4 Little Known Ways Better Leaders Look Professional

Social media is awash in manager versus boss memes and ideal leadership infographics, which makes some people feel good for a while because they use them as a validating checklist when they don’t get the recognition they think they deserve. They’ve convinced themselves that they are acting more like a leader, and their boss is the ineffective micromanager. The odds are in their favor. Some surveys suggest that up to 70% of managers do not have the functional managerial talent to fulfill their role effectively. Do you suspect those numbers have improved dramatically in the last twenty-four months?

Unfortunately, that awareness and 25 cents won’t buy you a cup of coffee, and it sure isn’t going to make you a better leader. To improve, you could always grab a book and browse another list of leadership principles that a persuasive business leader with the luxury of hindsight, an ego-friendly ghostwriter, and earnest gatekeepers at a publishing house think deserves your attention. If you’re up to it, you could wade into academia and see what the latest (or traditionally regurgitated) studies tell you what qualities the best leaders possess.

Or, to make it easy and immediately applicable for you, try doing these four things better leaders do regularly. You can start any of them right away, regardless of your title or circumstance.

1. Be on time. You do not look impressive when you walk in late. When you are so busy racing from one meeting to another appointment, you either come across as harried or arrogant. No one is inspired if a meeting is delayed waiting for your arrival or stopped cold to bring you up to speed. At best, there’s indifference — most people you work with are already disengaged. Being late makes you look like a slob who can’t manage a calendar. Sure, things come up, and there may be unavoidable tardiness. That should be exceedingly rare, not the rule. For those who travel with an entourage, it looks even more stupid. No one they have chosen to surround themselves with can read a clock or be persuasive enough to keep a commitment? It’s weak, and any excuse is an advertisement for poor planning on your part. Period.

2. State your intention. Be forthright in what you want or desire from the exchange. If you are going to go through gyrations and play games, you will eventually lose. Be clear and concise. Be courageous if you’re uncertain. If you cannot state what you want or need, you probably haven’t earned it yet. Have an agenda for every meeting. You can scribble it on the back of a takeout menu if you have to, as long as you enter the exchange being clear on your purpose and intent. If you don’t, you will encounter a high probability of traipsing off track. Don’t waste your or other people’s time and energy.

3. Be empathetic. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Imagine their concerns, fears, apprehensions, or share in their joy. “Don’t be a jerk” is a good rule, but face it, if you are going to be effective and make decisions, someone somewhere will think you are a jerk. Don’t try to manage what other people think. It is not your role, nor is it your business. Seek to understand as best you can, own the consequences, and then move on.

4. Show gratitude. When was the last time you said thank you? Someone made your job easier or caused your day to run a little smoother — did you acknowledge them? No, you don’t have to. You can be rude about it and disdainfully say, “it’s their job,” and maybe it is. So what? Are you getting too much praise and encouragement in your life? Why be stingy? Thank people for their effort.

Will these four simple things make you a better leader?

Yes.

Does failing to do them make you a lousy leader?

Yes.

The choice is yours.

Become a confident, competent leader in your field without becoming a jerk. Boston-bred and California-chilled Karl Bimshas is the leadership consultant, author, and podcast host who collaborates with busy professionals — most often those who are underestimated and underrepresented in leadership roles.

Improve the working relationships with your colleagues and direct reports to create high-performing teams with a series of leadership workbooks available at LeadershipWorkbooks.com

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