As a business leader, you likely have a meaningful job title. You might be a director, a manager, an executive, a CFO, or a CEO. You could be “Head of Marketing” or “Chief Program Officer.” Whatever your position may be, it is important to remember the meaning behind your title. Of course, these are not just decorative names or rungs on a corporate ladder; there comes a time when we must ask ourselves–what is the difference between being a manager or a director, and being a leader

A good business head vs. a great leader

A good business head will lead their team towards meeting goals successfully. They may or may not understand their employees as individuals, and they may not have taken the time to figure out the nuances of what makes the team tick, but they successfully accomplish objectives.

A great leader, on the other hand, will understand how their people work in order to meet goals as efficiently and effectively as possible. How can we achieve this level of leadership? The answer lies in a sense of involvement and an ample dose of good, old-fashioned empathy.

Invest in understanding your team’s work

It’s true that one of the benefits of corporate leadership is not having to do everything yourself. Regardless, it can be very much to your benefit to take the time to understand exactly what your people do every day. 

The next time you have a conversation with an employee, ask them about their day-to-day activities. You might even schedule some time every week or every month to meet with an employee just to discuss the smaller details of their jobs–what are the tasks that make up their work? What improvements or innovations might they have in mind that they haven’t spoken up about yet?

Create Clear and Reasonable Expectations

People perform their best when they have a solid understanding of what they are supposed to do. That might seem obvious, but there are many aspects to leading a team, and creating clear expectations is a leadership practice that is often overlooked. 

Rather than giving your team vague instructions that are open to interpretation, express fair expectations that are informed by your understanding of how the team functions and what is possible. Consider the following expectations, and which is more powerful:

I expect you to increase our profit margin as much as possible this quarter.


Let’s increase our profit margin by at least 10% this quarter, by reducing operating costs and increasing customer loyalty.

Getting the “natural best” out of your people

When you understand your team, what they do, and how they work, you are perfectly poised to get the “natural best” out of your team. You understand their strengths and their challenges. This means that instead of simply pushing them as hard as you perceive to be necessary, or making decisions semi-blindly, you can help your employees, and your organization, to flourish. 

So, how will you work to better understand your team so that you can get the natural best out of them and reach new heights of team effectiveness?