Whilst leadership has always played a crucial role in any business, the increasing pressures and expectations being placed on organisations, by both internal and external stakeholders, make it clear that strong and effective leadership has never been more important.

Although there may not be a blueprint for the ‘perfect leader’, there are certain leadership skills which can be applied across many different scenarios to help strengthen team performance and connections.

For those looking to enhance their leadership skills and spot any areas which can be improved upon, Liz Barber, Tutor at RADA Business, shares insights to empower leaders to perform at their best.

Build trust

Leaders that are able to establish trust and trustworthiness are better equipped to lead their teams and organisations through turbulent change. In the current world, every leader is faced with disruption and ambiguity, and when it is difficult to map the future with certainty, building trustworthiness is a crucial foundation to inspiring confidence in your decisions and ability to hold a team and organisation through the change.

In order to establish a culture built on trust, teams need psychological safety. Psychological safety is broadly described as an environment in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves, without risk to reputation.Trust and psychological safety are co-dependant, and are vital ingredients in creating high performing teams. From this point of safety, leaders and their teams are better able to operate effectively with open discussion, collaboration and appropriate challenge. Trustworthiness is demonstrated through a number of attributes – and one area that is so often over-looked is how you show up physically and vocally.

Leaders that demonstrate openness and vulnerability can create better connections with their teams. This vulnerability is demonstrated when we are comfortable exposing who we really are and what we genuinely think and feel, with both words and behaviour.

We are hard-wired to doubt leaders whose physicality is not congruent with their message. If a leader says “ we would like you to offer up your ideas of how we may improve our strategy”, but they are physically held, chest tight, arms folded and without direct eye contact, then we receive that as defensive and closed to new ideas, and we may doubt the validity of the request. Raising awareness of your behaviours and their impact is the first stage to establishing trustworthiness.

For truly effective collaboration in a team, there must be psychological safety and trust.

Foster collaboration

Collaboration within a team is crucial, as it enables everyone to have a say and feel included in the work, strategy and goals. For truly effective collaboration in a team, there must be psychological safety and trust. This ensures that everyone has a voice and feels ownership of the work, where contributions are valued and appropriate challenges are encouraged.

Creating a team culture in which healthy debate and creavity can thrive often requires additional emotional effort. This is especially true of diverse teams which, by definition, comprise diverse thinking. A leader who is able to flex their communication style to suit their audience is better placed to encourage contribution from all members of their team and create more authentic connection.

The language we use has a significant impact on our perceived position within a team. When we speak, we instinctively choose words that we think will convey our meaning most clearly to our audience, but this can also change how our audience feels and even how we feel ourselves.

Using the word “we” – for example saying “we need to get a plan together” – encourages collaboration and inclusion within your team. When performing as a leader, using “I” – for example “I need you to prepare that by Friday” – increases your authority. It’s important to understand these differences and use the most appropriate language to achieve greater impact and connection.

Engage your team

Sucessful leadership teams are galvanised by a clear, unifying purpose. This can be a distinguishing factor between a team of high performing leaders and a high performing leadership team working for the greater good of the business.

When it comes to building positive team dynamics, as a leader it’s not enough to simply state your end goal. In order to engage your team in the vision or goal, you must seek to align individual purpose and get buy-in to the overall vision. For enduring engagement, leaders should seek to provoke an emotional response from their team: reason leads to understanding, emotion leads to action.

Ask yourself: what do you want your team to feel about the journey? What’s your objective?

Verbs are a useful way to create a compelling message and engage your team. Use a verb to influence your intention, which you can portray through both physical and vocal choices.

Do you want to inspire and excite, challenge and refine, or explain and galvanise? Verbs can motivate you and others towards action. Next time you’re presenting an idea or strategic plan, see how this can influence your content and delivery.

By establishing a culture in which feedback is delivered effectively and with the right intention, leaders are able to build teams that ensure optimum performance from each member.

Encourage feedback

Feedback is often regarded as a ‘dirty’ word, synonymous with delivering difficult messages. However, when it comes to establishing peak performance in the workplace, giving and receiving feedback from leaders is essential. It is often the case that the more senior that leaders become, the less opportunity there is to receive feedback on their performance or to be open to courageous conversations with their peers.

By establishing a culture in which feedback is delivered effectively and with the right intention, leaders are able to build teams that ensure optimum performance from each member, that are unencumbered by risk aversion and that establish clear accountability.

Take the time to prepare: consider each feedback conversation in terms of mindset and intention. Are you driven by your own needs? Or are you focussed on the care for the receipient and developing their performance?

Reward success

In an increasingly busy and complex environment, it’s easy to fall into the habit of focusing on what went wrong and what needs doing next. Often, we don’t thank our team enough, but praise and positivity can radically improve team engagement. For some leaders, it may mean revealing vulnerability or require extra confidence, but demonstrating appreciation of your peers and teams is an important part of maintain commitment and a focus on outcomes.

When it comes to praise, make sure it is genuine and evidence based. Don’t just thank someone for their hard work – focus on particular areas they have excelled in, using examples to back up your praise. This will not only boost the morale of your team, but will also make a big difference to your working relationships.