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Five Ways to Lead Independent Thinkers

There are different types of leaders – micro and macro-managers. Micro-managers are akin to dictators, they want to be involved in every small decision, and do not provide their staff members with the ability to think for themselves. Macro-managers, on the other hand, lead a democratic team, encouraging their employees to make their own decisions, take chances, and provide innovative solutions to everyday problems.

Time and time again, research studies have proven that macro-managers are the best types of leaders; this manager not only creates a happier corporate culture, but has loyal and productive employees. However, in order for a manager to relinquish control and delegate tasks to staff members, they need to be sure that the workers are up to the challenge of working independently and trusting their own instincts. Whether you are integrating a new candidate into your team, or want to delegate more and micromanage less, you can lead your staff to become more independent thinkers in the following five ways.

Delegate

A common grievance of bosses is that they spend a majority of their day on tasks their staff members should be doing. However, not all supervisors have the skills necessary to take themselves out of the equation and delegate tasks to free up their schedule.

The first step to encouraging employees to think on their own is to make them responsible for their own tasks. This process starts with the team’s leader – this individual must be able to hand out assignments without looking over the individual’s’ shoulders every step of the way. Employees must feel capable and qualified to handle their duties in order to start thinking independently, otherwise they will keep turning to the boss with every question or concern.

Be Open to Different Views

Once tasks have been given out, the manager must be open to hearing and implementing different views. Many leaders feel comfortable following the status quo, and resist any suggestions to innovate. This attitude stifles the minds of the employees, and doesn’t encourage them to think on their own, as they know that any suggestion will be ignored or denied.

Trust the Capabilities of Your Staff

Another component to promoting independent thinking is to fully trust in the fact that your employees are capable of making their own decisions, and are invested in the best interests of the company. After all, you hired them for a reason! When bosses stop second guessing their team members, and trust that they are experts in their field and have the experience and knowledge to work independently, they can start encouraging their staff to trust themselves.

Encourage Original Thinking

To promote independent thinkers in your workforce, you should promote original and out-of-the-box thinking. Ask your employees to come up with innovative ideas and share them with the rest of the team. Consider rewarding employees who offer unique ideas that can benefit your company – you can offer gift certificates, time off or bonuses for the effort!

Provide Inspiration

Innovation often comes from inspiration, but it’s difficult to get inspired inside the bland walls of most office environments. To promote creativity and original thought, provide inspiration in the form of bright colors, vivid images (art and photography), music and unique experiences in the office.

Advise your employees to take a walk outside if they are in the process of a creative endeavor, or take your team to an ethnic restaurant to introduce them to flavors and smells from different cultures. All of these experiences can contribute to helping them change the status quo.

Want to Be a Better Leader? Ignore Popular Advice

Any person in a position of power likely strives to be a better leader. After all, most of us have encountered unfair treatment as we climbed the ladder to success, and now that we secured a leadership role, being the best possible boss is an important goal.

What defines being a great leader? Is it being empathetic, empowering or motivational? Does it involve expecting only the best and pushing your staff to work at optimal levels? There are countless articles both online and in print that provide tips on improving your leadership skills. What do some of the most popular sources recommend leaders do to improve?

  • Inc.com recommends investing in training, taking risks, creating a vision and challenging employees to optimal performance.
  • Harvard Business Review states that successful leaders have richer personal lives, and to hone leadership skills, individuals must focus on all domains, including their personal and professional lives, their community and their self (body and spirit).
  • Forbes takes the focus off employees entirely, and advises bosses to meditate to be better at their jobs.

With so much conflicting advice, what should you focus on if your goal for next year is to be a better leader? Do you budget for training your staff, or do you invest in spending time in your local community? Will either really benefit the relationship you have with your staff members?

We have only one piece of advice when it comes to exceptional leadership – skip all the popular advice (just not ours) and practice active listening! This one simple goal involves a few steps:

Stop Speaking

Many managers hold the false belief that as the most experienced members of the team, they must do all the talking. Bosses typically monopolize business meetings, prepare weekly to-do tasks for employees, and encourage subordinates to come to them when seeking help.

The problem is that with all the talking is leaders rarely stop and simply listen to their staff. Those that do, quickly realize that their staff will let them know (either verbally or through their actions) what it is they require for a happy and productive workplace.

Instead of micromanaging your staff, involve them in the plans and goals for your department. Invite them to contribute their opinions, raise objectives and suggest improvements. Doing so will empower your team to be driven and responsible.

Be Aware

Once you stop feeling responsible to lead the conversation, you can concentrate on becoming more aware of others around you. Remember that as a boss, your job is not only centered on overseeing job performance, but also ensuring your staff’s well-being and satisfaction. If they feel unappreciated, overworked or mistreated, your employee turnover will increase.

Start everyday by asking your employees how they feel; but also focus on their non-verbals. If they look stressed out, tired or sad, inquire about what is going on. Whether they feel pressured at work or are dealing with personal issues at home, a good leader will create awareness of their staff’s emotions, feelings and thoughts, making the workers feel valued and cared for.


Be Selfless

Many managers mistakenly believe that since they hold senior titles, they no longer need to work as hard as their subordinates. However, when you require your staff to work nights and weekends, but you’re the last person to come in and the first to leave, your employees become disgruntled.

Strive to be selfless, and be the example of what a hard working and dedicated worker acts like. This way, your staff will respect you, and not resent their selfish boss.

While striving to become a leader leader is noble, you don’t need to spend company funds on management training; instead, just focus on listening, being aware, and being selfless to create the best company culture for your employees.