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How to be a great leader: Quigg

When Toronto construction lawyer Janice Quigg was reflecting on American author John Maxwell’s levels of leadership, she developed her own acronym, LEAD.

“I was thinking about the qualities that a great leader should possess. A key to good leadership starts with L — Leading with your heart,” she tells

“People come to work and they have things going on their personal lives. It’s OK for a boss to show employees that he or she cares about them as people,” says Quigg, founder and principal of Janice Quigg International Inc.

“This is important because, in the past, there wasn’t much room for emotion.”

Quigg says in talking to long-term employees at various workplaces, she found that many stay because they like the boss and feel appreciated.

An easy way to do this is to show interest in workers’ lives, she says.

“Asking employees about their families shows you are a compassionate leader.”

E for Excelling at conflict resolution

Quigg says in her experience at law firms and other businesses, hidden conflict can be insidious.

“This occurs when people in a firm don’t feel they can talk about issues and problems. It’s an underlying conflict that never gets dealt with.”

She says leaders don’t want to lose good employees, so they should give them an opportunity to voice their concerns and deal with issues.

In certain industries — like construction — it’s commonplace for people to get promoted from within the company without any leadership training, Quigg says.

“CEOs may get promoted because they have great technical skills and they’re smart, but they aren’t as strong in the soft skills or at addressing disagreements,” she says. “They need to be trained in resolving disputes effectively to succeed.”

Quigg says part of her consulting business helps people settle conflicts effectively.

A for Adding value to employees’ lives

“If you focus on your people and treat them well, you will have a team that will go the extra mile for you. To me, it’s so simple. If you respect them, you’ll have employees that are engaged,” says Quigg.

Too many bosses don’t even say hello to their employees, she adds.

“You can have a big impact with a small gesture. Showing appreciation is very effective and it’s very easy to do. It doesn’t have to cost much or anything.”

Quigg also says you can add value by continually increasing your own leadership skills. “Your employees will benefit from that,” she says.

Also, learn to listen, she suggests.

“The best leaders are the best listeners because they can learn from their employees. It also lets workers know that their boss has time to hear what they have to say.”

D for Develop trust

“If there is no trust, you will not have a great relationship and you won’t be able to lead your people,” Quigg says.

Managers often hold closed-door meetings and don’t tell staff what’s going on — even at a general level, she says.

“It doesn’t create a positive culture.”

If there’s a financial issue, for example, Quigg suggests having a company-wide meeting instead of a private one.

“Use some conflict resolution tools, like collaborating, and come up with solutions. When you bring in your employees, they are often the ones with the best solutions.”

She has seen examples where managers work with employees to develop strategies to save jobs instead of laying off workers.

“Talk to the people on the front lines as they are the ones who have insight into how the company is being run.”

Quigg says it’s important to remember that great leaders are created.

“People need to make the effort to hone their skills. It’s a process and it takes more time than a one-day workshop,” she says.

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