How to Become a More Effective Leader

Is leadership an innate quality or something that can be taught and learned? The answer is probably a mixed one. Some individuals seem destined for leadership, but there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that men and women who aspire to a leadership role can—with effective guidance and experience—grow into that role and make a difference in the lives of others.

Here at Baillie Lumber, we support the servant leadership model. What is “servant leadership”?   DSC8320

According to The Balance, the term originates with an essay authored by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. His belief was “that the traditional pyramid of organizational leadership should be flipped upside down.” In other words, “the leader exists to provide guidance, direction, and assistance while the employees are empowered to work and make decisions on their own.” 

Principles of servant leadership 

Servant leaders operate by a compelling set of ironclad principles and beliefs. These include: 

· Every individual is deserving of trust and respect.
· Actively encourage participation and feedback and listen to what others say.
· Serve as a mentor to others.
· Be persistent in your efforts to guide and inspire others.
· Hold individuals accountable for the commitments they make. 

As leadership expert Peter Economy notes, servant leaders “push for high standards of performance, service quality, and alignment of values throughout the team,” while also being ready to “invest whatever time it takes to educate and inspire servant leadership practices” throughout the organization. 

How to practice servant leadership 

Part of why we advocate servant leadership so strongly is that when put into practice, there are several concrete and highly beneficial steps a leader can make.  

Give credit to your team. An effective servant leader encourages and supports new ideas coming from the team. He or she also makes sure that credit for a great idea goes to its source—never the person “in charge.” 

Communicate, and communicate some more. Leaders stay connected to team members, developing relationships were possible with these individuals. This grows out of a commitment to always be communicating. 

Listen! As we have noted elsewhere, active listening is a key quality practiced by effective leaders. To improve your capacity for listening:

·         Listen with the intention to fully grasp the other person’s meaning.

·         Maintain eye contact and give your full attention.

·         Repeat back (in your own words) what the other person has said.

·         Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand the other person’s point.

·         Refrain from interrupting to get your own point across.

Practicing the art of active listening can lead to a deeper understanding of the needs, concerns, and desires of others on your team.  

Conduct meetings in a collaborative manner. Servant leaders don’t monopolize meetings with their employees (or customers, for that matter). They moderate meetings by allowing everyone involved to have the opportunity to contribute. suggests not “giving the floor only to extroverts,” but instead “asking for feedback from everyone, perhaps starting at one end of the table and then working around it.”  

Take feedback from others, and act upon it. 

Effective leaders welcome feedback from other members of the team. In some circumstances, this might come about through anonymous surveys or other ways to solicit feedback where employees don’t feel any negative consequences will follow. After that, a leader absorbs this feedback and takes the necessary action to improve the quality of their leadership style—all in order to better serve the team and the organization. 

As these suggestions indicate, you don’t have to be a “born leader” to practice effective leadership. Whether it is someone at our one of our sawmills, a new lumber trader, or someone on our Forestry team, anyone can become a leader. What’s truly important is embracing the principles of servant leadership, putting them in action, and inspiring others to do the best they can. In this way, everyone benefits and the organization grows.

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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