While there is no one way to be an effective leader, you can always pick out good leaders and bad leaders based on how their employees feel about them. Even good leaders can improve, and the best of the best constantly look for ways to improve their relationships with colleagues and other businesses, setting an example for the future that they envision. It goes without saying that no one likes an ineffective or oppressive leader. Bad management continues to be a determining factor of employee turnover in the United States. 

While there are many great ways to be a leader, it’s important to remember that good intentions and good plans aren’t enough. You have to put your good intentions into actionable goals, and invest in good treatment to truly reap the benefits of a strong, positive workplace. Choosing your employees’ well-being and success will translate into your success as a business leader, and there are solid actions that you can take to get there. 

Be Flexible.

This may seem easy to some, but most business leaders, under the pressure of revenue goals, feel that they simply can’t afford to be as flexible as they would like to be. The simple solution is to be as flexible as you can. Flexibility can translate to openness to employee suggestions, changes in the company and in the market, and diversifying your business’ offerings. Flexibility is actually a necessity that comes with careful planning and preparation for your business’ highs and lows. Greater flexibility in the workplace also empowers employees to take better ownership of their duties. Many companies are experimenting with more working from home opportunities and four-day workweeks. Results across the board have been almost completely positive, proving that employees’ productivity raises when they feel that they have the time and space that they need to feel cared for by their employers

Listen Carefully.

No one likes an uncaring boss or and uncaring company. The first step to prove that you aren’t purely a results-driven machine is by listening. Listening to customers goes without saying: you won’t have a clear picture of your company’s areas for improvement without exhibiting good listening skills, and teaching these skills to employees. Listening to employees, however, is where many businesses are still failing. Remember that your employees’ job is to care for your customers, and to maintain your company’s ability to meet your customers’ needs. Listening to and acting on employee feedback is the cornerstone of the contemporary company’s success. As Virgin CEO Richard Branson says, ‘happy employees take better care of customers.’ Customers that feel heard and cared for means an increase in customer retention, which directly affects the longevity of any enterprise.  

Lead with Vision.

A leader without vision is like a boat without a paddle. Your business won’t necessarily go nowhere, but there’s no benefit to drifting, especially during uncertain economic times. Set goals. Share those goals. And reward your team members as they work toward these common goals. Even if your goal is employee retention, sharing this goal will make it more tangible, and save your company money in the long run. This tip goes back to the need for business leaders to be actively engaged with their employees, and function not only as masters of revenue but also as heads of company culture. 

In setting your goals, be sure to set realistic goals. Just as there’s no need to focus on expansion in your first year or two of your business’s life, you shouldn’t plan on making millions before your brand offerings are available outside of your city. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty.

There are no lazy CEOs of successful businesses. The companies led by organized and hard-working individuals are the companies that have the best chance for long-term success. Most businesses fail within their first four years, and some of these failures can be attributed to an unwillingness of the founders to do work that they may consider to be below them. For example, if you can’t take the call, hire someone who can. If you’re concerned that your employees may not be forthcoming about their work-related issues, try to schedule meetings, and offer the opportunity for anyone to voice their grievances. Seemingly little steps like these can lead to a more hospitable work culture, and send employees and customers alike a message of openness, and a desire for shared success.