Anyone can be a manager, but being a leader is something else entirely. While a manager can tell people what to do, a leader inspires and motivates people to go above and beyond.

It’s been found that 80% of employees who were dissatisfied with their manager were also disengaged. That makes bad managing an epidemic, and the potential explanation for underperforming staff in your organization.

Thankfully, there’s one change that could alter the way your staff work, engage and perform: turn your managers into leaders.

Leaders encourage staff to use their initiative. They motivate employees to find new, intuitive ways to improve company processes, and know how to get the most out of their workforce. Leaders strive to always work productively, and allow staff their own creative freedom to think outside the box.

On the other hand, managers manage. They ensure that staff meet deadlines without any space for error. They stick to rigid tasks without room for manoeuvre – even if there is a more streamlined way of work that could get the same results, faster.

In short, bad managers lead to problems, but leaders lead to results.

Here are seven ways you and your colleagues can transform from managers into leaders:

1. Constantly Ask for Feedback

The first step to becoming a leader in your managerial role is to encourage, and be open to, feedback. Don’t shut your doors at any sign of constructive criticism. Instead, communicate regularly and make the workplace an environment open to discussion.

According to a recent survey, 69% of staff in leadership positions admitted to feeling uncomfortable when communicating with their staff. Not only does this run the risk of missing important dates and deadlines, but it could set the tone for limited communication within your business.

Allowing your team to discuss opinions, challenges and room for improvement demonstrates that you’re listening to them. You can do this by creating a staff survey to get the ball rolling. Asking insightful questions to your employees could also encourage feedback, especially when asking things like “how can I help you to feel more satisfied in your role?” or “if you were the CEO of this company, what would you change?”.

A key trait of leadership is being open to other people’s ideas, so always encourage staff to give feedback on anything work-related… And use their feedback to improve your HR strategy!

2. Give Your People Freedom

Leaders care about streamlining processes and allowing staff the confidence to try new things, but that only comes with honesty.

Recognized as an important trait for any employee to have, honesty is appreciated by leaders.

You, as a leader, can help staff to become more honest by giving them freedom. This could be as simple as giving them freedom to write next week’s business pitch, or allowing flexible working hours to give staff the choice to work when they’re most productive.

Once they’ve implemented their new freedom-based activity, hold performance-based interviews to discuss the outcome. That way, you can ensure that their activities are beneficial for both your company and the individual.

Regularly do this yourself, too. Tell your staff your exciting plans for a trial, and tell them the results – be that positive or negative.

As we know, mistakes are sometimes made, and the success of our experiments don’t always to go plan. However, set an example to show that it’s alright if things go wrong. It’s honesty that’s valued in this situation… Not just success!

3. Play to People’s Strengths

As much as we all like to think we’re a master of all trades, we should recognize that our skills vary massively from our co-workers. That’s a perfectly natural environment to work in, but leaders would take advantage of the variety when delegating tasks.

Give your team tasks that they’re good at, and confident in – not just those that you don’t want to complete yourself. Remember, managers hand-out work they don’t want to do themselves; leaders give work that helps people to grow.

Make a note of which types of projects challenge your employees, and which make them feel demotivated. Then, when a new project is on the cards, delegate individual tasks based on your findings.

Delegating tasks to staff based on their strengths and preferences will help them to feel more valued. In turn, they’ll see you as “on their side” as a leader, and not a superior manager.

4. Don’t Micromanage

When we discuss the term “micro-manage”, it derives directly from the word, ‘manager’. To avoid this term and become more of a leader in your role, create a fun working environment that makes staff feel happy when they start their day.

Remember that as a leader, you don’t need to know every minor task that your staff do – you just need to know the end result. Give staff enough space to complete their own work, with regular check-ins to discuss what has been done.

Not only does giving creative freedom help your staff to feel less micro-managed, but they’ll have the opportunity to try new things and report the outcome back to yourself.

5. Add Purpose to Work

Did you know that leaders who foster a sense of purpose in their company have better-performing employees? Acting as a motivator for your workplace, directly tell your staff the influence that their work, opinions and ideas are having on the company.

Let’s say that your staff are working hard to meet a strict deadline for a project. Instead of pushing them to the brink of exhaustion, tell them that the project is bringing $250k in revenue for the company. Explain that this additional revenue will help the organization to offer better health insurance benefits, or that the profit is going towards a revenue share at the end of the tax year.

Whatever purpose you use, ensure that it’s true! Remember that leaders are honest, so never promise a purpose that you cannot give.

6. Focus on Developing Your People

The ultimate goal of a leader is to see people grow and do well. If staff are excelling in one area of their role, are you able to change their day-to-day tasks to better-accommodate this?

However, to do that, a change in the structure of their job may be required. This can be as simple as changing a daily task from one member of staff to another.

If you spot an opportunity for an employee to excel by changing their role, consider setting up a HR meeting. As a leader your aim is to help your staff grow and develop – even if that means they leave your team.

7. Take Responsibility

Taking risks always comes with failures. It’s part of life (and being a successful leader!), but you should use this lesson to show your staff that they should take responsibility for the good and the bad.

Set an example to your employees. If you try something that didn’t work, take responsibility! Owning up to mistakes or failures can set a precedent that helps to identify areas of improvement quickly, and makes people feel safe when trying new things.

Taking responsibility can also help you to feel more relatable to your team, which can pay-off in the long-term. If staff feel more connected to you, it will open routes for discussion and improvement.

Whatever industry you work in, leadership should always excel. Think of new ways to allow your staff to spill their creative juices, and strive to make a better, more enjoyable workplace.

As long as you stay focused and don’t let the leadership take over your actual role, you should see a surge in staff satisfaction, and a reduction in turnover, in no time!

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