Eight ways to be a better leader

Being brave enough to make decisions without worrying about failure is important. Lead the way and you can inspire and develop your team, writes Padma Rani

Padma Rani 's avatar
29 Mar 2024
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Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi once said, “Leadership is hard to define, and good leadership is even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” Here are some tips inspired by her wisdom.

Communicate well

Communication skills are critical in leadership. The ability to give honest and impartial feedback has helped me build relationships with staff, students and parents. To communicate efficiently, we must be able to listen actively, write well and use and interpret non-verbal language. Women are often more naturally inclined to have these abilities, making us more empathetic leaders and better equipped to create safe spaces that encourage important discussions and growth. You can develop these skills by observing others within and beyond your department and putting them into practice.

Develop emotional intelligence

Another essential quality women leaders should demonstrate is emotional intelligence: the ability to understand and manage your own and other people’s emotions. Key indicators of this are self-awareness, empathy, social skills and receptiveness to feedback. Ways to improve this skill involve keeping track of when you feel strongly about something and taking steps to figure out why, using empathy to adapt your communication based on who you are speaking to, being open to feedback and keeping an open mind.

Be relatable

I have gone through rough patches throughout my journey in academia, and I often use examples from my personal life – such as the challenges I faced as a researcher and a mother of two young children. Doing so gives my team members confidence that they too can achieve what they set their minds to, even in the face of obstacles.

Empower your team

Leaders must recognise and acknowledge their employees’ strengths and allocate responsibilities accordingly. Encourage growth by delegating simple tasks to team members with clear instructions and by being there to answer any questions they might have. This will encourage task ownership and prepare them for bigger responsibilities later down the line. 

Be fearless

A leader must have passion, enthusiasm and fearlessness to forge ahead and create a path for her team. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” I took her advice when I decided to start teaching online. I took the initiative to do it and trained all my staff members so that they had the confidence to follow in my footsteps. 

Strong women do not give up easily. Being brave enough to make decisions without worrying about failure is important. Lead the way and you can inspire and develop your team. 

Create healthy boundaries

Women leaders often have personal responsibilities at home. This makes it necessary for us to separate our personal and professional lives. You can do this by setting your limits and clearly articulating them. For example, if I must pick my children up from daycare in the afternoon, I plan my meetings for the morning and I communicate when I will be unavailable to my team. 

Advocate for equality and social change

Ensure that the workplace is an inclusive space for women and unrepresented groups by organising training via workshops on issues such as gender sensitivity. Grow a diverse staff and student community by taking steps to adapt your institution’s facilities and support services for people with disabilities, implementing flexible working and offering support services for those with responsibilities.

Create future female leaders

It is essential to nurture the next generation of leaders, and organising and encouraging your team members to take part in leadership programmes helps them develop an understanding of long-term planning, skill building and effective communication. Effective leadership programmes help identify the strengths and weaknesses of those involved and tailor support. Through such training, you set your team members up for long-term success.

To sum up what I believe defines effective leadership and what I hope I can teach my students, I refer to the words of Michelle Obama: “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” 

Padma Rani is a professor and the director of the Manipal Institute of Communication at Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India.

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