Leadership

9 ways to tell if you’re a leader worth following

Climber extends helping hand to teammate
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Climber extends helping hand to teammate

Is leadership something people are naturally born with, or something we can learn?

It's a question that's brought much debate, yet if you end up in a position of leadership, the true question worth asking is: are you one worth following?

That question in itself is posed in "The Business Sergeant's Field Manual" — a book written by leadership and management coach Chris Hallberg that draws upon practices and lessons he learned from his time in the military and applies them to real-life business world situations.

"A leader's primary job is to be a support system for their employees," Hallberg told CNBC Make It by email. "Serving them in any way you can will not only benefit your rapport with each employee, but will also benefit the company and its culture as a whole."

So what does it take to be a leader that's not only respected by their employees, but seen as one worth following — and potentially even mimicking?

Enter Hallberg: in his book, he breaks down nine key steps for leaders to consider when it comes to the workplace.

1) Strong leaders have an operating system

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When running a business, Hallberg noted that there's two ways of approaching this: figuring it out as you go along, or incorporating a business operating system into the mix .

The problem with improvising is that it can be harder to manage when difficult situations arise, while having "a playbook" for employees to refer to, can save time and money when such circumstances occur.

"With a guide in place, 90 percent of the day-to-day can be run by systems, allowing you to give the remaining 10 percent of your undivided time and personal attention," Hallberg said, adding that as these "systems run almost 'automatically,' you can start to manage by exception" rather than having to be everywhere at once.

2) Effective leaders impose 'accountability through consequences'

"The knowledge of near certain consequences for missteps can have a huge impact on performance level," he said, giving an example of how attitudes can change around getting a speeding ticket, if no repercussions occur for the actions taken.

"If no one at your office is going to get a ticket for failing to follow process, missing deadlines, or not hitting agreed upon numbers, your team will be speeding all day long at the office with little regard for their poor behavior."

3) Are you fair, firm and consistent?

Be fair: Treat everyone as you'd like to be treated — and, of course, equally.

Be firm: Continue to provide clarity when it comes to your expectations, and be confident in delivery.

Be consistent: As Hallberg put it, "No one wants a Jekyll and Hyde character as their boss."

4) The ability to be decisive and direct

In their respective corporate jobs, "Scandal's" Olivia Pope (L) and "How to Get Away with Murder's" Annalise Keating (R) often have to be decisive and direct to get the job done.
Mitch Haaseth/ABC | Disney ABC Television Group | Getty Images
In their respective corporate jobs, "Scandal's" Olivia Pope (L) and "How to Get Away with Murder's" Annalise Keating (R) often have to be decisive and direct to get the job done.

"You're actually doing everyone a favor when you say what needs to be said rather than tip-toeing around the problem," Hallberg said, explaining why being "brutally honest" can save time and energy for leaders and their companies, instead of choosing to sugarcoat.

When it comes to being decisive, "we can't always wait for the true indicators to come in before we pivot on something; business is never that clear," Hallberg said. "That's where strong leadership and great relationships on a team come into play."

5) Putting others first by… eating last

Drawing upon his military roots, the management coach explained that by allowing your team to 'eat first,' this gives leaders the chance to check on the group's welfare. In business, this means "selfless, servant leaders put their employees before themselves."

"When a leader has invested in his people time and time again, it's a lot easier for that leader to ask 100 percent from his team," Hallberg said.

6) Ownership does not equal leadership

You have "to earn your stripes" if you want to lead — even if you're in a senior position, Hallberg explains. When attaining success at work, creating the most effective team is key, so that means finding workers who best complement a position, rather than opting for a family member who may not be the best choice for the role.

7) It's a bad sign if you're feeding your ego

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Instead of feeling threatened by competent people who may be more equipped to areas in your industry — embrace them, and even learn from them, that's what strong leaders do, Hallberg explained.

8) Support the middle managers

Middle managers not only have knowledge of what senior members of management desire when achieving targets, they're also aware and supportive of what junior levels of staff need — meaning they have the insight on what's functioning and what needs resolving.

9) Molding the next generation of leaders

Let's say there's a key role that needs filling. By placing employees who show potential on a "leadership development track" — providing them access to senior-level meetings and decision-making — this allows leaders to identify employees for key management roles ahead of when positions open up.

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