Leadership can be a crucial skill for anyone looking to advance their career. Unfortunately, it’s also an ability that comes very readily to some … and not so easily to others. If you feel that leading others isn’t something you were necessarily born to do, don’t despair! Here are a few tips and tricks to help hone your leadership prowess and develop the skills required to lead those around you with confidence and poise.
If you find yourself struggling in a leadership position, one of the best things you can do is invest in developing your leadership abilities with official training. For example, Concordia University offers online training and education for those “interested in transformative leadership roles in education,” which is geared towards empowering potential leaders to make a difference within the education systems where they work. Whatever your field, taking the time to formally learn how to lead is an investment that even the most natural leaders can benefit from. For those who struggle with the craft, though, it can be invaluable.
While experience is and always will remain the best teacher, a healthy dose of academic structure can be the perfect way to both organize and jumpstart your leadership skills. From learning about how to develop innovative solutions to crafting the ability to implement them with confidence, taking a class on leadership is always a good call for a nascent leader.
Formal training aside, there are numerous other ways to help develop your leadership potential. One element that is easily overlooked in classroom training is the less tangible concept of developing soft skills. These tend to have to do with your personal disposition and attitude.
Taking a personality test to discover things like your Myers Briggs type or Enneagram number can be an excellent way to understand how you work and operate. While it’s never wise to overly-identify with personality types, being aware of how you think and make decisions can be helpful as you attempt to develop leadership qualities.
Journaling your experience as a leader may sound naive, but it’s actually another great way for leaders to grow. Journaling allows you to track your behavior, decisions, and overall abilities. It can also help you identify shortcomings in order to facilitate a more effective process as you work to develop yourself.
Communication is key, as well. If you’re not currently perceived as a leader, much of the struggle may stem from an inability to communicate as one. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t communicate well, but interacting as a leader can be quite different from other forms of interpersonal communication. Try to prioritize things like building trust, being specific when giving instructions, practicing active listening, and trying to empathize with those under your authority.
Active listening and empathy provide an excellent segue into another critical piece of leadership development: being aware of those you’re leading. If you take the time to confidently tune into the needs, behaviors, and opinions of your team members, you’re likely to find a reciprocated increase in their respect, trust, and faith in your ability to lead them.
One way this can be done is by reacting to positive and negative behavior and work performance. While it’s fairly easy (and important) to take the time to recognize star performers and positive behavior, it’s equally important to be willing to firmly and decisively address sub-par performances and negative behaviors from employees. All leaders must be willing to spearhead the attempt to resolve these problems, as leaving them unattended to can quickly reinforce the behavior and even cause a general decrease in the work environment as a whole.
Finally, it’s important to take steps to care for your own needs if you want to function as an effective leader. Moody, anxious, discouraged, or even straight up depressed leaders can do much more harm than good.
The problem is, leaders often shoulder a tremendous amount of risk and responsibility throughout their jobs. This can come in the form of small decisions like signing off on a new printer as well as larger concerns like hiring employees or launching new products and marketing initiatives.
With the weight of responsibility being a constant concern, it’s important to take the proper precautions to get the rest you need. Sleep anxiety, for example, can be a vicious cycle that prevents quality rest and affects your ability to make sound decisions. If you find yourself under-rested, take steps to address the issue through things like creating routines, journaling your sleeping habits, and avoiding screens for at least an hour or more before your intended bedtime.
Whether you’re running a company, managing an office, or exercising any other form of leadership, the skills and suggestions listed above can be excellent ways to improve your overall ability to lead others. Take the time to seek out training and develop your soft skills. In addition, make an effort to keep the needs of your team as well as yourself in mind. If you can manage to invest yourself by improving your leadership abilities, the perception of those around you will quickly change as they see your skills and confidence as a leader grow.