How to Be a Good Leader at Work in 4 Easy Tips

How to be a good leader at work? It is about picking your battles and setting a culture of transparency

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Today, we explain how to be a good leader at work. We will talk about leadership, and specifically how you can be a good leader in a work context. While what you read here can apply to any context, it is specifically designed for work.

How to Be a Good Leader at Work

How to Be a Leader

Before we can dive into how to be a good leader at work, we should consider how to be a leader. That is, what does it take to be a leader? Once we answer that, we will discuss how you can be good at it, and how you apply that at work.

Let’s start with the simplest definition of leadership.

Leadership is the act of driving change.

To expand on this, it is all about guiding people to change something: whether that is themselves, a business process or outcome, a project, a situation – whatever. It is seeing where you are now and where you want to be, and guide people to get there. It has a lot to do with inspiration, mentorship, people development and goal setting rather than with day-to-day management.

How to Be a Good Leader

If you want to be a good leader, this will mean two things:

  • Be effective at driving people toward the goal or change
  • Drive people toward the right goal

You can’t be a good leader if you have both. If you have the right goal but cannot drive people to reach it, you won’t lead much and will be just a dreamer. The world is full of dreamers nobody even knows about because their dreams never turn into a reality. On the other hand, if you are effective at driving change, but do that for the wrong change, you will never be a good leader. Let’s be controversial here: Hitler has been quite effective in driving people toward the change he envisioned. But that was a monstrous and unforgivable change. We may argue that he was an effective leader, but by no account he was a good leader.

You are no dreamer and no Hitler, I am sure of that. Later in this article we will see great tips on how to be both effective and pick the right goal.

How to Be a Good Leader at Work

If you are reading this article, that is because you are interested in how to be a good leader at work. So, what are the different flavors of leadership that you can apply at work? How do they differ from leadership you apply in other contexts, such as family, political, or even the military?

When it comes to work, you need to consider differences with leadership in other contexts on several dimensions:

  • Authority lays in the middle here: you will have more authority in a work context where you have a hierarchy, compared to a family or maybe even political campaigning context. Yet, you will have less authority than in a military context. Nonetheless, the change you drive should not be supported by authority alone. In fact, the best leaders drive change without relying on authority at all.
  • Impact and inspiration likely depend on the work itself. If your company is working to end hunger, end wars, or develop a vaccine for a terrible disease you will have an important cause that drives people to change. If the work is just about serving food to people at a diner or calling customers to solicit overdue payments, the impact and inspiration you can tap into are limited.
  • Appropriate actions you can take for your leadership endeavor will also be limited at work. If you have seen some movies, there is always some cunning political leader driving change, some military commander resorting to psychological tricks to get what he wants, and so on. At work you can’t do most of that. You are limited to action that are reasonable, workplace friendly, and ideally are not particularly emotional.

As you can see from these three bullets, leadership at work is hard, because you don’t have many of the levers you have in other contexts. Let’s take the average office job – whatever the industry – and see what are the characteristics of good leaders that you can have and that will work in a job. As you will see, you are not as limited as you might think.

Practical Tips on How to Be a Good Leader at Work

Now that you know what it means to be a good leader at work, let’s see some actions you can take to become one.

Pick Your Fights

Leadership is about driving change in an organization. Moving from a current state to another more desirable state. Such end state is often aspirational, and getting there is a challenge. As humans, we tend to find comfort in the status quo, and overcoming obstacles to get to an uncertain future is not something we are inclined to do. Sometimes, we need to do it.

If you want to know how to be a good leader at work, you will need to pick your battles
Decide which projects are worth pursuing.

If your uncertain future looks bleak, you will not feel much desire of getting there. In fact, you may even feel the opposite desire: you may not want to get there at all. If people do not want to do something deep in their heart, there is little leadership can do.

So, since we are not on a political battlefield, pick your battles wisely. Decide which changes are worth driving forward and which ones are not. Try to shun any project you do not believe in personally. In fact, there is no way to “fake” leadership for change if you yourself believe this change to be meaningless or detrimental.

Instead, pick a project or goal that inspires you, and that has the potential to inspire others as well. If you do, any subsequent tip will be extremely easier to apply.

Set a Culture of Transparency

Transparency is key in any work environment because makes people feel respected and considered. If they are, they are inclined to listen to you, and persuading them to your change will be easier.

A culture of transparency means everyone goes the extra mile to ensure everyone else understands the situation. No decision is based on seniority alone or “Mr. Expert said this”, but everything is based on data, and such data is documented and available for everyone to see. Anyone should be able to look at the data and come to the same conclusion.

Transparency is a key item on how to be a good leader
Transparency is important if you want to be a good leader at work.

If you are transparent with people and expect them to be transparent with you as well, you create an environment where people are more inclined to change. This is because no change feels imposed, but rather people see why the change came to importance.

As part of this, you should strive to communicate clearly in a way that everyone can understand and be crystal clear on who is responsible of what. Ensure everyone is accountable for what she is doing. This is how to be a good leader at work.

Develop People

Everyone has to do something they don’t like now and then. Everyone has to be down in the mud and get the car back going. However, sometimes work may feel being in the mud all the time, getting dirty with no clear path forward, with no hope.

This is why you need to develop people. You need to ensure people have the opportunity to grow in the direction they want to, so even when you will have to send them in the trenches doing the dirtiest of work, they will know you have their back.

If you don’t develop them, they will consider you just the one that send them to do the hard, ungratifying work. Instead, if you develop them and take time to explain why the ungratifying work needs to be done by them, then you will have a successful outcome. This is a key tip in how to be a good leader at work, so remember it.

This means a lot of listening to understand what people want. You don’t want to force a person to grow in a direction he is not comfortable with. Then, it needs mediation, finding among the ways a person wants to grow something that can apply to your business and be beneficial to it.

How to be a good leader at work? Develop people, make them growth!
Helping people to grow is something you should do out of a habit, and not occasionally.

But listening is not enough. Then, you need to act. More precisely, you need to provide resources and support (both things) to ensure the person can develop and grow. This means providing courses (paid by the company of course), mentorship, and ensure time can be allocated to growth. Most often, companies truly believe in developing their employees – but it is just that: a belief. If you can’t carve out a few hours per week for your employee to grow, they won’t. Or, they will do it in their free time and eventually switch to a competitor.

Be Generous on Feedback

Here I don’t mean to sugarcoat your feedback or be more polite than you normally would. I just mean give plenty of feedback and ask for plenty of feedback. This builds trust over time, and ensure everyone – including yourself – can become better at whatever he is doing.

Feedback must be timely and specific. You want to give feedback about something immediately after that something happened, and be specific about what your feedback is. You should provide feedback both when positive things and negative things happen, not trying to balance them but by being mindful about everything that is going around.

Be specific about what you liked or what you didn’t like with the person you are giving feedback to. And try to avoid suggesting corrective actions right after negative feedback: negative feedback put people in a proud mindset where they are less willing to listen, so wait some more time before talking about suggestion.

Don’t just give feedback, ask for feedback to your manager, peers, and reports. Do it continuously, leverage 1-to-1 meetings if you have them to ask “how do you think I am doing? Is there something you wish me to do differently?”. This is how to be a good leader at work.


In this brief guide on how to be a good leader at work, we saw that good leaders at work may have limited tools, but still have all the tools they need to drive change. If you want to know how to be a good leader at work, you will need to decide which initiative to lead and take on only the one you believe in (so that you can inspire others).

You will want to set a culture of transparency, so that people can see the data behind any decision and do not feel any imposition. You will want to develop people and help them growth to wither the storm when work is hard, and provide and ask generous feedback so that everyone can get better.

If you are leading a project, start by making clear who does what by using this RACI matrix.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio


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