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How To Be An Authoritative Leader (Without Worrying Your Team Won't Like You)

Leadership can be incredibly rewarding, but it isn’t always fun.

You have to make tough decisions, be held accountable for other people’s work (or non-work), log long hours and pretend to be “on” even when you’re feeling off.

And you have to address employee conduct and performance issues. Ugh!

Let’s say you have an employee who uses your scheduled meeting time to catch up on sleep. He comes to the meeting, but nods off. This is unacceptable. But even though you’re annoyed, you stay silent to avoid coming across as mean or, worse, facing a backlash.

You want to be liked. But leadership isn’t a popularity contest.

As a leader, I firmly believe you must call a thing a thing. You’ve got to address a problem quickly and full-on to keep it from escalating.

After all, if not you, then who? Even if you’re afraid of potential conflict, as a leader you must learn how to be firm and decisive.

I lead a team and I’ve coached countless leaders. Trust me, being clear, confident and respected is more important than being liked.

Here are four pillars of strong leadership that will help you be authoritative and ensure your team and company thrive.

(1) Address small problems before they become BIG

Sure, sometimes you let it slide because you believe it’s a one-time occurrence, and surely you don’t have the time to water every plant you see. What we’re talking about here are recurring problems and severe issues such as not showing up for work, excessive personal calls or social media usage, sleeping during meetings or non-responsive teleworking (when you suspect the employee isn’t working at all).

Like the saying goes in national security, if you see something, say something. Nip it in the bud and keep nipping it until more formal discipline is called for.

If you don’t, it’s possible the misconduct will become the new normal, snowballing into an even bigger problem. Issues don’t usually self-correct without some intervention.

(2) Hold people accountable to gain respect and improve productivity

Respect is earned by being fair and consistent, and by believing in your team’s abilities and holding them accountable. But before you can hold staff accountable, you must be clear in communicating your expectations or outcomes and providing any necessary support.

Most employees will respect a leader who put in the work for them to be successful and productive. That respect will ensure a smoother workflow and better business outcomes.

After all, the business doors can’t stay open with slackers (or sleepers) on the job. It’s in your best interest to hold staff accountable in order to keep the trains running on the track.

(3) Be a role model for your team

Leading by example has become a cliche concept, but it really is true. If you’re late for meetings, on your mobile device when you’re supposed to be listening, or making imprudent remarks, others will follow your lead. You set the tone for what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Stay aware and call yourself out on your own behavior, work ethics and idiosyncrasies. Work to correct them. A good option is to initiate a self- or 360-assessment to gain a well-rounded perspective on your leadership style. An assessment can help you maximize your strengths and address possible limitations.

(4) Help your employees grow so they take ownership and responsibility

I read something a while ago that makes a great deal of sense.

CFO to CEO: “What happens if we train them and they leave?”

CEO to CFO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

Interesting, right? Helping employees grow personally and professionally is a sign of good leadership and eventually alleviates your need to be a crisis manager.

I was out on unexpected leave for two months, and guess what? My “dream team” was able to carry on with operations. Sure, they texted me a few times for guidance, but the bottom line is I was able to totally detach.

I’d been supporting their growth by holding weekly meetings, being transparent with information, sharing problem-solving techniques and keeping them abreast so there wasn’t too much that they didn’t have some knowledge of.

Your employees aren’t supposed to LOVE you – you’re supposed to lead them!

Let’s face it, no one is going to love us all the time, and especially when we’re asserting our managerial obligation to lead and produce. Being liked is overrated and striving to be popular can quickly turn into being disrespected.

It’s your role and responsibility to supervise, coach, develop and lead.

Now, what about that sleeping employee...

Of course, sometimes you need to take the next step and address an employee’s performance or conduct issue. This can be terrifying for a new leader, and uncomfortable even for a seasoned one.

But I can help. My free four-step script makes it easy to give constructive feedback for minor and first-time offenses. Download it here.

Until next time! Fay

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