Management and leadership has come under great scrutiny in recent years. The amount of books written on the subject could fill an olympic-sized swimming pool, and the suggested strategies can be polar opposites of each other.
But what you don’t find too often on the New York Times Best Sellers list are books on the tools that make great leaders.
We’re not saying that management strategy isn’t important — far from it. However, this article is going to focus entirely on tools for leadership. While personal skills are something that are hard earned, requiring weeks of dedicated learning, it only takes a minute to arm yourself with performance analytics, hiring assistants, and automations to make everything run like clockwork.
So without further ado, we’ll delve into our top 10 tools, all with handy example scenarios.
At the root of successful management is good organization, and there’s nothing better than the tried-and-tested calendar. Sure, they’ve advanced somewhat since a twelve-page flip book with a little box for each day. But the principle is the same: why use your valuable brain power in a futile attempt to remember everything you have to do?
Calendars become leadership tools when you share them with your team. As a manager, you can check on everybody’s workload at the click of a button. Looking at it the other way, your team can see when you’ve got available office hours, so you don’t get a knock at the door when you’re in deep work.
But most importantly, a calendar is a way to structure your day and fulfill your obligations. When you’re on top of things, you inspire confidence, trust, and professionalism in those around you.
Another essential hack for organization is to categorize your content on the cloud. Start by setting a hierarchy for your folders. For example, if you’re a marketing team, create one folder for social media, one for content, one for collaborations, and as many more as you need for your team to quickly identify.
Forget about a US or rest-of-the-world format — the best way by far to date your files is by putting the year first, then the month, followed by the day. It’s a simple trick that too many managers overlook.
But why is it so important to be on the cloud?
Nowadays, all the top leadership tools are web-based, and file storage is no different. With so many teams evolving into remote or hybrid formats, you simply can’t allow files to be out of reach. Whether your team is connecting on their personal laptop or even on their phone, they need to find what they’re looking for in an instant.
Task management software is probably what first comes to mind when you think about leadership assessment tools. Structure is the name of the game here. Rather than drifting from one task to another, you supply a clear list of obligations that, if completed satisfactorily, represent success.
When you use the right leadership tools to manage your team’s tasks, you can set a fair, unbiased benchmark that they can work towards. Within each task card, throw in clear instructions, contacts for relevant stakeholders, and a few metrics to measure performance. We’re mainly talking deadlines and expected time taken, but don’t forget to add in checklists and objectives — anything that will allow people to perform at their best.
Workflows are an extension of task management software and serve to set expectations over a longer period. In short, workflows are a series of individual, but interconnected tasks, that combine to achieve a goal. Where poor leaders may offer unclear rules and a mammoth objective, good leaders will cut down the journey into smaller chunks that don’t spark a sense of anxiety.
Since agile methodologies such as scrum burst onto the scene, there has been an influx of visualizations that are ideal leadership tools and techniques. As a manager, you need to remove as many blockers as possible to ease the path for your team to make progress.
So how do they work?
Take Kanban boards as an example. In its simplest form, you display one column with work to do, another with those in progress, and a third for tasks completed. As your team progresses, they can drag and drop the task into the relevant column, and anyone on the team can see them at a glance.
You can also convert the same tasks into a Gantt chart. This innovative visualization sits on your calendar, clearly showing the timeframe for each task. Not only can you see when jobs are approaching their deadline, Gantt charts excel as leadership tools as you can quickly identify who has free time and who may be overworked.
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Automations are simply essential for modern managers. The concept is simple: you cut out the small repetitive tasks so everybody can concentrate on those that require a creative human touch.
A simple example is a notification system to review completed tasks. Once one of your team marks something as complete, you get an immediate update so you can review it ASAP. If your leadership tools are synced with a mobile app, these notifications can even pop up on your phone if you’re not often at your desk.
You can also automate task assignments. In your project management workflows, you can link tasks with dependencies. Dependencies will automatically assign a subsequent task when the previous one is finished. When you combine notifications with dependencies, you can get on with the review stage without your employees having to wait for you to assign them the next step. God mode: activated.
Time trackers fall into the category of leadership assessment tools, but you can also use them for employee workload management. Carefully introduce the concept to your team for full transparency, explaining that it is a way of predicting time for tasks so as not to overload your team.
Be sure not to let time trackers take on a life of their own. Some managers fall into the trap of relying too much on the data and squeezing the creativity out of their team. Bringing down the hammer every time a deadline is missed is micromanagement at its worst.
That said, if you notice patterns of missed deadlines, try talking respectfully to your employees about the possible cause. It could be that the situation has changed and the original deadlines are too short, or it could be due to a personal issue. A large chunk of leadership is about people management, so work on getting the balance right between assertiveness and understanding.
In this digital age, there’s no excuse for being incompetent with video calls. Yes, every app is slightly different, but you need to get practicing if you want to be taken seriously as a leader.
First looking outwards, having reliable, smooth video calling software lets you communicate with clients all over the world and show your ambition. You want to inspire professionalism in your team, and the best way is by setting a good example. Over time, you’ll pick up some personal best practices, but here’s a starter tip: get good lighting.
Video call apps are essential leadership tools for our modern, flexible working formats. They allow you to facilitate meetings with a human touch when you’re out of the office. Video conferencing is the best replacement we’ve got for face-to-face meetings, so whether you’re showering praise or detailing ways to improve, your employees will appreciate a video call. Again, this goes back to showing you are willing to support each individual, whether it’s an impromptu discussion or a quarterly assessment.
Instant messenger apps are great leadership tools: anybody can ping you a message to get clarification and continue their work with confidence. Both on desktop computers and on your phone, you’ll get a notification so you can be there when they need you. Try to respond politely, professionally, and as soon as possible. This will support and reassure your staff. You don’t want them walking on eggshells, hoping they aren’t inconveniencing you.
Warning: this doesn’t mean you need to be at everybody’s beck and call every second of the day. In the interests of transparency, set realistic expectations during the onboarding process, and reaffirm them if you feel messages are getting out of hand.
As an example, you wouldn’t want to get into the habit of sending full instructions via messenger — it’s far too easy to lose track of what’s going on. Save task-related information for your project management software and use messenger for those quick questions that don’t require an essay-sized response.
It may seem obvious, but the best teams are made of excellent people. But a team of average individuals who work well together is better than a group of all stars who won’t speak to one another. Therefore, you need to leverage human resources information systems (HRIS) to not only hire for the top skills, but to also consider each candidate’s cultural fit. HRIS provides a framework so you can work quickly and efficiently through the hiring process and build a team that gels together from the outset.
The benefits of HR leadership tools go far beyond the initial hire. An HR assistant can be one of your best leadership assessment tools to judge performance and offer personalized training workshops. With a small investment and the structured nature of your HRIS, you can strengthen the skills of each individual and, therefore, the team as a whole.
But going back to the ideal of a united team, your training sessions also show that you’re invested in each individual. In the short term, this is a massive motivation booster, and in the long term, people see future progression with you, which can reduce turnover.
To track improvement, you need data and analytics. We’ve already mentioned some of the best leadership assessment tools — task management tools that set the challenge and time trackers that measure performance. But there are so many more metrics that can help you define success, as long as you have the right system behind you.
For example, sales managers can measure deals won and pull out monthly or quarterly performance reports. Similarly, you can look at time taken on phone calls, analyze results, and work on ways to streamline your workflows. With a mentality of continuous improvement, you can create a buzz by breaking new records.
But to get the best out of your leadership tools, you always need to combine them with your interpersonal skills. Yes, the data is telling you someone is falling behind on their targets, but how are you doing to deal with that? Will it be a knee-jerk reaction? Or will you offer structured, achievable steps to support your employee?
As you can see through the examples in this article, a combination of leadership tools and techniques can have a profound effect on your team. They allow you to put your ideas and strategy in motion, rather than desperately running around and putting out fires.
And the best part is that all of these tools already exist on one user-friendly platform.
Bitrix24 is the place to be for an all-in-one solution to your business needs. Communication and project planning software? We’ve got it. HR management tools and performance analytics? To find out what else Bitrix24 has to offer and to see how it can help you become a better leader, sign up for Bitrix24 for free.
In the modern day, management tools for leadership are digital hacks that allow you to be the best boss you can be. Their role is to facilitate your organization, strategic vision, interpersonal skills, and everything else.
The most effective tool of leadership is a quality project management tool. Through it, you set the stage for your team to succeed and identify any performance issues as soon as they arise.
The top 7 skills and tools for successful leadership are: