Being an assertive leader isn’t always about being nice, nor does it mean always getting exactly what you want, when and how you want it without negotiating. Being an assertive leader means being strong about your position, conscious about your intentions, and non-aggressive in the ways you communicate.
Psychologists distinguish between passive, aggressive, and assertive communication styles. The goal is to be assertive, while being able to express your feelings and needs in an appropriate way. Here are 4 tips that will show you how to be an assertive leader:
An assertive leader expresses herself
Know what you want and learn to defend it. Be open about your desires, thoughts, and feelings. Encourage your team to do the same.
Benefits: If you are open about what you want, your team members will likely reproduce this behavior and express themselves openly too. This will help you get to know your team better and empower them at the same time.
Tip: Speak openly and try to be yourself. Start your sentences with, “I think,” “I feel,” “I notice,” etc.
An assertive leader practices active listening
Listen to what team members have to say. Do not judge them while they are speaking; give them time to speak and listen with all your energy. Try to avoid thinking about what your reply will be until they are done speaking. Just listen.
Benefits: It gives an immediate boost of recognition and feeling of importance to the person that is talking. The more confidence your team members have, the more productive, motivated, and effective they will be. On top of that, you will learn tons from what they have to say.
Tip: Thank the person that talked for sharing his or her opinion.
An assertive leader gives honest feedback
Before starting a feedback session, stop and think about the person that is going to receive the feedback. Go through the points you want to talk about, and rehearse how you are going to present each point in a constructive way; be honest and helpful. This does not mean you have to be nice all the time, it just means talking with empathy.
Benefits: Studies show that feedback delivered with sensitivity can encourage and guide people to succeed, while feedback offered without empathy discourages employees and decreases motivation.
Tip: Write an email with feedback to a team member. Now, rephrase each and every sentence so it has a positive light; encourage the employee in each sentence you write. If you do this exercise every day, before you know it, you will start doing it automatically.
An assertive leader maintains self-control during negotiations
Defend your position; you know what you want and why you want it. Actively listen to what the other person is saying and do not interrupt. Present your ideas with conviction and assurance. By maintaining your self-control, you will be recognized as a professional. Remember that people leave bosses, not companies.
Benefits: The others will perceive you as a person that wants to create consensus and find a win-win situation. They will appreciate you and take you into consideration in future negotiations; they will see you as an ally, even if you don’t have the same objectives as them.
Tip: If you feel that you are losing control and getting nervous, pause before you speak, take a deep breath, and talk confidently. The pause will help create a feeling of expectation, and your interlocutor will pay more attention to what you have to say.
Try practicing each tip for one week; after a month, you will have become a better leader and your team will be more effective, committed, and motivated!