas a mission underlines the purpose of what you do.
A vision statement answers the question, “Where do I see this project, organisation or group going?” whereas as a mission statement answers the question, “Why are we doing this or why does my organisation exist?”. In other words, your mission statement is your ‘Why?’ as described by Simon Sinek who wrote about how great organisations like Apple began with a great ‘Why?’ in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe… We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.” – Simon Sinek
Your clients or colleagues must be convinced by your vision and driven by your mission. Here are some tips on how to write a killer vision statement and mission statement that will reflect you and your organisation’s goals and aspirations. http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3882-vision-statement.html
6. Adopt the concept of servant leadership.
Allah (swt) has chosen us to be khalifahs (guardians or vicegerents) on this Earth and the best way we can do that is by becoming servant leaders. It may sound like a paradox but it makes a lot of sense once you understand it. Servant leadership is:
“…a leadership philosophy which implies a comprehensive view of the quality of people, work and community spirit. It requires a spiritual understanding of identity, mission, vision and environment. A servant leader is someone who is servant first, who has responsibility to be in the world, and so he contributes to the well-being of people and community.
A servant leader looks to the needs of the people and asks himself how he can help them to solve problems and promote personal development. He places his main focus on people, because only content and motivated people are able to reach their targets and to fulfill the set expectations.”
Find out if you have what it takes to be a servant leader. Remember, we were all born to lead and serve His creations but of course no is born with the skills to do so. It is up to us to learn and apply them in our lives. MuzlimBuzz has a good article on a servant leadership workshop conducted by Imam Afroz Ali that is worth checking out.
7. Lead by example.
It sounds clichéd but truer words have never been said. A leader sets the standard or example of a dedicated worker. Take your work seriously. Take yourself seriously. The rest will follow suit.
8. “Be a better leader. Have a richer life.”
Being a good leader, entrepreneur or boss does not mean you should only prioritise your work or career. In fact, if you want to be successful in school or at work and create meaningful, sustainable changes in the world you have to know that your emotional and mental health plays a big role in making that happen.
“Be real. Understand what really matters to you – your core values, the legacy you want to leave.” – Stewart Friedman
In this interview, Professor Stewart Friedman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of Take the Four-Way View: Leadership with Authenticity, explains that the key to living a more productive and fulfilled life as a leader is not balance because it implies that you have to trade-off what is important to you in order to attain success in your career. Instead he suggests fulfilling your responsibilities and integrating leadership into all aspects of your life – work, community, home and self – so you are more empowered to make the positive difference that you want in various parts of your life.
Friedman also encourages people to be innovative and experiment with new ways of increasing productivity such as working from home once a week or turning off digital devices during certain hours.
9. Be likeable.
This does not mean getting more ‘likes’ on Facebook. You don’t have to try to win an award for this or anything like that. Just try to be a likeable leader by not losing sight of the simple things, like listening to other people’s suggestions and showing gratitude someone’s hard work and dedication. Want to more likeable? Read all about the ‘11 Simple Concepts to Become a Simple Leader’.
10. Create a more conducive work environment.
Assess your office space or work environment from time to time. Ask your teammates or colleagues what is causing them stress at work and how you can make them feel more productive yet comfortable. You cannot please everybody but you can at least tell them their concerns are important to you and they are being considered or provide simple solutions to their workspace problems. Here are some tips on how to create the perfect workspace courtesy of LifeHacker and 99U:
– When office workers get to arrange their own space, productivity is increased.
– Rounded furniture tends to provoke more creativity.
– Blue and green are linked to creativity, while red is linked to a better attention to detail.
– Office plants lower stress levels.
11. Be creative with team-building events.
Make sure you colleagues know they are important to you and that you know there is more to teamwork then being in the same space or wearing the same uniform. Team-building events are important but they can get quite cheesy or feel forced after a while. Get creative ideas from your team so everyone has a chance to do what they want to do and share their interests with the people they work with. Moreover, it gives people a chance to be exposed to new ideas and activities which is a plus for personal development.
The people you work with want to know you are looking out for them and one of the ways to do this is by giving back to others them when they have given you their loyalty, hard work and effort. More and more leaders have to be aware that money is not the only reason why people choose a particular job or career path. Helping your colleagues to achieve their goals and become better individuals is what will set you apart from the rest of the leaders.
“If our leaders are to enjoy the trappings of their position in the hierarchy, then we expect them to offer us protection. The problem is, for many of the overpaid leaders, we know that they took the money and perks and didn’t offer protection to their people. In some cases, they even sacrificed their people to protect or boost their own interests. This is what so viscerally offends us. We only accuse them of greed and excess when we feel they have violated the very definition of what it means to be a leader.” – Simon Sinek
It is not easy being a leader but it is very rewarding to be able to empower others. Most importantly, do not let the responsibility scare you or abuse your privileges because God has entrusted you this role because He is giving you a chance to do a lot of good deeds and collect more hasanah and ‘ajr! Being a leader is about serving others and inspiring them to spring into action.
So what will you do today to become a better leader?
Shahirah Elaiza Wan Hassan
Shahirah Elaiza is a Communication Studies graduate who is currently living in New Zealand. She is a modern-day Muslimah who is always rediscovering the true meaning of Islam and what it means to believe in God. In her spare time, Shahirah enjoys travelling and blogging about Islam, fashion and her latest adventures on her personal blog, Colours of My Life.