It is difficult to be a leader because leadership entails balancing the needs of individual team members with those of the team, while also succeeding in meeting business performance criteria. It can be particularly difficult to ensure that everybody is working well together to meet team goals, while at the same time ensuring that individual’s goals are being met. 

Thriving teams tend to have a clear sense of purpose and excellent relationships. They know how best to think together, learn together and deliver together. For your team to thrive, it is essential to create a highly connected and supportive team environment where people feel safe and included. Such an environment is one where team members can speak with each other and their superiors openly without fear of reprisal; where they have a sense of belonging and are purpose driven.  


Here are the 4 ways in which leaders can lead so their people thrive:  


1. Practice self-leadership 

To become an effective leader in your company, it is important to learn to first lead yourself. Here are five elements of self-leadership: 

  • Place trust in yourself: If you do not trust yourself, how can you trust your team members? 
  • Maintain a positive mindset: This may include times when you must make difficult decisions in business or do what is uncomfortable for you. 
  • Keep your word and follow through: Deliver what you promised you were going to do.  
  • Be consistent in the right things. It may be helpful to use a daily accountability system or coach to ensure you are consistently taking actions that move you and your business forward each day. 
  • Hold yourself accountable: Leaders who hold themselves accountable for their actions show that they are willing to take responsibility for their mistakes, not only the successes.  


2. Build trust and belonging 

When people trust you, they have confidence in your decisions. Even in uncertainty, they will put their trust in your leadership: 

  • Ensure that your words and actions match: Trust must be earned. Consistently honouring your commitments and doing what you promise you will, will build trust over time.  
  • Remain available and accessible: To be an available leader practice diary management that will keep your team members on your list of top priorities. As an accessible leader it is important to put people at ease to encourage open and honest conversation and to seek feedback.  
  • Show support for your team members, even when they make mistakes: Supported employees know that you, as their leader, are on their side – including that they will be treated fairly in an environment where mistakes, within reason, are seen as teaching moments.  
  • Admit it when you make a mistake: Being honest and transparent about your own mistakes will gain your employees’ respect, opening the door for honest conversations and collaboration.   
  • Listen and show and empathy: Engage in regular two-way dialogue with employees. Listen – giving them the opportunity to ask questions, get answers and voice concerns. Show employees that you hear them and validate their feelings.  


3. Boost energy and effectiveness 

Create an environment that boosts your team members’ energy – helping your team to perform at their best and collaborate with each other effectively while managing their own energy.  

  • Teach your employees to manage their priorities, rather than their time: Encourage your team to differentiate between urgent and important tasks and to tackle high-priority items first.  
  • Balance the need for a good result with caring for employee needs: Balance employee needs and work outcomes for a win-win. Creating a happier, more motivated team has been proven to result in greater productivity.  
  • Establish clear rules and boundaries: In support of work-life balance, aim to prevent technology from affecting your team’s wellbeing, while also leveraging its potential. 
  • Address stress: Know how to identify and manage risks to mental and physical health within your team. Then encourage employees to practice mindfulness and other stress relieving techniques and to take advantage of stress-management training and wellness programmes.  
  • Prevent burnout: Know the warning signs of burnout and understand and acknowledge the contributing elements in your industry or at your workplace so you can help each of your team members act early to prevent the early stages of burnout.  
  • Encourage continuous creativity: Encourage the team to be creative and develop ways to improve and streamline current work processes. A bonus is when employees feel like they are making a difference in the company, they become more engaged and invested in their work.  


4. Leverage recognition 

Effective employee recognition and rewards can significantly improve employee engagement. Here are five ways to create a culture of praise and appreciation throughout your business:  

  • Recognise your employees’ special achievements immediately: A simple timely gesture like leaving a handwritten thank-you note on an employee’s desk will have more impact than waiting for year-end appraisals.  
  • Be specific in your praise: Tell your employees exactly what they did well, how it contributed to the team or the company, and how it made you feel. 
  • Acknowledge team members in front of their peers: Set aside time every week or month in team meetings to recognise your employees for their achievements, big or small. 
  • Align recognition with company values and goals. Recognise your employees for work and efforts that reflect core values and support strategic goals. This way, you can encourage desired performance and show your employees how their work makes a difference.   
  • Be genuine and sincere: Do not recognise your employees because it is the fourth team meeting in the month, and the recognition slot is expected. Instead, only recognise your employees because you genuinely appreciate their efforts and excellent work – or because someone has gone the extra mile you want to express your gratitude.  


Strong leadership is a fundamental element of any successful business. Employees look to those in leadership roles to guide and support them. True leaders lead by example. It is powerful to model the behaviors you would like to see in your thriving team. People are more likely to respect a leader who is knowledgeable, demonstrates positivity, accepts accountability and shows respect for others. Model this behaviour and not only will your team respect you for it, but they will be more likely to do the same.  


Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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