How to Be a Great Leader on the Job

how to be a leader

Working your way up the ladder? Creating change and making news? Well done you! Still striving to get to that leadership position you’ve been coveting? Now’s the time to prove your leadership chops.

Here’s the skinny: management and leadership are two very different things. You can be a leader but not a manager and we’ve all had a manager that was definitely not a leader.

So how do you be a good leader and manager?

1. Set goals and standards so that other people on your team understand them

First and foremost, hold yourself to high standards and your team will follow suit. Secondly, make your goals clear to your team, get everyone calibrated and then it’s 872% easier for the team to work towards those goals. Thirdly, always let people know what is expected of them - clearly.

2. Be approachable, accessible and not an asshole

A good leader doesn’t need an ‘open door’ policy (you still need to get your work done after all) but you absolutely need to be available, accessible and legitimately approachable. It also helps to be genuinely curious in your teammates.  

3. Ask your team for input on your work

When you allow, and openly encourage, constructive criticism those around you will see open lines of communication that goes both ways. The caveat - you must actually listen (and really hear) what they have to say. It’s a perfect setup to make sure everyone is on the same page.

4. In turn, offer constructive criticism when you comment on their work

Constructive is the key word here. If it’s not constructive, keep it to yourself. True constructive criticism is specific and actionable.  Stay away from simply saying “I don’t like it.” Why specifically not, what can be fixed to make it better?

5. Allow for honesty

If you openly listen to the honest opinion from everyone including those above you, below you, lateral to you and the receptionist on the 11th floor - you’ll know what really is going on and be able to head problems off at the pass before they even become problems.  

 6. Work with people better than you

If you’re in a hiring position, hire people better than you. If you aren’t, offer yourself up to work with people a level up from you as much as possible. Ego aside, they’ll make you do better work and keep from getting complacent.

7. Be proactive about helping your team out

You know who is seen as the ultimate team player? The manager who will tweak that deck because Heather is out sick. The Office Manager who gets the billing to finance early during month-end to ease up their load. The account guy who’s meeting got cancelled so he offers to help you set up yours. Not waiting to be asked to help - but being aware and offering it willingly, that’s the golden unicorn of teammates.

8. Take the credit AND the blame

If your team did great work, don’t take the credit without acknowledging the contributions of others, but do gracefully accept kudos if they come your way. If your team screws something up - it’s time for you to take the blame.

9. Work with people’s strengths

This sounds like a no-brainer, and yet few managers follow it. People are not job titles, they’re well... people. Two people with the same job title in your organization may have wildly different strengths. Play to them. Don’t try to force Bob the introvert to throw the client parties when Karen is the party queen. Let Bob create all the reports that the party is celebrating cuz Bob is a Keynote phenom! Pay attention to how people work best and on what. Use their best talents to the team’s best advantages.

10. Don’t be a dick

This is one is sort of my mantra. It’s difficult to get criticism in any job, but when employees are putting (sometimes literally) their blood, sweat and tears into their work - be nice. Offer your time, support and input and always be constructive, generous and just… well… nice.


The common thread through all these? Be nice, be proactive, lift others up. Be about other people just as much as you are about yourself. And remember… don’t be a dick.

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