Are Great Leaders Born or Bred?

This question is often debated and my response is a resounding yes, they can be bred! It’s also a relevant question when businesses are looking at promoting team members into management roles such as store manager and regional manager. Both extremely critical roles in the success of any retailer.

In every society there are leaders and as we know some are a lot better than others. Is it because these better leaders just know what and how to get the best out of their team or are these skills trainable?

Here are a few thoughts as I believe leaders can certainly be trained, unfortunately, most aren’t and if they are it’s often too late and they are already set in their ways. The one key trait all leaders need, whether they are new to the role or been around a while is having an attitude of learning. They need to be open to feedback and ways to improve and always striving to learn. As one of the many sayings goes about closed minds – “they never open any doors.”

I find one of the biggest challenges new leaders face is to how to move from the role of achieving their own individual targets to helping their team perform so they all achieve their targets. They are now responsible for their own performance, their teams’ as well as their relationship with their boss. That’s a lot of balls in the air.

Here are four key elements that will help first-time leaders as well as existing ones:

Building trust with their team is critical. Once trust is created the team can rely on their leader knowing he/she has their backs. This comes through doing a number of things, however, in my opinion, some of the key things to focus on is to be a great listener- find out each person’s strengths and weaknesses by talking to them. If you promise something, get it done or at least tell them why not. And be a great role model so you can lead by example.

Set clear expectations. If your team doesn’t know what your expectations are how can they deliver on them? Setting clear expectations and getting the team to understand why these expectations are important sets the team up to succeed. They then know what a good job looks like so there is no uncertainty.

Follow up and provide feedback, particularly positive feedback. Catching your team doing the right thing is unexpected and always received positively. This tells your team that you care and notice when they do a good job. Leaders also need to provide improvement feedback when they see things that aren’t being done correctly as this also tells the team that your expectations are important and non-negotiable.

Learn to adapt to different team members. This requires the leader to really get to know their team members so they know what motivates and de-motivates each individual. Adapting and personalising the way they give feedback, allocating tasks based on each person’s strengths and weaknesses are powerful ways to reinforce this process.

Putting in place these four steps will ensure you build strong relationships with each team member and this, in turn, creates a stimulating work environment where people work hard but have fun, knowing they are recognised for their achievements. The outcome of this is many fold, the team are happier (and therefore so are customers), and they talk up your business, stay longer and perform at a higher level. All fantastic outcomes that all businesses need to suceed in today’s competitive world.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.