How to be a great leader

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Stylist Team
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The latest episode of The Apprentice saw project manager Zoe Beresford reduced to tears after mucking up on a rubbish collection task. Insults soon followed at a furious pace, with her colleagues accusing her of being "pessimistic, sad, with a horrible attitude" and "not good for team morale."

Waterworks at work is a real enough risk in the non-Apprentice world of business - especially in the context of team leaders.

To be commander-in-chief affords you instant power and authority, yet it's also one of the most lonely positions out there. Inspiring confidence in your team while driving continuous results can seem overwhelming, and all the more so when the business is small and your every last word and action counts.

Stylist speaks to business mentor and coach Rebecca Jones, who has a wealth of experience helping women set up their own companies and is the author of women's business guide Business In Red Shoes. She shared the following leadership tips with us:

Have confidence in your decisions

If you want to inspire confidence and clarity in your team, it's crucial you have faith in the decisions you make. Take time to consider a decision and make it based on a combination of factual information and gut instinct. Once you've ruled on something, stick to it - even if the face of questioning or doubt from employees. Business can be a cut-throat world and if people sense an air of uncertainty or an opportunity for you to back down, you may find it difficult to follow through on your word the next time around. If the decision turns out to be wrong (like Zoe in the latest Apprentice episode), admit it, move on and learn from your mistakes. But if you're uncertain from the beginning, it will damage your credibility and have a negative impact on the team.

Communicate clearly and positively

In order to get the end result you want, you need your colleagues to follow through on your commands, so it's very important you communicate clearly and in concrete terms. Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and spell this out to your team, so there is no misunderstanding or vagueness. People will look to you for motivation and inspiration, so it's important you choose your words carefully. Women are all too quick to be apologetic, or say "is it ok if... ?" Instead use phrases like "I would like you to..." or "Our aim is to..." Try to avoid procrastinating words like "um" "ah" or "maybe." The sooner you speak like a leader, the quicker your colleagues will adapt in response. Also be clear about your expectations from the outset and if there is a problem with a team member's behaviour or work ethic, address it immediately. The more time you spend with your employees in regular review and feedback sessions, the less likely you are to run into trouble with producing results.

Be true to your own values

As a leader, you achieve your end goal by getting your team on-side and working together. The best way to inspire and encourage people to do this is to be natural and believe in what you're saying and doing. Don't be tempted to put on a "work front," of behaving in a certain "leader" way - it's exhausting and employees will sense it's not genuine. Instead just be yourself; the more you enjoy what you do and have faith in your project, the more your team will trust and follow you, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think of someone like Michelle Mone, founder of multi-million pound lingerie company MJM International. She comes across as a very personable and natural leader whose values ring true - there's nothing clinical about her, and that has undoubtedly influenced her success.

Get a good mentor

Having a good mentor to guide you through your business decisions is especially important when you're out there alone at the top. It may be seen as unprofessional to question yourself and your actions in front of your team - but you're free to do so with a mentor. Choose someone who you don't know - outside of your own personal and business life - and who you aspire to and have confidence in. People will usually be flattered to be a mentor if you just approach them and ask, but there is also the possibility to pay for it as a professional service. Let your mentor help you and guide you through all your decisions and difficulties as a leader; use the sessions as a learning and development curve. Also bring feedback from your team to analyse with your mentor, as they will have a more subjective take on it.

Walk the walk

First impressions really are everything as a leader. Don't just talk about what you can do and the many achievements in your employment history - do it. Success breeds success, so take inspiration from people who have already made it as established business leaders, and take note of their behaviour and persona, or attend networking events with them. Body language is important and you need to have a certain stance and air of authority about you. Even simple things like how you enter a meeting room count. For instance, it's a good idea to have what you need before you enter a meeting - rather than rummaging around in your bag for a pen or your Blackberry after you have sat down to begin. Paying attention to these little details will make a big difference in the long run - but always bear in mind, the ability to act as a leader needs to come from within, so it's genuine.