5 ways to excel as a leader in the workplace

Leaders are under a lot of pressure to succeed. If you’ve been recently promoted into a position of higher authority, accompanied by more responsibilities and a larger workload, then you might be feeling the pinch on your performance. It can certainly feel like a big jump when you’re thrust into a leadership position, but in our experience, we’ve found that often all that’s required to make the leap is a shift in perspective.

After all, more than a quarter of managers receive no formal training on how to manage people, according to a poll by Digits. Instead, those who are successful have learned on the job and committed to developing all the necessary qualities of a leader.

In partnering with many businesses over the years, we’ve seen firsthand just how vital it is to have managers with leadership qualities at the helm of an organisation. A business is only as good as its employees — and those employees rely on mentors to motivate them, nurture their development, and ensure all tasks and duties are conducted without a hitch.

So, if you’re on a mission to become a better leader, we want to help. We’ve previously discussed some of the key pillars of leadership development that you might aspire to — but what can you put into action today to kickstart your leadership journey?

Here, we’ll discuss five key ways you can demonstrate your leadership acumen in the workplace and set up your team for success.

1. Demonstrate your company values

A great leader sets the tone for their team with a clear, unwavering commitment to the business’s mission. These values aren’t just buzzwords inserted into company policies, but actionable goals that provide a sense of belonging and align staff efforts towards business ambitions.

Leaders who truly excel in the workplace are those who not only embrace company values, but exemplify them in their behaviour. Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, once said that “a company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation — an entrepreneur’s job is to build the foundation.” This same sentiment can be applied to your organisation’s hierarchy. If you have staff that report to you, they’ll be looking to you for inspiration, motivation, and best practices for success. Essentially, it’s time to lead by example.

To communicate values to your staff, you may draw on relevant examples from your daily responsibilities, or better yet, implement a shadowing or job rotation programme. Our coaching professionals will often encourage staff to seek support and guidance from their leaders. This role of mentorship helps your employees to develop their own skills, and assists you to stay in touch with your own, as well as broader organisational values.

In a way, it forms a two-way accountability to keep both leader and follower on track, and deepen their values.

By walking the talk, you can bring the vision of the company alive in a way that words alone can’t, as employees gain a first-hand understanding of business priorities that transcend hierarchy and departmental boundaries. For example, you may work towards creating a shared culture of customer-centricity, respectful collaboration, or learning and support.

Whatever your core values might be, when you demonstrate them through your work, you can reduce instances of silo thinking and bring your entire team together to work more productively.

2. Protect your personal wellbeing

All too often, we hear values like “revenue”, “growth” and “acceleration” slung around as the top priorities for leaders — and yes, successful businesses achieve those goals. But to do so sustainably, comfortably, and without burning out, you need to ensure a good level of personal wellbeing.

This is one of our key pillars of leadership development — the qualities of a leader that place directors and managers of the most competent organisations one rung above the rest.

After all, there’s an overwhelming amount of data to suggest that even the best leaders need support from time to time. Insights from IPSOS reports show that 79% of managers feel overworked or stressed, while a further 60% of leaders display prevalent indicators of burnout.

If you’re feeling anxious, low in mood, or demotivated at work, it doesn’t just undermine your own performance — but your wider team’s, too. So, if you’re going to excel as a leader, you’ll need to closely monitor your personal wellbeing, ensuring that you’re in a healthy state of body and mind.

The truth is, there are countless ways to improve occupational wellbeing — so much so that the industry of wellness and mental health companies is quickly becoming bloated. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a huge influx of unregulated firms entering the market and offering unqualified support, often directly to our LinkedIn InMail.

However, there are meaningful ways to cultivate and sustain wellbeing in the workplace. Coaching services, for one, can help you and your staff to manage stress and manage your work-life balance, drawing on 1-2-1 support from qualified coaches. Coaching invites you to discuss concerns, experiences and personal goals without the professional veneer you might feel you have to keep intact in the workplace.

Using these sessions, you can identify any areas of struggle and develop a proactive approach to managing workload, staff, or other responsibilities better. This ensures that you recover from burnout and prevent future events that could precipitate it. Plus, with your wellbeing protected, you’re better equipped to help your team members address any issues they might be having at work, rather than becoming waylaid by your own.

3. Communicate effectively with your team 

Communication is one of those obvious leadership skills examples that will crop up in any tutorial on “How to lead more effectively”. But there’s a solid rationale behind this — because good communication is undoubtedly the bedrock of successful leadership.

It’s not just about conveying information and updates to your team, though. Productive comms also help to build stronger professional relationships and promote collaboration between all members of staff. However, Forbes Advisor reports that nearly half of workers find their productivity is affected by ineffective communication, while a further 45% claim this impacts their trust in leadership. So, what’s the solution?

Authentic, effective communication is a two-way street, and the first step is to actively listen to your team members. Making an effort to create spaces where your team will feel comfortable to openly share their thoughts and concerns not only opens up clear channels of communication, but it demonstrates practically that you care. It also helps to tailor your communication style to accommodate diverse needs, fostering a meaningful dialogue in which each of your reports feels heard and understood.

Good communication has the potential to make staff feel especially valued, boosting their morale. But beyond benefiting your workforce, will also streamline your own managerial processes. It can help you to understand how your employees are progressing and coping with their workloads, reduce tension around resourcing, and prevent any stalls in your workflow.

And, within this bedrock of a solid communication culture, it is much easier to have those more difficult conversations, such as working through performance management or sharing challenging feedback.

Many great leaders offer at least one weekly or biweekly meeting with their team, to provide updates, delegate duties, and temperature check sentiment among staff. Some other techniques that can nurture a culture of healthy communication include:

These scheduled interactions will help you to build trust among your staff, but it’s also important to be present and visible outside of dedicated check-in sessions. This way, your reports will feel comfortable approaching you at any time, so that you can resolve issues swiftly.

4. Empower staff with new opportunities

A leader that cares about their employees’ own development is a leader who will build a competent and engaged workforce. We’ve written a whole article about the importance of developing a culture of purpose for your employees, which we recommend any budding leader take a read of. But in short, it’s best summed up by saying “purpose supports us with the energy to get through difficulty”.

By that, we mean that not every day at work will be plain sailing, even in the most well-oiled of corporate machines — but by creating purpose for your employees, you help them to feel empowered and work through difficult times.

This typically involves entrusting your staff with meaningful opportunities to both thrive and challenge themselves. Exceptional leaders are successful in identifying team strengths, weaknesses, and delegating responsibilities appropriately, aligning their tasks with their skills and providing the autonomy to take control of their work.

Try to offer opportunities for skill enhancement and career advancement. Some common routes include mentorship programmes, cross-functional projects, and leadership workshops that will guide the leaders of tomorrow in your footsteps.

Each quarter, we recommend dedicating some time to think about growth opportunities for each of your reports. These could even coincide with progress reviews, providing the opportunity to discuss their future ambitions in more detail. And if retention of your staff and support for their long-term development is important, these opportunities need to be more than lip-service, with actionable plans in place for promotions and new learning.

According to Monster, the average UK employee turnover rate is approximately 15% per year — and we’ve found that it costs businesses around £30,000 to replace each lost member of staff. To retain your employees, you’ll need to engage them at work.

Coaching helps businesses like yours to achieve higher rates of employee retention, For example, our coaches work to engage your employees through coaching for relational, emotional, physical and mental health. We operate a holistic model that allows us to really get to know each of your employees — and support you to provide for them as a leader.

When you invest in employees’ personal and professional development, you not only foster their potential, but also build a loyal workforce dedicated to achieving your shared goals.

5. Nurture a positive work environment

Throughout our long history of business partnerships, we’ve identified empathy as another of the core values needed for leadership development.

This is a prerequisite for understanding your employees and cultivating a positive working environment, where staff feel comfortable to be themselves and commit to their work. And as a leader, you hold the responsibility for shaping the workplace culture through empathetic interactions with your direct reports.

When successes happen, it’s important to celebrate achievements and milestones, regardless of how small they may seem. Recognising and appreciating your team’s efforts fosters a sense of pride and motivation. When your workplace radiates positivity, it boosts morale, strengthens teamwork, and makes your team more resilient in the face of challenges. In our experience, it’s often the leaders who are most hard on themselves, rarely celebrating their own successes — big and small. So, to start shifting the tide of positivity, our coaches encourage leaders to celebrate their own successes as well as shout about the successes of others.

But what about when things go wrong?

After all, mistakes happen — invoices are missed, emails get sent out prematurely, and occasionally, insights articles might find their way out the door with a spelling error in the title. Nightmare fuel.

But it’s not the error itself that defines your leadership abilities, it’s how you respond to it. We’ve noticed that one common stumbling block for leaders is failing to kindly offer constructive feedback — data even suggests that just 26% of the feedback workers receive is actually effective.

This is one of the key characteristics of a leader that can be tricky to master. To keep everyone positive when conflicts arise, you’ll need to:

  • Cultivate a trusting, mutually supportive relationship
  • Provide strength-based performance feedback
  • Deploy open-ended questions that allow employees to voice their needs

We like to think about feedback as information-sharing: a team effort where the giver and the receiver of feedback work together on the topic that needs to be improved upon. Turning this into a team effort, making it less personal, and working towards solutions can not only make the conversations more bearable, but strengthen the relationship as a supportive, safe space.

Needless to say, we always recommend entering challenging conversations with a smile and a positive attitude. Feedback exists to support your employees’ growth, not highlight their shortcomings.

Become a better leader with Sanctus

As you progress through your career, there will likely come a point when you’re expected to take on a leadership role. This happens across every industry, whether you’re an engineer, software developer, or marketing executive. But while you might have an education in your field itself, positions of leadership demand a good set of soft skills — and this is where we can help.

Sanctus’s coaching services offer countless benefits to organisations, helping to support manager and employee development, wellbeing, and performance. Our leadership development programmes uncover leader strengths that you weren’t aware you had, and address the areas of your professional and personal development that you’d like to target.

Needless to say, there are plenty of moving parts involved in excelling as a leader — but it’s not something you have to tackle alone. To learn more about our Leadership Development services, get in touch with a member of the Sanctus team today.