5 Simple Ways to Become a Better Leader Credit: Leadership image via Shutterstock

As a leader, it's your job to guide your team towards accomplishing specific goals. You might successfully reach those goals, but could your leadership still use some improvement? Are you able to relate to your team? Do you help your team members relate to one another? Do you simply organize and direct, or do you influence and inspire? Here are five tips to help you evaluate and improve your effectiveness as a leader. 

Leading a group of people requires a mutual sense of trust and understanding between leader and team members. As a first step toward that goal, leaders should learn to connect. 

"Building a real personal connection with your teammates is vital to developing the shared trust necessary to build a strong culture of accountability and exceptional performance," said Terry 'Starbucker' St. Marie, a leadership writer and consultant. "With that culture in place, the team can achieve a successful business, a happy team and a fulfilled leader." 

St. Marie believes that being what he calls a "more human" leader requires positivity, purpose, empathy, compassion, humility and love. These key traits will put you on the road to genuine connections with the members of your team. 

Luke Iorio, president and CEO of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), says that leaders also need to be aware of the way they communicate. 

"They need to understand how to not only clearly communicate their particular directions, but how to do it in a way that makes sense to the people they're talking to," Iorio told BusinessNewsDaily. 

As much as leaders wish that their team's day-to-day operations could run smoothly all the time, they're bound to run into the occasional obstacle. Whether it's a minor miscommunication or a major error, the way a leader handles a negative situation says a lot about his or her leadership skills. Robert Mann, author of "The Measure of a Leader" (iUniverse, 2013), recommends focusing on the good in any set of circumstances. 

"Look at three positive things about a problem before you identify what makes it dissatisfying," Mann said. "The more you look at the positives in a problem, the more positively people react with one another." 

In his research, Mann has found that, after individuals point out things they're happy with in a problematic situation, they don't feel so strongly about the problem and are better able to think clearly and solve it. The same is true when a leader needs to improve his or her strategy. If you or a team member notices a particular course of action you've taken that just isn't working, figure out some things you've done in similar situations that have worked. Dr. Peter Fuda, author of "Leadership Transformed" (New Harvest, 2013), says that leaders can learn to focus on the positive by shifting from 'critic to cheerleader' of their teams. 

"This strategy involves moving from a focus on what is going wrong to what is going right," Fuda said. "Shining a light on issues and problems is an important part of transformation, but it must not become a leader's default setting. An important mantra I have shared with almost every leader I have met is, 'Don't let perfect get in the way of better.'" 

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Fuda also recommends showing others what is required rather than simply telling them. Iorio endorses a similar approach, noting that leaders should coach their team members toward a more collaborative, committed work environment — without coaxing them.

"[If you are] controlling people to do certain things in certain ways, you're not going to get the level of engagement that you're looking for," Iorio said. "Coaching is about helping the people you lead recognize the choices they have in front of them. People will [then] take a great deal of ownership over the direction of the project." 

St. Marie offers a list of questions that leaders can ask themselves to address this point, including:
-Am I being a teacher and not just a "teller"?
-Am I building trust and respect, rather than ruling by fear?
-Am I connecting my teammates' work to a higher common purpose that gives their work meaning?
-Am I using the right metrics to measure and motivate my team?
-Am I enabling my team to fulfill their greatest potential? 

An honest self-assessment of your own leadership can be difficult. This is why feedback from mentors, fellow professionals and team members is invaluable in evaluating your effectiveness. According to St. Marie, talking to friends and peers often brings needed perspective on your leadership approach and style. Leadership coaching can also help you discover areas that need improvement. A professional who helps you develop a plan to achieve your leadership goals can be more motivational than books and seminars alone. 

"Coaching allows leaders to make the connection and apply [changes] in a real-life setting," Iorio said. "You need time to integrate, process and reflect, and unless you go through those steps, you won't have sustainable change." 

If a person in a leadership position views what he or she is doing as "just a job," it's going to show. In order to be an effective leader, you need to have the right motivation. Is it the money or the prestige you care about, or do you sincerely want to inspire people to do their best? St. Marie advises leaders to really ask themselves why they want to lead. 

"I look at leadership as an honor and a vocation," he told BusinessNewsDaily. "If in your heart you feel leadership is your destiny, and how you'll make a difference in this world, then you are certainly starting from the right place."