Tough leaders have to walk a tightrope. They have to balance demanding and obtaining real results with inspiring and leading their staff impeccably. Read on to discover how these tough leaders do things differently.

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker

1. They set a great example.

A successful manager will be able to lead effectively without being a tyrant or being a ‘yes’ man or woman. Tough leaders set themselves incredibly high standards. They have clear objectives, work hard and are punctual and polite. They rightly demand the same standards from their teams, as they lead by example.

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” – Latin Proverb

 2. They can cope with setbacks.

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” —Publilius Syrus

Failure may stalk a company in recessionary times when it loses a contract or has lost the competitive edge against a rival. The tough leaders will be able to re-align the objectives by skilful negotiation. In doing so, they will also be capable of learning lessons from the failure without demoralizing staff.

3. They know when to say no.

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair

Leaders have to say no to demands by staff and senior management. There may be problems with financial targets, marketing strategy or reduction in costs. But in saying no, they will be able to come up with solutions. In doing so, they will be able to involve all the team by asking for ideas and ways to improve performance.

4. They give constructive feedback.

Tough leaders will avoid confrontation and emotion. These are damaging when giving feedback. Instead, they will concentrate on:

  • Praising the employee for the good things first
  • Giving specific examples of what was not done well.
  • Asking the staff member what and how this can be improved.
  • Re-aligning job objectives with these points in mind.
  • Offering further training or assistance in specific areas.

5. They help their staff develop.

This is where clear job descriptions containing specific objectives and deadlines come into play. The good manager will have these in place so they can be used as a guideline for staff training. They can help to identify strengths and weaknesses. They are really useful in highlighting gaps in skills and competencies.

6. They show gratitude for work well done.

Everyone, including the tough leader, craves praise, appreciation and thanks. This is essential for the following reasons:

  • Builds a team spirit
  • Increases motivation
  • Creates a better work environment
  • Helps to create a learning culture
  • Increases morale

Research led by Amy Edmondson at the Harvard Business School shows that employees perform better and feel more secure, when praised and appreciated.

7. They never bully their staff.

“A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together”. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Successful leaders know that their staff is the best asset the company has, when managed well. The tyrannical approach belongs to another century. Studies show that staffs respond better when:

  • They are appreciated
  • There are incentives to perform better
  • They are not insulted or belittled
  • They are never threatened
  • They are never sexually harassed
  • They are never bullied

8. They never play the blame game.

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell

Some managers delight in finding a scapegoat when things go pear-shaped. In many cases, this is unjustified, as the fault lies in poor management or bad decisions made by the boss. Passing the blame on to an employee who was marginally involved is the mark of a weak and ineffectual leader.

9. They talk openly about expectations.

Usually, expectations are only mentioned in job descriptions and in performance reviews. The tough leaders know that these have to be kept to the forefront and should be mentioned in normal conversations, almost on a daily basis. In this way, they can provide motivation, inspiration and a little fear, too.

10. They are not afraid to make difficult decisions.

“A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.” —Stephen King

Tough leaders are faced with a growing number of uncertainties in a very difficult economic climate. They have to come to terms with decreased consumer confidence, political decisions, not to mention technology which is changing at a dizzying speed. While negotiation skills will play a vital role, the tough leaders can show that they can navigate in uncertain environments with confidence. Above all, they are not afraid of making difficult decisions in a very precarious environment

As we have seen, the hard image of tyrannical managers who rule their staff with a rod of iron is no longer effective in the second millennium. Overall, the tough leader has to make great demands on his staff while at the same time, showing empathy and appreciation.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” —Jim Rohn

Have you worked with tough leaders? What inspired you? Were there problems?  Let us know in the comments below

Check out 7 Ways That A Great Leader Thinks Differently

Featured photo credit: Meeting staff/Dell’s Official Flickr Page via flickr.com

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