It's been a long time since I've been paid to be any kind of leader. True, I had to take care of my mother for a few years, but that wasn't leadership, that was family.

I've been in leadership positions most of my business life. Even as a consultant, if I didn't have the designation of a leader, I was considered an authority on what I was doing for the client. Sometimes I had to take the role of a leader because I was the only one with the knowledge of a particular thing that had to be addressed in a specific way.

I've rarely considered leadership to be a hard thing, but I had some bad moments here and there. Truth be told, if you're going to be leading people for short or long periods of time, you're going to need chameleon-like skills to be effective and to keep your composure; trust me on this one. 🙂

With that build up, here are 8 things to consider if you're going to be an effective leader:

1. Be friendly, but not friends

Although over a long period of time friendship might happen, never go into leadership with the expectation that you can be friends with the people you work with, especially if they're reporting to you. Too much familiarity makes it hard for leaders to do their job effectively because they start thinking about personal things rather than the job. Being friendly is a different matter though; one can be friendly without going overboard, and if people like you, they'll work better for you.

2. Be honest, but not brutal

No one likes brutal honesty, no matter what they tell you; try it on 10 people and 9 won't like it. No leader should believe their job is to break people down; that's what being brutally honest does. Leaders need to learn the skill of critique without criticism, followed by education and building confidence. Talking to people in a more positive way encourages them to share their thoughts with you, and to ask you questions when they need help. It's always better to be able to make things better rather than letting them get worse because people are scared of talking to you.

3. Be upfront when there are negative issues, but offer suggestions for improvement

If you're going to be a leader you need to learn how to address people when things aren't going well. You also need to have solutions to offer before you talk to them unless it's a serious enough situation where counseling needs to take place instead of education. Sometimes a good tactic is to present the negative issue and then ask the employee what they will try to do to fix things. You might be pleasantly surprised or learn more in regards to what skills might be lacking or need strengthening.

4. Balance negative with positive

Whenever most people read this they think it sounds corny. After all, if someone messes up really bad what positive words can be said?

If you're a good leader to begin with there should be a lot of positive things to be said to anyone working for you. That's because those workers who aren't proficient enough to stay employed should already be gone. Those who are left should have great potential or pretty good skills, which means if you have to talk to them about something negative you should be able to fall back on a positive reason based on why they're still an employee.

5. Be consistent; you'll usually get back what you put out

People dread coming to work when they're not sure what kind of mood the leader is going to be in that day. If you're someone who can't stay in a good mood most of the time, it's better to not show much emotion at all. It might not be the optimal way to go through the day but it's better than dealing with someone with drastic mood swings. Remember, business is business; never bring your personal emotions to work unless you're dealing with some kind of catastrophe. In those times, people will understand.

6. Pay attention to employee reactions and remember them

I've never believed in the principle that all employees should be treated equally; they should be treated fairly. If you recognize that every employee is different, then you'll realize that you can talk to some employees differently than others, learn how to motivate each employee based on observation, and figure out who needs more training and who your superstars are. This means you need to pay attention to each employees actions or moods, and if need be, catalogue these things to help you remember them. Learning how to read people is one of the best leadership skills one can attain.

7. Use "leader speak" in both written and oral communications

My interpretation of "leader speak" is to make sure you remove any words or phrases that come across as personal attacks or anything personal that might cross the line, even if you think it's positive. Leader speak removes context based on sex or race or personality. It's always safest to be neutral in your writing, even if you're addressing something bad that might have happened. Some might call this being politically correct and might chafe under it; trust me, it's better in business to be politically correct than have to deal with an issue of impropriety later on because of your pride.

8. Remember who's in charge; you!

This ties back into the first point while extending it a bit. Even if you like to collaborate with employees, get them engaged in the conversation and ask them for their opinions, in the end you as the leader has to make the decision and be ready to accept the blame if it's the wrong one. This can be tough because sometimes leaders don't know everything about the departments that report to them, which can lead to hesitation in making a decision. That's why you make the big bucks, as they say; that's why you took on the role. Take your time, evaluate something, then take action. Always do your best; if you're an effective leader, most of the time it'll be good enough.