How to be a leader at work.

How to be a leader at work.

By Joanne O’Connell – 17 September 2015

Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party has his work cut out for him when it comes to uniting the party and winning support. Most of us don’t have to rely on ballot box results to take on a leadership role at work. But once we’ve been promoted – or landed a new job – we may have to manage colleagues who have very different ideas to us and who may have gone for the top job themselves. How can we get them on our side?


The team needs to know they can rely on a leader to deliver what she or he has promised, and that he or she is capable of the task. For this, good communication is vital. You can’t just have brilliant ideas; you have to get your message across and inspire others to implement them. This doesn’t mean you need to become an outstanding orator overnight (though decent presentation skills do help) you just need to spell out your objectives clearly and concisely. This is about doing your research and making sure you rehearse and prepare well for meetings. It’s also about taking the time to answer any questions and be open to listening to new ideas from those working for you. So, listen to people and respond to them. Answer queries within a reasonable time (including on email, phone calls and social media) so you make people’s contributions feel valued. 

It takes all sorts…

Successful, dynamic teams include diverse personalities and talents. Some people have an enthusiastic can-do approach, others are shirkers who drive you mad. Often you don’t have much of a choice over who you’re managing but a good manager brings everyone together. So take time to observe the way the team works – who agitates for the right reasons, who pulls people down, who is good at working with others? – and assign the right tasks to each individual. Watch for how people talk to those they get on with, find out what interests them and try and appeal to their reasonable side. If a team members negative responses threaten the dynamics too much or if they’re really not pulling their weight, before you go in heavy handed, quietly ask what’s bothering them and offer your help in sorting things out and give them a fair chance to make things right. 

Be friendly

A good boss gets to know her or his team as well as the wider company or organisation. This means it’s worth spending time getting to know those you are managing as well as colleagues on the same level as you. However, you don’t have to be dragged into a heavy after-work drinking session every Friday (though it’s probably a good idea to show up once in a while, and stay for a chat, if it’s a regular social event for everyone). You could just aim to spend a coffee break a couple of times a week with different people. This gives you a quick break and means you can internally network and build up better relationships with those around you. 

Be decisive

There’s nothing more infuriating than a weak boss who ums and aahs and can’t reach a decision about anything. You’ve been given a leadership role, so now you need to believe in your ability to make the right choices and stand by them. A good boss is able to listen to different opinions make up his or her own mind too. Of course some decisions will require careful consideration and this can take time. Others though, can be reached fairly quickly so don’t hesitate for too long unless you have to. Decisive leaders show the team they can things done.

Say thank you

Show gratitude when you can, even when you’re thanking people for tasks that are part of their job. It’s not always easy to remember to smile and say thank you but you don’t have to turn the office into a Dragon’s Den culture or start acting scary like Lord Sugar in the boardroom to gain respect. When you say thank you, people feel valued. That means they’re more likely to work hard and feel happy at work and as their leader, that, in turn, reflects well on you.

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