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Essential Qualities of Team Leaders

Operations

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This post is written on behalf of Cory Jones, who currently serves as Vice President of Commercial Marketing for Frontier Communications. In his role, Cory is responsible for all facets of business-to-business marketing for the company, including acquisition, retention, digital, social media, lead generation, and marketing communications.

Cory holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Texas Tech University. He lives in the Dallas area with his wife and two children, and is on an eternal quest to finally break par on the golf course.

Effective leaders today have certain traits and characteristics that motivate their employees to rally behind them. They have to inspire and encourage, gaining the trust and respect of those they lead, while stimulating workflow and ultimately results. They also must face and overcome challenges and always look to improve themselves and their teams.

There are a few qualities I believe crucial to leading a team and employ them every day at Frontier to yield the most success.

Innate leadership qualities vs. learned leadership qualities

There are some people who from a young age tend to be natural leaders possessing those qualities, and there are those who develop them over time. Both can be extremely effective, and there are multiple ways to get to the same destination. In my opinion, confidence is something with which you are born. On the other hand, the ability to have the vision to see beyond the horizon and the ability to pave an operational path to get there are acquired and developed skills. Of course, you can learn either quality over time with proper mentoring and experience.

Challenges in managing people in different offices

The biggest challenge is the lack of physical interaction. Regular visits to other locations help, and, when possible, videoconferencing is a great alternative, but technology can be both a work catalyst and an inhibitor. It can cause distractions, and you need to keep people focused.

Being able to articulate your vision is paramount when managing in multiple offices. Communicate your plan clearly and directly with everyone involved and practice active listening. The phrase that’s used here at Frontier is, “You have to inspect what you expect,” and it rings true. Yes, you need to hire good people, trust them, and empower them to do the right thing, but ultimately you need to set the strategy, set the plan, and inspect progress and provide feedback along the way.

The most essential qualities of effective team leaders

Confidence and vision, with an emphasis on vision. People want to follow someone with a defined plan and a strategy to bring those plans to life. Fairness is also essential in leading effectively. People want to feel like they’re treated fairly, though that doesn’t always equate to niceness. When required, I can exercise tough love. I give constructive feedback and praise when deserved. But I don’t keep people in the dark. If there is something they need to hear in order to improve or deliver on a customer expectation, I let them know constructively.

People also want to follow a leader who can walk the walk, who understands the daily job and exactly what they do. In practicing this, you can then make suggestions to make a person’s job easier, which is much more empowering and inspiring. If you are apathetic or indifferent toward your employees, they will easily pick up on it, and will be less likely to support you. Having a team leader that isn’t isolated and can work with other leaders is incredibly effective, especially in larger organizations. At Frontier, many times my job entails working with executives in a variety of functions to advance business opportunities for the company. It truly takes a village, especially with larger companies.

Keeping your teams motivated

On a larger scale, emphasizing the successes of the organization can directly correlate to increased motivation. On a more singular scale, when someone goes above and beyond, is innovative, and diligent, I’ll call attention to it and publicly recognize him or her for it. People want to work somewhere where they feel rewarded, and not just financially. Something of an art form that I’ve been refining over the years is to continually have people on the edge of their comfort zone. When you push people to take on new challenges, it broadens their skills, keeps them interested and invested in learning, and many times provides an entirely new point of view or outcome on a particular challenge.

Challenging leadership skill to refine

I work at a very brisk pace and, at times, it’s difficult to have patience with others who don’t share the same pace. I try to bear this in mind and practice being patient, but it is challenging.

I always try to make decisions using facts and data, as opposed to emotion and knee-jerk reactions. You will frequently encounter the latter in managers, who use confidence or debating skills to compensate for data. But effective leaders use the facts.

Great leaders are most successful when they manage as their true and authentic selves. This builds a trust and respect between their employees, and will be reciprocated toward them. When they spend their time and effort establishing an environment where people want to stay and give their best, they will aid their company in naturally achieving its goals, day in and day out.