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Strong leadership essential for effective workplace environment

August 16, 2013 | Posted at 9:15 am

In terms of how an effective workplace environment functions, it could be argued that leadership is a crucial factor. Not everyone can be in charge and while being top dog is considered to be a reward for hard work, the pressures of being the boss can often take a toll.

First and foremost, leaders need to do exactly what they are paid to do – lead. Irrespective of industry sector, an individual is handed responsibility over others because they have demonstrated either an aptitude for getting the best out of workers or, increasingly, they have been able to identity talent in both their existing staff members and┬ápotential employees.

Standing firm
It was Abraham Lincoln who said leaders needed to be able to put their feet in the right place and stand firm, and with workers often influenced by how an individual thinks or leads staff, this advice takes on increasing significance. A recent article published by The Washington Post explained how team-members should rely on a boss to guide them in matters that could effect the workplace, with the news source noting that strong leaders should always be able to back up what they believe in.

“If you continually change your actions on an issue, people are confused about what you stand for,” wrote Joyce A. Russell, vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “You have to find your spine. If you do nothing about an issue, people see that and form opinions about how you feel about the issue.”

For existing staff, this can be a double-edged sword. Views on subjects such as perceived discrimination or other workplace issues may not be echoed by a leader, and while there may be times when it seems that both boss and employee are on the same page, a boss will be aware that it is not always possible to please everybody all of the time. According to the news source, the best course of action for all parties concerned is to remain true to individual beliefs and try not to be coerced into taking sides.

“Some leaders are afraid to go up against those who are vocal, especially if there is a group of them,” notes Russell. “A confident and strong leader will, however, stand up for his or her beliefs and what is right, and not be easily swayed by the squeaky wheels or the vocal group. They will reveal clearly what they will or will not do.”

Making connections
Of course, for potential employees, opinions held in an established workplace environment may not become apparent until after a job offer is accepted. For many of them, they may have been interviewed by the person who will be leading them, with the assumption being that a connection was made during that brief period of time together. Naturally, clicking in an interview situation is unlikely to mean that the path ahead will be free of conflict, but good leaders are normally able to project some of their personality into even a formal questioning process.

“Being authentic in your connections with individuals across the organization is vital, as is being prepared to demonstrate vulnerability,” said Sylvia De Ridder, the principal of Unconscious Potential, at a recent leadership conference in Australia. “Leadership has nothing to do with position; it can be exercised from any point in the organization. It is a behavior and state of being. Admitting you don’t have all the answers creates a connection like no other and is the fastest path to creating trust within your organization; it stimulates input, ideas and solutions.”