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True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss

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True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss

No matter how small (or big) the team you're trying to lead is, there're always challenges that make leadership difficult. Maybe your team is experiencing some setbacks and the morale is kind of low at the moment. Maybe there're members who can't keep up with the progress like everyone else. Or maybe your team always misunderstands what you mean, making it difficult to keep your vision and their work in sync.

Leadership is never meant to be easy. But if you understand what leadership really means, you're one great step closer to becoming a successful leader.

Leadership is an art of enabling others to work toward the same goal together.

    There is not a single definition of leadership and it varies depending on the type of leader — the CEO of a company, the captain of a sports team, a religious leader, a political leader, etc. However, when we talk about leadership in general, according to leadership expert James McGregor Burns, leadership is a process in which "leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation".[1]

    A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.

    With a good leader, people are motivated to grow and will perform their best to reach the goal.

    A leader is the charismatic head of a group of people, who possesses the skills to lead, inspire and influence the others to pursue their personal growth and the team's goals. Leaders are important as they have a great impact on a team's performance. Good leaders will maximize the team's productivity, shape positive cultures and promote harmony and open communication within the team.[2]

    A great leader is the source of inspiration and motivation for the team.

    A good leader works together with the team when facing difficulties,[3] while at the same time giving them great freedom with how they complete tasks. This fosters creativity and eventually benefits the team as a whole. They also ensure a friendly working environment for each member to make contributions, and compliment and encourage the team from time to time.

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    A great leader promotes values by setting examples.

    A great leader is the role model for their team. They set standards that they themselves follow consistently through their own behaviors, such as punctuality, honesty and integrity, etc., which are beneficial to the success of the team.

    All successful leaders share the same traits, no matter what kind.

    If you want to become a better leader, learn about the following traits that all successful leaders share.

    1. Visionary

    Vision is the ability to foresee the future and set goals for the team to achieve. A leader helps the team to start and continue working toward the right direction, doing the right thing at the right time. Without visions, a leader might make confusing and misleading plans for the team, which would eventually harm the results of the team.

    2. Committed

    Commitment to the role of a leader means leading by example. If you are a team member, would you be willing to follow a leader who acts differently than the rules they set for you? Very unlikely. A leader must have high standards for themselves and act consistently, so that the team members will respect their leadership.

    3. Curious

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    A leader must be knowledgeable about what they work on in order to help solve any problems that arise. They should always be curious and never stop learning. They should also know the team members well enough to act for their own good. Without knowledge and a strong curiosity, one is unlikely to be able to lead the team to solve problems. Team members are also very likely to challenge the authority of the leader.

    4. Confident

    Confidence is to be self-assured without being aggressive. A leader needs to be assertive at times to show their authority and confidence, so the team members are convinced to follow their orders and plans. A leader also represents a team with its own benefits and concerns. For instance, in a company with complex organization, the leader represents the rights of their team members and that is when confidence is required.

    5. Morally good

    Integrity is a must for a respectable leader. A leader without integrity, who says one thing and does another, can hardly convince team members to respect them. Without respect, a leader won't be able to persuade the team to do anything for the company and leads to inefficiency in the team.

    6. Trusting

    A leader should trust the team members' abilities. Walking around every 30 minutes to check on the team's progress, or challenging them for everything they do will not build trust in the team. Give team members a little faith and space to do their jobs, no one wants a pushy paranoid leader.

    7. Decisive

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    Decisiveness is essential to every business and company. As a team, we will have to make hard decisions within a short period of time under a high-pressure environment. That is when a leader should assume their role, and utilize their own knowledge and perhaps the opinion of the members to make a decision before it is too late.

    8. Positive

    Optimism is a crucial part of leadership. There will be times when the team has low morale or feels lost in the middle of a project. A positive leader finds the positives in the midst of the negatives and encourages the team members to keep moving forward. A pessimistic leader at work can hardly believe anything good will happen in the end.

    9. Humble

    A humble leader keeps track of their own performance, decisions and accomplishments and reflects constantly if there's anything they can do better. By having self-reflection everyday, a leader can understand more about what they're good and bad at, and can improve themselves accordingly.

    It is not easy to acquire all these characteristics in a short period of time, but you can learn and practice more to become a better leader.

    To become a good leader, try to start by following the leaders you look up to.

    There is always something that we can learn from successful leaders. Following the one you look up to is exactly the way for you to kick start your journey to being a good leader.[4]

    Pick out 5 of your favorite leaders and ask yourself why you like them. Is it because of their speaking skills, their attitude to work, their confidence or the way they can make everyone listen? Start by learning what you think are the necessary characteristics and skills that a great leader possesses, and put it into practice in your daily life leading positions.

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    Remember, you can learn not only from their success but also their mistakes! Look at Henry Ford. Ford Motor Company may be a success today, but Ford did not build it without first failing hard. It was through paying attention to his every tiny mistake and working out the underlying problem that led him to the eventual success.[5]

    In order to be able to teach others, learn something new about your expertise every day.

    Although it might sound cheesy, it is always right to "stay foolish, stay hungry".

    Learn a new thing about your expertise, job or market every day to better equip yourself as a great leader. Never stop learning. Do not forget to make records of what you have learned simply jotting down notes in a notebook or in an note-keeping app, because one day your team members will need your advice, and your knowledge has to be accumulated.

    Always ask for feedback, an active leader never waits.

    One of the traits some successful leaders possess is that they are always looking to improve. Instead of waiting for the team members to give you feedback, actively ask them for feedback.[6] Stay open to criticism because everyone has their blind spot, and having honest team members sharing their feedback is valuable for a leader's growth.

    Are you ready to become a leader? Stop wasting time and kick start your journey now by learning from the leaders you admire. Remember, mistakes might happen along the way and that is completely normal. Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to make mistakes.

    Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

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    Emilie Chu

    Amateur Performer, Traveller, Optimist and Empath

    True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

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