It is often said that successful leaders are made, not born. In other words, being a successful leader is a matter of skill, not luck, and it is therefore possible to develop this skill. Anyone aspiring to be one, can become an effective leader through planning, persistence, focus and effort. Personal style, education and background will influence you, but becoming a good leader is learned through experience. If you have the desire to develop your leadership skill, here are 7 areas to focus on:
1. What you do matters most
This idea here is that others see and follow the direction of their leaders, so leaders become effective because of what they do. In today’s workplace, leadership authenticity is often judged on actions rather than words. Organizational values are also molded by observing the behavior of our leaders. As a leader, you have the privilege of being a role model within your organization and leading by example is a practice you should constantly refine.
2. Create a learning based culture
Leadership styles can be categorized as either learning based or a knowledge based. Leaders who develop learning based styles create open and transparent environments that do not expect that there will always be answers. Rather, these leaders value learning and constantly ask good questions to drive mutual learning exchanges. Knowledge based leaders place value on quickly obtaining answers, and they fail to nurture the exercise of learning. This leadership style is more critical as it tests, judges and challenges teams for immediate answers.
3. Tell a good story
It is difficult to be an excellent leader without being a good communicator. Good communication means the ability to get others to understand your vision and to buy into it. It is about understanding your environment and adapting messages to meet the needs of your audiences. Good leaders practice this. They are masters at listening and deciphering the communication styles of others and adapting their messaging on-the-fly. Since most leaders will spend much of their time engaged in interpersonal situations, is critical to understand and practice these skills.
4. Have a clear vision
Good leaders are visionaries. They have a clear vision or dream for their team or project and it is often the most powerful tool in their toolbox. It is an image or picture of the future that, when articulated well and frequently, wins commitment and inspires people to action. Visionary leaders are easy to follow because their vision provides teams with the clear direction and purpose they need. Good leaders take the time to develop and share their vision because they know it will motivate people to strive for its attainment.
5. Empower your people
Having an empowered team that has initiative and drives tasks forward with little guidance is the wish of all leaders. Empowering people requires focus. Leaders develop empowered teams by recruiting great people, giving them clear direction, providing support and delegating important tasks to them. Leaders should allow their employees to try new ideas safely and independently, even if it means that their employees will lead others. This may feel counterintuitive to classic ideas of leadership but they will learn a lot and it will prepare them to lead in the future.
6. Be a Connector
Strong leaders are connectors. They take the time to know their team members and to create opportunities that leverage the strengths of their team. They are good at bringing together people, ideas and resources that wouldn’t normally relate to one another. To do this they build strong networks both inside and outside of their company, and they leverage these networks to facilitate collaboration and find new opportunities.
7. Get real
Good leaders know themselves. They have a strong sense of what they believe in and they are willing to share that with their teams regardless of the situation. Their authenticity creates trust and this trust makes them more convincing leaders. They do this by defining their personal values and fearlessly committing to them. Their behavior reflects those values irrespective of obstacles and adversaries. Authentic leaders are genuine and people will follow a leader they feel is real.
Developing your leadership skill requires focus and intention. These tips above can be a compass on where to apply that effort. By practicing some or all of these skills, you can build a solid foundation for your own personal leadership development.
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