Twenty-One Tips to Be an Effective Leader

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18. Treat Everyone with Courtesy and Respect
This is a good general rule of success, but it is particularly important that you model this as a leader. Disagreements are allowed and maybe encouraged. Disrespect is inappropriate.

19. Don’t Panic
In a crisis, teams look to their leaders for contextual clues. If the leader is panicked, it will amplify the unease in the team. Treat situations with the gravity they deserve, but save panic and anger for the rare situations that truly deserve it.

20. Move Rocks and Carry Water
Remember the role of a leader is to serve and empower the team to do great things. From time to time ask, “What can I do to make things go more smoothly around here?” Then shut up and listen to the answers. After this, act where you can to address the concerns.

21. Laugh
I have worked with several great leaders; all appreciated a sense of humor and encouraged it in those around them. One of my team leaders, Dave, had a team working on a particularly thorny and esoteric problem. The other teams were building bits of infrastructure and user interfaces that resulted in ongoing visible successes—but Dave’s team thrashed out equations and difficult complex design issues with little obvious progress beyond scribbles on a white board. To tease him for presiding over such a quiet group, I got him a sweatshirt with the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character on it (I was trying to be ironic). He took a knife and cut out Taz, then grabbed a broom and broke off the handle—fashioning a make-shift flag for his “tribe,” which he planted with a roar above their cubical farm. Not only did everyone on the project have a good laugh, the flag flew proudly over that team for several months. Think they were motivated much?

Wasn’t that easier than reading a whole book? Could you picture examples of these behaviors? Admittedly, some come more naturally than others. Can you honestly say that you consistently apply these principles? If so, you are a more consistent leader than I am—but I’m still trying to perfect my game.

About the author

Payson Hall's picture Payson Hall

Payson Hall is a consulting project manager for Catalysis Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. Payson consults on project management issues and teaches project management. Email Payson at payson@catalysisgroup.com. Follow him on twitter at @paysonhall.

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