Four simple ways to improve leadership

One of the biggest myths about leadership, that I hate, is that leadership is difficult. Now I don’t disagree that some people make leadership hard, or find it hard to lead, but that’s not the same as leadership being hard

Leadership can be easy, and I wanted to share four secret tips that you can do right now, that will make you a better leader and will help to improve your influence and results immediately.

Now you might not think that these are really secrets, but, given how few leaders do them, it certainly seems that way to me,

Smile More 

Yep, that’s right smile more! When you smile more, you create a more positive atmosphere, which will result in a more positive attitude in both yourself and in your teams. When you smile more it builds a stronger connection with your teams and makes you more approachable. Smiling is contagious­­—when you smile at someone they will smile back and when people smile it has a positive impact on their well-being.

On a biochemical level, smiling releases endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins are natural painkillers. The more endorphins your brain releases, the more your body can fight off symptoms of illness. Similarly, serotonin is a brain chemical that acts as a natural anti-depressant, which can help reduce stress.

It also makes you appear more approachable, and people love to feel connected to their leaders. Smile at everyone, too: cleaning staff, security, everyone, not just your direct reports or your boss. Make smiling an authentic part of who you are.

Oh, and the good news, no special degrees or MBAs are needed to do this.

Listen More

When you listen more, you show your teams respect, you show that you value them and their opinion. All of which helps build trust and respect for you as a leader. You don’t always have to take the advice or input given, but when you listen you make the teams feel more involved, and when they become involved then they become more committed. I don’t just mean being attentive in meetings, I’m talking about taking the time to listen to people even in informal settings, maybe in the staff canteen, or whilst getting a coffee.

As an added bonus you might actually hear something of value, as the people on the front lines often know more than the managers about what is going on and where the issues are that need to be addressed.

When I have shown that I am someone who is approachable and prepared to listen, I often find that people will come me with valuable information to give me a chance to address an issue before it becomes a major problem.

Talk More

Three of the most important things you can do to engage your team are Communicate, Communicate and Communicate. But don’t just tell your teams what you want them to do, tell them why it’s important. Help them understand the purpose and importance of what they are doing, and, if possible, why it should be important to them. The more people understand what they have to do and why, the higher the probability that they will be successful. And don’t just tell people once—if it’s important to be sure to repeat your messages, this will underline its importance. Communicate your company’s goals, communicate your company’s performance against those goals, and communicate their contribution and do this regularly.

When you communicate frequently, more people feel more involved; as people feel more involved, that’s important to the success of the company as it will help increase their commitment and involvement.

Praise More

Everyone wants to feel like they are doing a good job, that they have contributed to the success of the company, and praise is a simple way to do this. It helps boost people’s self-esteem, which, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is one of our basic needs.

Praise can be as simple as saying “well done”, “good job”, “thank you”. It doesn’t need to be a major event, but even small recognition can have a major impact on the people who receive it. One of my favourite quotes on praise is, “what gets recognized gets repeated”, which means that not only will your team feel positive because of the praise they have received, but they will be likely to repeat the feat as they know it has been seen and valued.

I always like to use the PRAISE model to increase the impact of praise by making the praise Public; Recognising their contribution; being Authentic; giving praise Immediately, not waiting for an annual review or a monthly newsletter; being Specific, the more specific the praise the more sincere it sounds; and, lastly, being Enthusiastic, enthusiasm is contagious and it highlights how much you value their contribution.

The best news about praise is that it costs absolutely nothing, you have an unlimited supply of good-jobs and well-dones for everyone, and the return on that investment can be amazing.

Just doing these four simple things, right now, will make you more respected, trusted, engaging and inspiring to your team, all of which will improve your leadership and the results your team will generate.

Article written by Gordon Tredgold, first published at on

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