Some people are born with leadership skills, but natural ability isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a leader. Leadership can be learned. Dedication is important to the art of leadership. Leadership involves understanding how to inspire, influence, and develop those around you.
Sometimes, leadership may be no more than having an inspiring message for a receptive audience at an opportune moment. No matter the situation, here are 10 tips that can help you improve and become the leader you want to be.
1. Ask for feedback
Finding out what others think of your leadership skills can really help you change for the better. Sometimes leaders place most of their attention on appraising their team and don’t take the time to have their team appraise them as a leader. Your team is the best source of feedback. They are on the receiving end of your “skills” every day. Honesty should be encouraged, but keep in mind that it may only be anonymous feedback that holds the truth. If your team believes you are going to use it against them or become defensive about what they say, they won’t be as honest. If you have created a trusting and open environment, this should not be a problem.
2. Don’t abuse your power
If people are questioning why certain things are done, or the logic of decisions, never pull rank in response. Your team should feel empowered, if only by you taking the time to explain the rationale for any decisions that have been made. Your team must be on your side. This will not happen by you telling them that the decision is the right one because you are the boss. Your team may not agree, but they should know the reason behind situations.
3. Your team is intelligent and can be trusted
Your team should be allowed to take actions and make decisions. Trust is a vital component of leadership skills. If you can’t trust people to do their jobs, then you have the wrong people, or you’re not managing them properly. Let them do what they are there to do without peering over their shoulders every fifteen minutes, asking what they are doing with their time.
Truly listening to your team is one of the greatest leadership skills. Good listeners come across as genuinely interested, empathetic, and concerned to find out what’s going on. All great leaders have great communication skills. Unhappy team members can only exist where their problems have not been expressed. Create an environment where problems can be discussed so that solutions can be found.
5. Stop being an expert on everything
Leaders often achieve their positions by being proficient in a certain area, and thus will have an opinion on how to fix problems. They believe it’s better to tell someone what to do, or even to do it themselves, then give their team the opportunity to develop their own solutions, and therefore exercise their creativity.
6. Be constructive
Negativity breeds negativity. How you communicate has a profound effect on your team, as a whole and individually. Criticism will always need to be made by leaders, but try to make them constructive, and deliver them without emotional attachment.
7. Judge your success by your teams
The true success of a leader can be measured by the success of the people who work for them. You cannot be a successful leader of a failing team, just as you cannot be a successful general of a defeated army. Your focus should always be on building your team’s skills and removing obstacles in their way.
8. Don’t be a narcissist
Nothing is more annoying for team members than leaders who make their decisions based on how good it will make them appear to their superiors. A key leadership skill is integrity. Integrity is about doing the right thing, and allowing praise where praise is due, even if that is not at your door.
9. Have a sense of humor
People work better when they are enjoying themselves. The work itself may be dull, but the environment doesn’t have to be. Stifling fun also means stifling creativity. Team members love it when the leader joins in and has fun. The right balance creates a team-building environment.
10. Don’t be too distant
Without revealing your innermost secrets, it is possible for leaders to show a more human side. If mutual respect exists, this should not be seen as vulnerability, rather a sign that you are a sentient human being, just as your team members are. Only when your team gets to know the real you will the true foundations of good leadership be properly established – trust and respect.