There comes times in every leader’s period in office where he or she has to up the game to maximize team performance. Everything that needs to be achieved has to be done according to the dictates of modern-day people management theories, most of which have been made trendy by major blue-chip companies and overnight urban startups successes.

A good leader according to their rulebook is someone who is cool all the time, has an open desk and shares your nearest bean bag. Open conversations, positive pep talk and fun at work and play define the typical millennial leader every time you browse through a website or attend a business summit.

Even though ‘diversity’, ‘culture’, ‘agile teams’ have all become buzzwords, people tend to forget the one person that single-handedly manages all of that: the leader. A great boss is indeed every employee’s great blessing but what about the reverse? How do leaders deal with so many differences, levels, diversity, cultural barriers and so many kinds of personalities who come with so many strengths as well as shortcomings?

Like the many functions and verticals that strategically work in alliance to meet the organisation’s long-term vision, leading people is also a strategic move. One that requires the art of subtlety more than the dictatorial loudness and display associated with it. While some leaders are smart enough to understand this strategy, others need to learn how to speak less and start listening more.

Communication and clarity are key factors. People don’t need to be told repeatedly to finish their work or meet targets but need to be aware why their work is important to them and their company. Forcing down work on talents is a practice of the bygone era of industrialisation. Today, people need to be accountable for their own KPIs and this can be achieved by giving them freedom and power.

These rules apply for interpersonal relationships in office as well and also making teams perform. If you have talented people working for you, then clashes with respect to knowledge, skills and other professional ego might come into play during collaboration. Dealing with the fumes before they break out into a fire is a much better way of handling things than allowing team mates to go on with their problems.

A leader who understands the complex nature of human behaviours does well by mitigating such issues with compassion and patience. Dealing with different types of personalities is an art in itself and doing that without making it obvious constitutes the art of subtlety in people management. Sometimes, it’s not just about the talk, it’s also about empathy and showing your commitment even when the going’s not good.

There are numerous occasions when leaders and their teams don’t see eye-to-eye on ideas for projects or other critical decisions. In such cases, it’s very important to hear out what talents feel and why they feel that way. As a leader, it’s your duty to air your views confidently and convince them to adopt your idea. But that also means giving your team an equal opportunity and the space to define theirs.

One of the ways by which you can achieve this is through gentle persuasion. Revisiting decisions through meetings, encouraging creative ideas on the subject and empowering team members to gradually get hooked on is an indirect and unassertive way of dealing with roadblocks. This also helps team members step away from their comfort zone to learn or take up new challenges. This is specially challenging with senior team members who are usually set in their own ways.

No matter how great the leader you may be, there are times when you have to act tough and leave no room for misinterpretation. Sometimes the rules need to be made clear in simple, straight one liners that are polite, impactful and mindful. Dealing with unpleasant situations on time may help the team save face during trying circumstances in the future, and in a way, is a good thing.

There are no hard and fast rules on how to deal with people and get them to give their best shot at work. A good leader knows when and how to deal with his talents in a way that is appealing to themselves and the rest of the group. The best leaders always make things look easy to help you surmount mountains you thought were impossible. They make sure team dynamics are always in check and people don’t cross lines. They make the environment just and fair by their mere presence. And that in itself is an art.

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