Mastering the Art of Leadership: Be a better leader today

Who doesn’t want to be a better leader? Or at least the best leader they possibly can be?

And what makes a better leader anyway? As mentioned in “Is marketing a good career?” being a good leader matters, because it’s needed to build a great and sustained team.

In this article, I discuss the following:

What makes a better leader?

What’s a good leader and what’s a bad leader is in the eye of the beholder and that beholder often is the leader’s teams, peers and even bosses on the internal side. That can be hard to wrap their heads around for some long-time leaders. They only had to prove that they indeed are a good leader to their bosses. Their teams didn’t get to evaluate them.

But today – especially in American culture where employment is commonly at-will and the grass may or may not be greener on the other side, it’s essential for leaders to be great leaders in everyone’s eyes. And that includes the team, peers and their boss(es). Of course, external parties, too, as that may apply to publicly facing roles.

Read next: Why thought partnership is the next level of thought leadership

Understanding yourself as a leader

A big part to getting better at anything is to understand yourself as a leader:

  • What motivates me?
  • How do I commuicate?
  • What’s the response from others to my communication style?
  • Do I delegate correctly?
  • Am I empowering people?
  • Do I dictate everything or do I set a vision and point the team in the right direction?

Carolyn Stern’s book “The Emotionally Strong Leader” discusses the topic of understanding yourself as a leader – including your emotions and how you can control them and use to your advantage.


The importance of understanding personalities

There’s something to be said about understanding personalities on the team. That’s one reason why one leader shouldn’t have more than six or so people as their direct reports. Once there are too many people, it’s nearly impossible

As I discuss in “Content Performance Culture,” the best leaders get the right players in the right seats on a team and set everyone up for success.

Building the right habits

James Clear in “Atomic Habits” talks about how we can reach our goals, be better at whatever and move forward by building and sticking with the right habits.

Good leaders make the right behaviors habits. They know what behaviors help them in the business and build a good team, keep that team rowing together and drive results.

Marc Reklau gives tips in his book how to make progress in just 30 days. 

The concept of unleading

Being a good leader has maybe never been more about building relationships – internal and external – than ever before. Celine Schillinger talks about unleading in her book “Dare to Un-lead.”

Throw out what you’ve known about what it takes to be a leader. There’s no more place for the dominant, follow my way or the highway approach, Celine says. It’s about building relationships.

Caring leadership and the art of listening

Being a good leader includes a level of caring for people and listening to them, as Heather Younger shared in her book, “The Art of Caring Leadership.” That can seem unnatural to some that see leadership as directing people. Heck, some leadership job descriptions even say things like that: “This person directs a team of 5 people in our marketing strategy implementation.”

But, the business world is getting too complicated for any one person (aka the leader) to know it all. We need to collaborate across and up and down in organizations to truly drive the best results.

Heather’s new book in 2023 “The art of active listening” covers how to listen better in even more depth.

Making it fun

Patti Seda talks about “Discovering Job Joy” in her book. And some of that does come back to the company culture, which is highly influenced by the leaders. If the leaders are empathetic, so is the culture. If it’s “their way or the highway” so is the culture.


Setting the expectations

Fun, joy and all those interpersonal skills and experiences are important but what about business results? They matter too, but being a good leader no longer stops there. Business results and team cohesion matter.

“Great leaders and managers can focus on both of those results,” said Daniel Stewart, author of “ LEAD NOW!: A Personal Leadership Coaching Guide for Results-Driven Leaders”


Can leadership skills be learned?

Certainly, some traits are part of a person’s personality, upbringing and education, but some things can also be learned with the right mentor, training and situational opportunity. Nobody said it would be easy, but just remember that the success of leaders depends on the success of the team and when that’s working it will be great for all involved. The team, the leader, the business and, of course, the customers.

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