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Be a Role Model, Not a Dictator

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Despite what it looks like on old reruns of The Office, being the company boss isn't easy.

Leading a business is all about striking a balance and donning various hats at different times. Sometimes, your employees need you to be a teacher and a listener. Other times, they need a disciplinarian, someone who can restore appropriate boundaries.

Transitioning between these identities, while staying authentic is what will gain your employees' respect. This is key for every boss, especially for young entrepreneurs.

On a daily basis, I find myself defending my expertise and authority because of my age. It is very easy to start leading with what I like to call the "Napoleon complex style," meaning when challenged, young entrepreneurs’ first reaction is to flex their muscles and show everyone who's boss. It's a defense mechanism, meant to put anyone questioning their experience in their place. But this can come off as arrogant.

Related: Why Transparency Is Essential to a Trusting Staff

When you have employees of all ages, it is sometimes hard to find the best leadership method. You want to establish authority, without being a dictator. So how do you earn your employees' respect, rather than demand it? Become a role model.

Here are five ways to get there:

Demonstrate expectations.

If you take your job seriously, others will follow. If you think because you are boss you can come in late and leave early, your employees will notice. As leader of a company, you set the tone for your employees. When you lead by example, your employees will know what to expect.

Related: To Be a Leader, You Must Know When to Follow

Acknowledge good work. 

No one wants to be criticized all the time. Yet, we sometimes forget to acknowledge good work. In college, I worked for a high-pressure New York City fashion PR firm, and the owner had a reputation for being tough -- she would definitely let you know when something wasn’t right. However, she would also offer praise when it was deserved. Her compliments were not given out like candy, so when she did offer a compliment, you knew you deserved it. Follow her example. Your employees will feel like they've accomplished something great when you are considerate with your praise./p>

Have fun. 

A lot of managers tend to have an all work, no play mentality. They think that if they let their guard down, employees will take them as an easy-going, pushover. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There is nothing more intimidating than a boss in work mode all the time. Have fun with your employees. Take them out for company events, have lunch ordered in and attend happy hours. Clink glasses, laugh and talk about something other than work. It will make the whole office a happier place.

Be accessible.

Make your open door policy explicit. I have learned that running a company by fear only causes bigger problems. If your employees are scared of you, they won’t come to you when there is a real issue. Instead, they will try to fix it on their own, which could snowball into additional concerns. But many times by allowing the employee to discuss the problem, you can nip the problem in the bud, rather than having to put out a huge fire later on. Let your employees know you will be their partner in problem-solving, and there is no such thing as a dumb idea.

Stop saying "I'm too busy."

In my opinion, there is nothing more insulting than when someone repeatedly says they are too busy. By telling your employees you are too busy to chat because you are always tied up in meetings or phone calls, it translates into "you are not important." But the truth is, we all make time for the things that are important to us. Listening to people’s ideas and feedback is one of the best ways to make them feel like they are a crucial part of the company, while also gaining respect.

As with anything else, it is a constant struggle to find a balance. You don’t want to be a tyrannical dictator, and you don’t want to be a pushover either. Find some middle gournd. By being someone your employees look up to, they won't just obey you, they'll innovate and work hard to please you.

What do you do to make sure your employees' respect you? Let us know in the comments below.

Rebekah Epstein

Written By

Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. She specializes in representing technology, health care, business and lifestyle companies.