5 Steps To Infuse “Magic” in Your Leadership Style

Posted 12.14.2011

This guest post was written by Jason Monaghan with University of Notre Dame Executive Online Education. Jason works with the faculty and staff at Notre Dame Online to develop skill sets for the leaders of tomorrow in Negotiations, Leadership and Management and Business Administration.

As any seasoned business leader can tell you, creating an exemplary team takes knowledge, perseverance, and a little leadership magic. The “magic” of a great leader is developed over time and through years of professional awareness. The qualities that make a good team a great one depend largely on the leader’s ability to create an environment of complete engagement. When you are in the presence of a team that functions extraordinarily well, you can feel the difference. Here are five tips that go beyond the curriculum of management training; tips you can use to unleash a little magic in your own leadership style.

1. Show Gratitude

Authentic gratitude for a job well done is a powerful motivational tool. Setting the tone for a team to recognize and reward one another with positive words and written comments builds ongoing rapport. Gratitude should be expressed in accordance with how the recipient is most comfortable receiving it. Extroverts generally appreciate public attention, while more reserved team members would generally prefer one-on-one recognition. Knowing and respecting each person’s differences is another way to show your gratitude for individuality. While gratitude is often expressed during the yearly review process, excellent leaders communicate moments of gratitude all year long.

2. Exercise Forgiveness

Perfection is an ideal which can help teams push toward excellence. In order to be an excellent team, a certain amount of risk and drive to push change and try new solutions is necessary. Sometimes in the process of driving for excellence there are road bumps and team members (including leaders) make mistakes. Listening to the employee and encouraging the “teachable moment” in a mistake is part of the patience that makes a great leader. While remaining clear about accountability, you can still move the conversation in an action-oriented team driven problem solving direction with the intent of restoring trust and confidence. This practice is effective leadership in process and goes a long way in building team loyalty and overall synergy throughout your team.

3. Cultivate Rapport

Building communication with each team member and knowing them well enough to have connection with them individually will help you orchestrate a more cohesive think tank among them collectively. Set the tone for authentic candor in your group meetings. Take the time to learn the most effective communication strategies for your team members. Some people need time to process a conversation before responding; some people enjoy thinking aloud; others need time to jot down notes as part of their thinking process. When team members are encouraged to understand and work in harmony with communication styles, then you will receive more authentic ideas and more well developed solutions. Online communication profiles and questionnaires exist to help you with your rapport building strategies. Rapport is a give and take; if you want honest connections then you have to find ways to connect honestly with you team.

4. Mindfully Construct Challenge

Part of being a thoughtful, skilled leader is spending time mindfully constructing attainable challenges for your team. Involve the team in setting the parameters of the challenge and involve them in the ongoing assessment. You want your team to have the intellectual stimuli of a solid challenge, but you do not want to set them up for defeat with unrealistic time lines and too many goals. If you are managing a team that has been together or at a company longer than you have been on board, consider asking them for input and take their ideas into careful consideration. Teams work harder and produce better results when each individual feels personally invested in the process.

5. Actively Give Support

Highly experienced leaders know the details of each team member’s job description and also have taken the time to understand what each team member juggles on a daily basis. This not only helps when a team member takes a vacation or is out ill, but also for understanding where support is needed. Sometimes the team needs a morale booster like a sponsored lunch, or a guest speaker. Support might mean knowing the cultural and religious differences on a team and allowing flexibility around significant holidays. Perhaps there is a piece of older equipment that is a source of constant team frustration. Although you may not immediately be able to address all needs, just knowing that you are aware of them and actively engaged in the process of resolving what you can is a strong leadership skill. If you have built honest respectful rapport, then team members will feel comfortable talking with you about areas of support. Maybe an adjustment in the project is needed, or an adjustment in work groupings is in order. Taking the time to seek out ways to support your team not only in training but also in the qualitative experience of team work will create better trust in your leadership acumen.


Part of becoming an excellent leader is having the leadership skills and knowledge to effectively manage a team of individuals as one cohesive force. In order to create exceptional teams, a leader also needs a touch of what looks like magic from the bystanders who witness team greatness. Paying close attention to the softer skills needed to complement your management training will create a more holistic leadership style which in turn might generate a little magic all its own.