Behind every successful company is a great team leader. Without great leaders, your company can crash and burn — sending all your efforts, money, and time down the drain. A GoRemotely study says that 83 percent of enterprises swear by developing leaders at all levels in an organization.
Team leaders play a vital role in keeping the team and company up and running. Apart from ensuring that the team meets common goals, a leader does other tasks such as managing, motivating the team, monitoring performance, solving problems, and caring for the members’ wellbeing.
Moreover, hiring the right person to lead the team will have a substantial impact on the members and the entire organization. Imagine hiring an unorganized and indecisive leader with poor communication skills. This would mean running a haphazard company!
Leadership has nuances from management, making managers and team leaders differ in their roles and interaction with members. Steve Jobs once said, “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”
That being said, assess the candidate’s leadership skills and traits to ensure that you hire effective team leaders. Here are 12 essential traits and characteristics you must look for in an efficient team leader.
1. Effective Communicator
There’s only one way to put it: Effective team leaders build effective teams. Therefore, the most critical trait of a leader should be efficient communication skills. They must have the ability to succinctly and clearly communicate with their members, so specific tasks and common goals are appropriately addressed.
One of the roles of a team leader is to ensure that the goals are met. And without clear communication, misunderstandings and issues can arise. On the other hand, being able to communicate one’s tasks can set the right expectations and allow members to perform as anticipated. This not only benefits the organization but also benefits the members’ desire for growth in the company.
A popular methodology introduced by John Doerr called Objectives, and Key Results methodology or OKRs is adapted by thousands of influential business owners worldwide. It consists of:
- Set Strategic Priorities. This means to set your priorities for the next two to five years and adhere to them.
- Assess Processes. Determining the macro-processes in your organization for proper communication between all levels of employees.
- Set OKRs and Key Results. Set objectives, ensure they’re inspiring, help achieve company goals, be timebound, and move the company forward. Then measure results that help you achieve your objectives. Make sure the results are quantifiable, achievable, specific, and encourage objective grading. Here’s an ultimate guide on how to set OKRs.
- Share Roles and Team Key Results. It’s crucial to align key results with everyone’s objectives. This way, everyone’s roles are crystal clear.
- Build Reporting. All members must be on the same page when interpreting data. That said, build a reporting system that everyone agrees on. This will include giving feedback, reporting circles, and KPIs.
Accountability pertains to accepting the repercussions of your actions and decisions. Being accountable means accepting your responsibilities without expectations of awards or incentives. Accountable team leaders will know how to step up in various scenarios without blaming others.
Accountability in the workplace is crucial because it allows for learning, boosts trust, and enhances performance. On the other hand, accountability is hindered if there’s a lack of engagement, a fear of failure, and unclear expectations.
Here are ways to gear leaders for accountability:
- Set clear expectations
- Provide feedback
- Involve employees in goal setting and decision-making process
- Provide necessary tools and resources
- Recognize your mistakes
- Be open to discussing failures and mistakes
The old saying goes, “You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.” A successful team leader will know how to manage himself before managing his subordinates. Leaders won’t perform their responsibilities if they don’t prioritize themselves, which includes their goals, attention, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses.
As self-managing team leaders, you must also set aside potential biases that might impact your assessment of any given situation. Moreover, self-management means separating your professional and personal lives and handling stress at work.
Finally, a self-managing team leader isn’t too rigid and will know how to respond to any situation and maintain empathy in particular events.
Staying committed is one of the critical traits of a leadership role. However, commitment doesn’t only pertain to achieving both your goals or your team’s goals. Showing commitment means giving it all — from setting goals, delegating tasks down to collaborating to achieve those goals.
Commitment goes beyond achieving common goals as well. Instead, commitment means showing a particular zeal and enthusiasm towards reaching the company’s goals, mission, and vision.
One major ingredient to staying committed is engagement. Team leaders must be fully engaged with their members to keep everyone in the loop. Unfortunately, according to a Forbes article, 70 percent of workers are actively disengaged. And disengagement can lead to demotivation, more errors, and employees looking for new job opportunities.
That said, take time to sit down with your subordinates and talk to them. Schedule a one on one meeting once a week or once every two weeks. This way, you know what’s troubling your members and find solutions that get their motivations up again.
Acknowledging mistakes and failures is a brave thing exceptional team leaders do. Also, being able to recognize failure from your subordinates is essential. However, incredible team leaders must prevent it, at least by monitoring and checking in on their members.
If failure does arise, then that’s okay. How team leaders handle failures is what matters in a functional organization. They say that failures serve as learning curves for ambitious and goal-oriented people. And it’s true. Failures do make you a tad bit stronger when handling challenges at work.
However, you can try to address failures the proper way by:
- Stop making excuses and admit failures from your team members
- Never ignore environmental cues and check in on your people frequently
- Collaborate and figure out a solution to amend it
- Find a silver lining from the failure
- Use this experience to become a better team leader
Finally, remember never to put the blame on others. Instead, take responsibility for your subordinates’ failures, as this can gain more loyalty and affection from them.
Being a visionary is what will drive the company forward. Having a visionary and quality team leader will open innovations and prevent the company from getting stuck in a rut.
One of the most critical team leader responsibilities is having a clear vision. This doesn’t only involve the physical products or the production process, which is the “What” and the “How.” But good role models will start with the “Why,” which determines your understanding of the company vision. According to Simon Sinek’s book, this is classified into three primary categories called “Start with the Why.”
Furthermore, being a visionary means eliminating any roadblocks in company creativity and innovations. You must be able to learn how to adapt and keep up with the trends. It doesn’t necessarily mean organizations must succumb to change, but they must at least manage it to allow for growth and stability.
7. Persistent in Achieving Goals
An exceptional team leader must set clear team goals to lead the members in the right direction. Ask any efficient goal setter, and they’ll tell you one thing: WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS.
Writing down your goals, either on soft or hard copy, makes for a more effective process. An Inc. article states that 42 percent of people are more likely to achieve goals if they write them down. Here are some benefits of jotting down your goals:
- Helps you stay motivated
- Narrows down your focus
- Reminds you of what you want
- Provides realistic timeframes
- Lets you celebrate small wins and progress
Team leaders should be excellent problem solvers. Team members rely on leaders for major decisions whenever problems arise at work. And a team leader must be ready to steer the current system in the right direction. In addition, they must be able to respond swiftly to any given circumstance that impacts the company negatively.
A great team leader will know how to assess the situation and determine the proper courses of action. On top of that, here’s a guide on becoming a better problem solver to manage complexity at the workplace:
- Identify the problem
- Determine the root cause
- Gather multiple solutions
- Choose the most suitable solution
- Plan and implement the solution
- Measure the results of the solution
9. Sharp Perception
Having the acumen to perceive things via observation is also a natural gift born team leaders have. A team leader with a sharp perception will know what members think of you. This should be as easy as observing how they act around you. Or the way team members communicate with you, or even the subtle facial expressions and body gestures should give you an idea of how people perceive you.
If they act like you’re not there, or when conversations stop the moment you enter the room, then don’t think you’ll get the “Boss of the Year” award. The easiest way to know what your people think of you is to ask for feedback. If you practice open and honest communication, this should be a walk in the park.
Impartiality means showing unprejudiced treatment or decisions in the workplace. An impartial team leader is a fair leader. They always see to it that all their choices and interests benefit everyone at heart.
Here are a few ways to know if you’re one:
- If you make good decisions that are beneficial for everyone
- If you do what’s right and not what’s popular
- Confident of your positive actions without worrying what others think
- Can easily spot dishonesty and discrimination
- Treats everyone as equally important but cares for everyone’s needs as well
- Decides depending on a written process and not based on a whim
- Accepts that subordinates may think that their decisions are unfair
11. Fosters Creativity
Your organization can get stuck in a dead-end if you allow yourself to lag behind a changing business landscape. Most of the big brands continue to hit the zenith of success due to continuous innovation. And without team leaders who foster creativity and innovation, a company can indeed get stuck.
Never be afraid to risk experimentation, no matter how impossible the idea might be. Encourage your people to brainstorm for new ideas and concepts that are unique. Let them be creative thinkers.
Steve Jobs is a perfect example of an exceptional team leader that fostered his people’s creativity. He called this the “Reality Distortion Field.” It simply means to think of the craziest ideas and try to bend reality to make them happen.
Team leaders must be agile enough to adapt to the changing times and keep up with industry trends. This is part of learning agility, which means having the acumen for critical thinking skills, social and emotional intelligence, and being open to uncertainty.
One reason why ideas fail is that you don’t test them. Always make sure to follow the BUILD-MEASURE-LEARN principle. Some leaders forget the testing or “measure” part of the process, which means some bad ideas or products can pass through.
Build your ideas, test them out, monitor and learn whether you want to continue or nip the idea in the bud. Trust me, it’ll save you time, money, and effort.
The last and most crucial trait of a team leader is being hardworking. We hate to point out the obvious, but most leaders forget this characteristic. Don’t be that boss who asks everyone to go on overtime and leaves the office the earliest. Being a team leader means you have to put in the work and lead by example. Once you show that you’re an excellent team leader, then your subordinates will follow suit.