There are few things more frustrating in business than poor, weak or misguided leadership. Show me a business with poor leadership and I will show you a business that is dysfunctional, inefficient, and struggling to keep its head above water.

When looking to transform your leadership, there are undeniable elements that transcend every leadership role in any industry.

This may sound very basic but leaders forget that one of their most important roles is to make decisions. Working with or for leaders that procrastinate and put things off is one of the most annoying things in business. We want answers and we want them now! Where are we going? What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How are we doing it? All day every day people are looking for answers to these questions. When they’re not answered productivity declines, engagement falls away, and customers head elsewhere.

As a leader the biggest influence you have over another person’s behavior is your own behavior. People will do what you do, not what you say. So if you talk about customers being the most important part of your business but treat them like dirt, you can be sure your staff are treating them the same way you are. If you say punctuality is important yet turn up late for meetings, people will interpret that it doesn’t really matter. Talking a good game doesn’t make it a good game. You have to back the talk with actions that are congruent.

If you want to create a culture that buzzes, where people look for opportunities to impress, then you have to find people doing the right thing. Typically leaders find or hear about employees doing the wrong thing and then have a rant about it, giving the person what for. If instead you look for people that have done something significant, useful and positive and rave about that to others, you will find that others will also look for the pats on the back.

I work with organizations across the globe and I find there is one common mistake leaders make in every country. That is keeping employees beyond their use by date. The employee who is no longer motivated, no longer cares and is just going through the motions, no matter how much you try to inspire them or cajole them into contributing more. Stop pretending it will get better and help them find their happiness elsewhere.

Boundaries can be crossed, but lines cannot. Boundaries and lines are the way we communicate to employees our expectations. A line is a set rule, don’t go outside the lines or there will be trouble. The problem with lines, however, is they restrict creativity. If you tread on someone every time they cross a line, or make a mistake, eventually you will stifle every last drop of creativity which means new ideas, methods, processes get buried. A boundary is a guideline as to what you can and cannot do, an indicator of what the limits are. If you create boundaries, you allow people to look for new ideas and ways of doing things. If they cross a boundary and have a good reason for doing so then that’s okay.

Leaders come and leaders go and all leaders are remembered. Ask yourself what you want to be remembered for and why. Then make sure there is an element of what you do every day that reinforces that. For me it has always been “hard but fair.” I want people to know that I have high expectations, that I won’t take any rubbish and that there are benchmarks that simply must be achieved and if they’re not achieved there is a price to pay. I also want them to know that I will treat everyone the same, that there is recognition for a job well done, that I encourage people to grow and develop.

The best leaders leave their egos at the door. They don’t get caught up in exercising power, for power’s sake. When you make it all about you, then you become tied to the day to day operations. Everybody turns to you for advice, direction and support. Some leaders simply love this but it’s not good for business. When the leader is the one stop shop for every decision, when they have to rubber stamp every process or procedure, the business suffers when they’re not around. Not only that but the leader feels like they are always busy, can’t get away and people wont leave them alone.

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