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Developing leadership skills
The top areas of improvement for leaders and how to develop them
You’re the boss of a company. Lately you’ve noticed that the work is being completed at a steady pace, but you’re noticing a lack of enthusiasm from your team. What do you do? Your first thought might be to talk to your employees or to provide an incentive to boost morale. But your attention is better spent on developing leadership skills.
When faced with problems, true leaders look inward and focus on their own abilities and shortcomings. There are always areas of improvement for leaders. When you ask yourself how you can better empower and inspire your team, you’ll naturally discover how to improve leadership skills – because self-accountability is the foundation of great leadership.
What are leadership skills?
A broad definition of leadership focuses on the ability to inspire and organize other people to achieve a shared goal, typically on a schedule. Leadership skills are important in any organization, since they facilitate strong teams and the ability to get tasks done efficiently. Since this is an all-encompassing definition, your leadership skill set might differ from your colleague’s. You might demonstrate “soft” leadership skills like patience, empathy and deep listening while your colleague demonstrates strengths in risk-taking and decision-making. Whatever your natural strengths are, developing leadership skills that align with those aptitudes is your ticket to greater effectiveness on the job.
Why is developing leadership skills important?
Developing leadership skills is one of the most powerful moves you can make to transform your life. Leadership skills aren’t just for your career – they can also improve your personal relationships. That’s because as you learn how to improve leadership skills, you’ll learn about communication and building connections with others. This is called emotional intelligence, and whether you’re negotiating a big sales deal or negotiating chores with your spouse, it’s essential to influence others.
Developing leadership skills will also allow you to grow as a person. It’s an empowering process of harnessing your natural talents to inspire others. You’ll become more attuned to your strengths and weaknesses, which creates a self-awareness that you can apply to help you control your emotions, increase your focus and more.
Finding areas of improvement for leaders
How do you know where to begin developing leadership skills? There are two steps to finding your leadership strengths and weaknesses.
Step one: Determine your leadership style
Understanding your leadership style opens the door for building managerial skills in harmony with your true nature. Is your leadership approach democratic, visionary, coaching, affiliative, pacesetting or commanding? With a sense of where you fall in these categories, you’re better equipped to learn how to improve leadership skills.
This is a good place to start because your leadership style comes with natural strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you have a democratic leadership style, you might have trouble handling crises. Visionary leaders can lack the ability to make a plan and follow through. Rather than accept these traits as fixed, develop a growth mindset and commit to working on them.
Step two: Honestly assess yourself
When you know what your weaknesses are, you know how to start addressing them. But to pinpoint your weak spots, you must be honest in your self-examination. You may even want to ask others you can trust to give you their opinions on your leadership skills. Areas of improvement for leaders include:
- Building empathy. Are you empathetic to others’ needs and feelings or do you focus solely on your own? Putting others first is essential to building rapport and inspiring them to follow you.
- Improving communication skills. Setting expectations and boundaries, providing clear goals and direction and keeping employees in the loop are all part of creating and leading effective teams.
- Making tough decisions. Tony says, “It is in your moments of decisions that your destiny is shaped.” Are you confident in your ability to make tough decisions or are you plagued with self-doubt?
- Eliminating micromanagement. An inability to let go of day-to-day tasks and micromanaging is one of the most common areas of improvement for leaders.
- Giving constructive feedback. It’s tempting for many leadership styles to focus only on the positive. But ignoring problems with your team won’t lead to business success.
How to improve leadership skills
The following examples of leadership skills encapsulate outcomes that will help you become the most effective leader you can be.
1. Make a plan
With a clear idea of your leadership strengths and weaknesses, you’re ready to take massive action by making a game plan aligned with your leadership style. If you identified a lack of confidence as a weakness, take steps to build self-confidence. If you identified poor communication as a weakness, start practicing effective communication techniques. With practice, you’ll begin to embody examples of leadership skills to facilitate success in any endeavor.
2. Be passionate
No one wants to seek counsel from someone who doesn’t care about the topic as much or more than they do. Passion is effort; passion is exertion. Passion is never giving up. Without it, you cease innovating and stagnate. When you display authentic enthusiasm and passion for the end result, your people will keep working to achieve their goals.
Employees respond to those who are eager to help them learn and grow. Show passion for everything you do, including in your efforts at developing leadership skills. Your desire will be clear to your employees, and you will inspire them to improve leadership skills, too.
3. Model great leadership for others
What are leadership skills going to accomplish if they don’t inspire others to action? Not much. People respect someone who walks the walk. Research supports this statement; a core characteristic of transformational leaders is the ability to be a role model.
One of the most powerful examples of leadership skills is showing those around you exactly what you’d like to see them do. Don’t waver on this. The strongest message you can send to your team is to model the behaviors you’d like to see. “If they can do this,” your team will think, “So can I.”
4. Don’t ignore your strengths
Developing leadership skills often focuses on weaknesses, but don’t forget that you can develop your strengths as well. An understanding of your weaknesses provides you with areas you know you can improve, but a strong knowledge of your innate gifts and abilities means you can put them to work for you right now.
Are there areas where you feel strong and can use those strengths in a new way? If you’re an excellent speaker, give presentations on challenging topics or join a public speaking group to improve your skills even more. Remember that the areas of improvement for leaders are endless, including your strengths.
5. Set concrete goals and execute them
Even the most formidable leaders don’t come up with success out of nowhere. The grandest vision will never get off the ground if you don’t plot a path to get there. When you’re developing leadership skills, invest time in clarifying your goals and solidifying them. Formulating the right plan and setting meaningful benchmarks along the way gives you a map to follow, a methodology that will guide your business through the next week, month, year and decade.
Once you achieve a particular goal, look toward another; constantly striving to meet that next benchmark will give you and your employees a sense of meaning and pride. As you make progress on your goals, the examples of leadership skills you embody will speak volumes about your tenacity in realizing your business vision.
6. Admit when you fail and move on
What are leadership skills – does being an effective leader mean never making mistakes? Even the most powerful, inspiring leaders make mistakes. When you recognize an error, admit it openly and take action to correct it. Be open about your failures; discuss them with yourself and with your team. Learn from them. Ask yourself and your team, “How can I avoid making this mistake in the future?”
Learning from your failures sends a powerful message to those around you. They understand that you will lead well even when you make a mistake. Those wondering how to improve leadership skills need to learn how to recognize successes and failures.
7. Inspire others
If you’re complaining about every little detail and can only see the worst-case scenario at the end of every plan, you have little chance of inspiring others. Inspiration is an extension of belief; if you say, “No, that won’t work” or “why bother?” to an employee, you’re signaling to them that you do not believe in their idea, in them or even in the business itself. An employee who feels you do not believe in them will not perform well, and this can even create a domino effect of poor morale across the business.
Instead, believe in others and what they are capable of. Inspire them to work harder and reach greater heights. Developing leadership skills throughout your business by generating and focusing positive energy, even when things aren’t going according to plan, is the secret to sustained growth.
8. Find your higher purpose
When developing leadership skills, it’s essential that you know why you’re putting time and effort into your chosen goal. What drives you? Your immediate response may be straightforward: a larger paycheck from a job well done or the prestige that comes from higher rank.
But step back for a moment. Why do you want that larger paycheck? Is it so your family feels more secure? Perhaps you want to lead because you feel you can help others by developing products and services that they need, or you see a place where you can cause positive change in your industry. These are all higher purposes, and by identifying your own, you can better operate as a confident, knowledgeable and empowering leader for others.
As you hone your effectiveness as a leader in your own life – whether that’s in a professional or personal capacity – you’ll strengthen the efforts you put into your own goals. Those around you will see the hard work and passion you bring to the table each day, stirring them to work on developing leadership skills, too.
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