Whether you work for a church or in the corporate world, oftentimes leadership isn’t something you’ve trained for but get thrust into.

No matter who you are or where you’ve worked, you’ve most likely experienced both good and bad leaders. On both ends of the spectrum, you can probably name specific instances that have had a lasting impact (for better or for worse) on you and your own leadership style.

Something I’ve learned along the way is that even bad bosses can teach us how to be better leaders … as long as we don’t make those same mistakes. In my 20 years of professional working experience, here are a few takeaways I’ve learned that might help you as you lead your team: 

1. Lead with empathy. 

I see this demonstrated at Fishhook on a daily basis and it’s a type of leadership we should all aspire to. You can easily spot this leader because they make an effort to connect with their team on a personal level while also recognizing that each team member carries a unique set of experiences and challenges. This person leads from a place of humility, kindness and grace by striving to listen to and serve their team members so that each person can shine and reach their full potential.

They understand that leading with empathy creates a more compassionate and positive work environment where team members feel valued and cared for. Ultimately, people who work for this type of leader will often show the same values to their coworkers, thus, spreading positivity and empathy throughout the organization.

2. Know your people. 

We know that leading a team is hard but when you really understand your people it shows in their overall performance. Getting to know each of your team members can be daunting, but there are tools that can help. One easy way to learn more about your team is by having them take personality tests such as the Enneagram, Strengths Finder, Positive Intelligence - Saboteurs, Myers-Briggs, Working Genius or DISC. These tests will help you better understand what motivates each person, what their strengths and weaknesses are and how you can support them in a way that matters to them. 

Another super simple way to build a positive team culture is to know how each team member likes to be celebrated. Is it words of affirmation? A fun snack? A handwritten note? Their favorite coffee drink? Whatever it is, do that.

3. Let others lead.

In most of my previous roles and companies, I haven’t had a seat at the table to be able to lead. In some cases it was because the organization was too large or I didn’t have the “right” title or the leader didn’t trust the staff. No matter the reason, a top down approach just doesn’t work in this day in age. Studies show that Millennials and Gen Zers prefer a team approach because it showcases everyone's strengths and allows for a more collaborative working environment. By letting others on your team lead, they’ll be able to bring their unique perspectives and skills to the table and enrich the overall team dynamic.

Distributing leadership responsibilities can also alleviate the burden on a single leader, prevent burnout and ensure a sustainable leadership structure because it allows team members to step in when needed. This helps establish a more flexible and adaptive team while also building into future leaders.

4. Set clear expectations.

Something we say often at Fishhook is, “Clear is kind.” This not only matters for communication, it also matters when leading others. If you’re vague or indirect with your people, how are they supposed to meet your expectations or goals? Expectations can be easily communicated by sharing them in weekly team meetings as well as in ongoing, one-on-one meetings with each of your team members. It’s ideal to discuss their yearly goals, what they’re working on, where they might need help and how you can pray or support them both at work and personally through ongoing conversations all throughout the year. 

Then, make it a goal to have an annual review with each of your team members before the end of the year. If you’ve had ongoing conversation, this time will be a follow up to those conversations and planning for the new year. Nothing should be a surprise during this annual review, and they should be filled with compliments about how they’ve met their goals because you, as the leader, have ensured they were able to. Finally, strive to give feedback to each person in the way they will receive it best (this is where those personality tests above come in handy). 

5. Lead by example. 

As someone who has experienced both the good and bad of leadership, the thing that often sticks out to me the most is a leader who leads by example. These are bosses that don’t ask you to do something that they are not willing to do themselves. Those managers are the first to walk alongside you and encourage you as you learn something new.

They’re humble and kind yet challenge you to grow. They accept fault and take the blame on behalf of their team if something goes awry rather than pointing fingers at another person. They don’t lead with a top down approach or an iron fist, but instead would go to bat for their teammates. In return, their staff do the same for them because the level of trust built is so high.

Helpful Resources

Of course we’re not going to leave you high and dry at this point. Below are some of our favorite resources so you can continue growing and learning too:

We have seen time and time again that when you lead with these things in mind, the outcome is increased trust, better communication, higher performance and better team morale. If this is too much to add to your plate, you’re not alone.

Here at Fishhook, we’d love to help coach you and take this burden off of your shoulders. We can pray for you, offer you practical guidance, and even do the “other” things on your list (ex: design, content writing, strategic planning, etc.) so you can lean more into the leadership aspect of your role. You and your work matter and we’re here for you!