There are somethings that contribute to a healthy workforce that are simply good for the workplace and business in general. These features can also be influential on the health of the workplace and an overall positive inclusion for a business, if not a crucial one. The role that these features play and the elements that they bring to the situation can have an extended effect throughout a business and all that is associated with it.
This article will look at one of those features, leadership, and the role it plays in the workplace. Topics will include the impact it can have on the psychological health of the workforce, the leadership characteristics that are desired in the professional world, and what you can do to improve your leadership abilities on your own.
The Role of Leadership In The Workplace
In the workplace, leadership plays a role as a force of influence. Those who are considered leaders-even if they are not in leadership positions-can shape the world around them in a positive or otherwise beneficial manner.2 They actively understand the qualities of what or who is around then and know how to control them in order to do good. In a diverse or respectful international workplace, such an ability can be crucial in maintaining the harmony that keeps the workplace healthy and operational.3 The inclusion of employees with strong leadership abilities in non-leadership roles is often done to help maintain that harmonious balance and to produce an otherwise positive effect in their area of the business.
Impact On A Psychologically Healthy Workforce-Leadership's impact on the psychological health of the workforce is often a positive one. In playing a role in which those with strong leadership abilities guide others, these individuals are viewed as trustworthy and caring by their peers. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 73% of those surveyed viewed those with strong leadership abilities as supportive and necessary for the overall health of the organization.4 These leaders were viewed as being responsible for or contributing to positive relationships between employees and management, job satisfaction, motivation, employee engagement, and retention rates. By actively taking an interest in the well-being of those they were leading, these leaders were making a tangible difference in the health of the workforce they supervised. The APA concluded that businesses who want a healthy workforce should turn their attention towards leadership and how it is used in the workplace.5
Now it should be noted that leadership is not simply making decisions for others and ordering people around to do what you think is a good idea. It involves a particular set of skills and characteristics that influence a leader's conduct, actions, and thought process in formal and informal settings. Many people can have several of the desired characteristics listed below without being considered a leader. The strength of these characteristics and the wisdom in which they are wielded often are what identifies someone as a genuine leader versus someone who just happens to have a few leadership skills. Many of these traits are also desirable in business in general, as they can be of great help in any kind of professional situation for the average worker.
Delegation-To delegate is akin to assigning work to those who have the skillset that is appropriate for the task given to them. Leaders who are able to delegate are able to efficiently recognize the capabilities of their staff as they assign tasks.7 Being able to do so allows leaders to focus on serious issues that need immediate attention while protecting themselves from being overloaded with work and incapacitated as a result. Delegation is often a strong skill that many do not have, and requires a combination of communication, time management, and trust to correctly pull it off.
Trustworthy-If a leader can't be trusted by their followers, then they won't be a leader for very long. Leadership means being able to make genuine connections with others and treating them with respect and honesty.9 In the workplace, it's the leaders that employees turn to in times of crisis for help and guidance. That won't happen if employees feel that you are not trustworthy and therefore able to be a reliable source of help.
Organization-An effective leader is one who has a clear plan and strategy. Organization is often a crucial skill to have in business and is definitely something that a leader needs. Being organized allows leaders to properly balance everything and everyone they are responsible for while also planning out their next step(s).10 Sloppiness is not acceptable and will only cause problems.
Accountability-By nature, leaders are given a lot of responsibility. They need to be able to hold themselves accountable (a.k.a. responsible) for the decisions they make and any consequences that develop as a result. They cannot point fingers and shift the blame elsewhere, as this will cost them the respect that they've earned until that point. A lack of accountability also tends to suggest that a person does not care about what they do and may be inherently reckless in their actions.
Flexibility-There are a lot of things that can happen and leaders often need to be ready to address any kind of situation at any time. Being able to be flexible in your actions, decisions, leadership style, etc. allows leaders to better weather difficult scenarios and circumstances with positive results.11 Since you never know what is going to happen, flexibility is the skill leaders use the most when faced with the unexpected.
Ethics-The workplace will likely have its own set of ethics and values, which may be similar to what the business and society has. This often produces a code of conduct that leaders are both expected to adhere to and to enforce amongst the staff.12 You are literally expected to practice what you preach. Leaders often are the ones who instill ethical behavior in the workplace to begin with and may even be defined by what values they choose to uphold. While this may be seen as somewhat burdensome-leaders tend to be scrutinized more for ethical slips-it can also help influence those in the workplace and with your ability to lead others.
Contrary to popular belief, most leaders are not born with a natural inclination to lead and guide others. They may have some raw skill that helps them as they develop into a successful leader, but it's rarely a fully formed ability. They have to learn what they do and how to do it, and they may even make mistakes in the process. Development and growth is just as important for leaders as it is for any random employee; it should be done continuously throughout their career and they should take as many opportunities to improve themselves as they can.
As mentioned, it is not uncommon for a person to have some of the skills associated with leadership. They are of use in non-leadership positions and situations, and are generally of value throughout the professional world. It is possible to take those skills and develop them further into genuine leadership ability-or just because you want to improve for the sake of improvement. There are several ways of developing leadership ability, and most of those ways can be-and should be-combined to allow for greater effect. Some of those ways include:
Practice Your Skills-Does practice make perfect? Maybe not, but it can still do you a lot of good. Practicing the leadership skills you do have allows you the chance to build upon what you already got. In some cases, what is keeping a person from being an effective leader is just a poor or mediocre skillset that they just need to work on. Certain skills, like communication, should be treated as a priority due to the high value they hold to leadership ability and to the workplace.13 It doesn't matter how great the rest of your skills are, if your communication skills aren't that great then the rest of your leadership ability is going to suffer.
Get Feedback-Feedback is a valuable resource in business and for leaders, as it often is the fastest way for a person to gauge their abilities and learn about their strengths and weaknesses. When you're trying to improve your leadership abilities, feedback from your peers and from staff can be very informative for your efforts. It can help you find out what needs work, where you're lacking, if you're creating/maintaining connections as a leader in the workplace, and your general progress. Always ask for honest feedback and don't worry if some get a little too critical.
Engage With Others-As previous lessons have mentioned, engagement is a crucial component to workplace and workforce health. For leaders, engagement is how they make connections with their staff and execute their skills and duties in the workplace. The strength of their engagement is often a sign of successful leadership, and actively working on engaging with others can both improve and measure your leadership ability.14 It will also help build up trust and respect between you and staff, which can also help.
Use Your Resources-Businesses have resources available for all of their staff members to use at their disposal. Not taking advantage of a resource that you have access to as you improve your leadership skills is just down-right foolish. They're there for your use and can have a significant impact on your efforts to improve yourself, regardless of if your focus is on your leadership ability or some other area of your career. Keep in mind that some of these resources can be things that are only accessible through the business or through specific groups like professional development organizations.
Go Outside The Box-If the normal avenues of professional development and growth are not enough, then you may want to consider an alternative route. This is both an opportunity to give yourself a unique learning experience and for you to test/showcase your creativity. Get a different perspective on things, try something new, and just go along the path less traveled. In doing so, you're likely to find something that can help you that will make you stand-out from your peers and allow you to grow in a new direction.