“A leader is one who knows how to make himself redundant.”
Leadership is integral to all organizations and movements- business, educational, political, cultural and others. Be an employee, marketing manager, director, teacher or a student, it doesn’t matter – anyone can be a leader. Leadership is actually not about the position you hold; rather, it is about your disposition. It’s also not about any title that you may have; rather, it’s what lies inside you that makes you a leader. Leadership skills are about inspiring and igniting passion and purpose in everyone you come across by enabling and empowering them to lead and transform their lives.
Effective leaders can communicate well, motivate their team, handle and delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback, and are flexible enough to solve problems in an ever-changing workplace. Quite often, employers seek these skills in the candidates they hire for leadership roles. Whether you’re starting out at an entry-level position and are looking to move up the career ladder or get a promotion, leadership skills will be among your most valuable assets.
If you run an organization, you learn leadership skills on the way as you juggle your staff, clients, suppliers and the red tape. In that sense you are already a leader. But what if you want to raise your leadership skills to the next level? As a practicing life coach, I get many such queries from many youngsters wanting to hone their leadership skills. Here is some help in the form of tips to help you cultivate better leadership skills so that you can take your leadership to a whole new level:
Initiative and responsibility
Of all the leadership capabilities an effective leader must have, this one should rank among the top ones. Completing a task assigned to you fulfills your job description but leaders have to go beyond it. They try to constantly search for ways to simplify processes or improve the bottom line. They are willing to take up projects as they see the need for it and are willing to pitch in. Their proactivity shows others that they have the ability to lead others in times of need.
So, do not try to make excuses if you have mistakenly sent a sensitive email to the wrong people. Tender an apology straight away and do whatever it takes to fix the whole thing. Taking responsibility for doing something wrong proves your maturity and leadership acumen.
Remember, as a leader, the responsibility always falls on you. Of course, you cannot be made to bear the brunt of everything wrong with your organization. It’s important to make sure that you know who in your team takes care of which task, and what their results bring. It lets you to know who to turn to in case of a misstep or to congratulate someone on success.
Taking responsibility and following through on what you delegate shows your team that though you want everyone to work unitedly, you care for them and would like to push them to the best of their capabilities. Besides, it can also help reduce frustration among your team members as there they can no longer play the “blame game” as you know well exactly who’s doing what.
Welcome challenges and new learning
True leaders always welcome challenges, hardships and criticism. Embracing challenges makes one of greatest leadership capabilities as it shows a brave face in the face of adversities. It allows your staff to see that challenges are certain things to tackle to achieve the results you want.
Accepting criticism gracefully is another demonstration of bravery. If you are able to take constructive feedback and work on it to bring a positive change, you are on the right path to developing true leadership. Accepting challenges and turning them into growth opportunities shows your team that you have what it is needed in order to become a top-notch leader.
Additionally, it’s important that you identify the gaps in your knowledge (after all, no one is a know-all) and locate an expert to learn from them. Learning from others doesn’t show bad leadership, rather, it shows your keenness to learn new things and improve. So, always be willing to learn and grow to set a good example for your team members.
Direction and purpose
The purpose of our lives is to lead a life of purpose. Having a purpose gives a direction and momentum to you, a group or an organization. In short, if you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there.
Among the qualities of effective leadership, this one takes the cake. A good leader always plans, prepares and performs all the tasks with a certain purpose and feels it their responsibility to ignite a purpose among the team members. People want to feel their task has a meaning and a purpose behind it. They love to know how their task contributes to organizational progress. Making an authoritative tone and withholding such information shows a weak leadership.
Always keep on learning
Whatever flows, remains fresh and flourishing, whatever stops, dies.
The folk wisdom in this quote is so eternal. Therefore, savvy professionals exploit all possible opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills. As technology transforms our society at a rapid pace, your company’s business, too, changes. To maintain marketability and your skills, try to find training and development opportunities in line with organizational goals.
Good leaders always try to be better than they are. They are open to learning from their team and others about their failures, successes and all else. To this end, they set up effective feedback systems find how they are doing. They are ready for training and consider learning their constant companion.
Developing leadership skills requires that you attend workshops, webinars, and certification programmes on the topics you’d like to know more about. With so many resources available online and offline, you will find no difficulties in building a better grasp of subjects that could make you a better manager.
Besides, reaching out to your team lets you learn from them. If you’re trying to manage an IT project with very little IT knowledge, sit in on their process and learn more about it. It also gives you a better idea of how your team manages time.
Besides, don’t just review the analytics. Try to actively get feedback from your team, vendors, and clients and find newer ways of enhancing the customer experience you can offer.
Great leaders are blessed with this gift of authenticity i.e. they are real i.e. they are who they are. People follow and support them because of what they are because they can cheat the entire world but not you.
So, in order to be a great leader, try to create an authentic picture of yourself in the eyes of people around you. Authentic leadership emanates from your being, self-awareness and transparency. Cultivate honesty and positivity to evoke the respect, credibility and respect so crucial to leadership.
It is NOT about YOU
The reason why you follow anyone is that you see something for yourself there – blogs, people or the lifestyles you follow. They always share or show things you need in your life.
Great leaders always keep track of their followers and team members by building a culture of inclusivity. They are “WE”-type than ME-type and devote their time, energy and resources to generate value for their team and the rest of the world around them.
This slight change from “WIIFM” (what is in it for ME) to “WIIFW” (what is in it for WE) allows you to work with greater intensity to come up as a great leader.
This one commands great attention among the qualities of effective leaders. We live amid great complexity and face an extreme information overload on a constant basis. And when information becomes too complex, people tend to gloss over it. Thus, as a leader, you have to navigate the complexity, look for meaning, and come out with a clear message.
This leadership skills has been given a very high level of importance. All great leaders, with some exceptions, have been great public speakers as effective communication enables you to inform, motivate and convince your followers easily. So, try to invest time, energy and money in developing effective public speaking skills to impact positively those around you. The quality of leadership is in direct proportion to the quality of communication skills.
Effective leaders don’t deliver complex messages; rather, they distill their messages to make it reach their destination. Most effective politicians enjoys the knack of giving clear answers to complex questions. Make a message so brief and clear that anyone can understand it. While writing email or reports, refine what you say and how you communicate it to maximize its impact.
As a leader, you need to clearly and succinctly explain to your employees everything from organizational goals to specific tasks. A leader needs to master communication – one-on-one, departmental, and full-staff conversations, as well as via the phone, email, video, chat, and social media. A leader has to establish a steady communication between themselves and their team members, either through an open-door policy or regular conversations.
A large part of it involves listening. Leaders should make themselves regularly available to discuss issues and concerns with employees. Some other skills related to communication are
Active listening Clarity
Nonverbal communication Presentations
Public speaking Body language
Seek questions to ensure that they understand what you say. Hearing isn’t equal to understanding in many cases. Remember, people have different kinds of antennas. So, tune into their unique communication styles and adapt your message to reach them meaningfully.
Effective leaders are willing to take initiatives to get the ball rolling on new projects and goals. Taking the initiative to bring about a positive change is a leadership essential. To make it truly happen, you have to gather the entire team to properly communicate and delegate tasks like a leader should.
You’d also like to tell your team that you really are committed to the goal you would like them to achieve. Creating task schedules and regular checks on projects not only shows that you care for them and are wholly involved, but also evokes respect and attentiveness from employees that leads to more enthusiasm, accountability and higher productivity.
In addition, successful leaders understand the significance of cultivating relationships and contacts. Therefore, they try to know their team members at a personal level and on social media by attending office parties, company picnics and social dos. With better social visibility, you can certainly improve your chances of getting recommended for promotions and new projects.
Solution Seeker and Provider
Followers discuss problems while leaders provide solutions.
A problem is a problem only to the extent that you see it as a problem. But the moment you examine a situation and find a solution, it becomes an opportunity for learning and growth. Great leaders see everything that they encounter as an opportunity to learn, serve and share. Remember, most great inventions have been made in this manner only. Thus, to become an effective leader, try to become a solution seeker in life, always.
Ability to act
Nothing ever works if YOU don’t.
A big divider between followers and leaders is- leaders take the desired actions instead of waiting for things to change. They possess the courage and foresight to try to take an initiative to bring about a change in themselves and among those around them. Anyone wanting to acquire great leadership skills has to cultivate the ability to act.
Most leaders hardly ever accept whatever they are offered as they know their real worth and don’t shy away from asking more with respect and tact. So, if you are looking at a salary hike, don’t demand or threaten; instead, try to explain why you deserve more – maybe your role has undergone a significant change or you’ve earned more job skills over time. And always try to offer facts and figures to bolster your case and make a strong point – sales numbers, leads, completion time, down time, new clients etc.
Motivation- Inspirational Leader’s Hallmark
An inspirational leader inspires others to go the extra mile for their organizations; paying a fair salary to employees is not enough inspiration (although it is important). There are many ways to motivate your team: you may build self-esteem through recognition and rewards, or by giving new responsibilities to enhance their investment in the company. A leaders has to learn which motivators work best to encourage productivity and passion. Effective motivation skills include:
Allowing autonomy Asking for inputs
Assessing the interests of the team Convincing
Mentoring Openness to employee concerns
Persuasion Providing challenging work
Giving rewards and recognition Setting effective goals
Team-building Thanking staff
Understanding employee differences
A positive attitude can go a long way. One should be able to laugh at oneself when something doesn’t go as planned; it makes for a happy and healthy work environment even in stressful periods. Asking employees about their weekend or vacation plans develops a positive atmosphere and raises the morale of the team members.
If employees feel that they work in a positive environment, they are more likely to want to be at work, and will be more willing to put in longer hours when needed. Some positivity inducing skills at the workplace include:
Caring Conflict management
Developing rapport Diplomacy
Friendliness Helping others
Humor Positive reinforcement
Direct your people
Great leaders tend to keep their directions simple as synthesis and understanding amount to nothing unless there are payoffs resulting from action. Therefore, make your course of action easy to follow for others. And the fewer calls to action, the better for the followers.
While talking to your employees about your organization, do you ooze out the natural confidence and enthusiasm of a leader? Such optimism excites more enthusiasm and fuels further growth and creativity. If you really believe in having the best outcomes, you can unleash unequalled opportunities to make them happen in reality.
Effective leaders can anticipate what may go wrong and take steps in advance to avoid it and think of solutions personally and as a team. They don’t hand off difficult situations to others just to avoid solving them. Problem solving is indispensable for a professional, but is particularly useful for leaders, whom people look up to for support and guidance.
Leaders who try to take on too many tasks struggle to get anything done. They often fear that delegating tasks is weakness, while actually is a sign of a strong leader. Therefore, you need to identify the skills of your employees and assign duties based on his/her skill sets. By delegating tasks to team members, you can focus on other important tasks. Good delegating skills include:
Accepting feedback Allotting resources
Assessing strengths and weaknesses Defining expectations
Evaluating employee performance Identifying measurable outcomes
Matching the task with the employee Prioritizing tasks
Setting expectations Teamwork
Time management Training
It’s alright to seek others’ support while executing complex tasks. Effective leaders know when not to go alone. Let’s say you’ve been charged with the year-end closing. Of course, you’ll need help with coordinating the entire task with all teams and the accounting department. Delegating the task not just eases your burden but also fosters participation, confidence, empowerment and responsibility among your team members.
Employees should feel comfortable coming to their leader with questions and concerns. It is important for you to demonstrate your integrity as the employees only trust leaders whom they respect. With openness and honesty, you can encourage the same sort of honesty in your employees. The skills that can convey your trustworthiness as a leader are:
Ability to admit mistakes and apologize Accountability
Business ethics Confidentiality
Conscientiousness Consistency in behavior
Credibility Emotional intelligence
Integrity Moral compass
Standing up for what is right Thoughtful
As a leader, you have to make any decisions that do not have a clear answer. So you need to be able to think out of the box. Trying out nontraditional solutions or nontraditional ways will help you solve an otherwise unsolvable problem. Many employees will also be inspired by a leader who doesn’t always choose the safe, conventional path. Here are some creative thinking skills:
Analysis Mental flexibility
Conceptualization Critical thinking
Curiosity Embracing different cultural perspectives
Foresight Identifying patterns
Open-mind Problem solving
Good judgment Synthesis
Leaders constantly look for opportunities to deliver useful information to team members about their performance. However, there is a fine line between giving advice and assistance, and micromanaging. By teaching employees how to improve their work, you can feel more confident delegating tasks to your staff.
Employees respect a leader who provides feedback in a clear and empathetic way. Some good feedback skills include:
Openness to receiving feedback Building confidence
Clarity Clearly defined expectations
Coaching Following up
Frequent feedback Listening
Mentoring Positive reinforcement
Specific advice Respect
Howsoever well-planned your work may be, mishaps and last-minute changes always occur. Therefore, as a leader, you need to be flexible, accepting changes. Employees will appreciate your ability to accept such changes in stride. Similarly, a leader must be open to suggestions and feedback. If your staff is dissatisfied with the office environment, listen to their concern and be open to making necessary changes. Employees will appreciate a leader’s ability to accept appropriate feedback. The skills related to flexibility are:
Learning new skills Respond to new problems
Negotiating Openness to feedback
Treating employees as individuals