Nobody goes around thinking they would make a poor leader. Most people rather imagine they might easily assume such a role and make an impact. At least they aspire to having that capability.
Leadership is not that easy – and in some instances, cannot be simply taught; people do require some basic innate attributes to really make the role a success. And while there are those who may struggle to develop such traits, it’s not impossible to certainly improve your knowledge, your attitude and your ability to lead and influence.
Leadership is seen as a combination of attributes and actions that lead other people to share ideas, develop good working skills, and drive a positive team spirit. When done well, leadership unites individuals to achieve common goals, and provides both direction and reassurance to the people being led.
The qualities of leadership
So what are these elusive qualities that everybody would like to have?
- Good leaders are able to encourage their team to meet goals effectively, while acknowledging individual needs. This is easier said than done, but the building blocks of your team are individuals, and incorporating their needs during any proposed action is a blueprint for success.
- Good leaders are able to practice active listening, which means being fully present to the opinions of others.
- Obviously excellent communication and interpersonal skills sit at the top of the list, but many people believe they possess these – truly these are skills that must be evaluated and enhanced if necessary. You really need to understand your own flaws before taking on the direction of others. Being able to handle people under emotional stress is also important, and a key factor in successful dispute resolution.
- Good leaders must be able to see a problem from the other person’s point of view and comprehend the emotional issues involved. This is called empathy. It doesn’t mean you may necessarily agree with the other person, but it does give you a broader tapestry to intelligently assess a situation before making a decision.
- Good leaders have to possess good organisational skills. If you are all over place with your decisions, uncertain, hesitant, or lack the capacity to visualise outcomes, your organisational skills would be regarded as non-existent. Learn to analyse, plan, and methodically implement.
- Judgement is key in developing good leadership skills. Always investigate and give yourself time to make decisions that are fair to all concerned. Fairness requires some impartiality. Make decisions that are not based solely on your opinion, or what is only good for the company. See a bigger picture of harmony and justice.
How to develop leadership skills
Nothing is more motivating than someone who is truly excited about their job, a task, a project, a goal. This excitement can infuse others and inspire them to achieve more. Never present yourself as only there for the job – nothing is easier to spot, so your passion must be genuine. You must prove yourself committed.
Review your own skills and shortcomings honestly. Where you need to brush up, then work on those issues. Find a mentor if you need to, their experience can be invaluable. A mentor has already been down your current growth path, and will definitely have some excellent advice for you. Not only that, but they can act as a discerning reflection of your progress, highlighting what needs work, and where you are improving.
Learn to be disciplined as an example to others. Always turn up on time, have your information ready, read up on a problem beforehand. Meet your own deadlines, keep appointments, keep order and discipline in meetings, follow an agenda and don’t let the engagements wander.
Use your initiative. If you see something can be done or fixed simply, and nobody is offering, step up to the plate. A sure sign of a loser is the one who says: It’s not in my job description. Taking on more means you will learn more, and gain more experience. It’s the fuel that will empower you.
The bigger picture
Always have your eye on this. The mark of a good leader is one who can anticipate problems and react appropriately and well in advance. The ability to foresee and provide suggestions for avoiding potential problems is invaluable for a leader, it means you are present and aware, and ready to take up opportunities.
Learn to inspire your team
Motivating others to be the best they can be, is an important part of being a leader. Create collaborative minds among your team. Always be willing to guide and encourage, and solve problems with empathy and support. Delegate in a way that uplifts an individual, don’t hand out orders without compromise. Helping others to succeed is your best route to developing really strong leadership skills.
Dealing with conflict
This is part and parcel of leadership. You are going to have to intervene amongst staff on one occasion or another. Interpersonal conflicts don’t go away on their own. You will have to bring patience, consideration, good judgement and empathy to each situation. Listen to suggestions and feedback with attention. Accepting that not all people will get along as a fact of life, is helpful. You can make a value judgement on what to do, once you have heard all the facts, and both sides of the case.
Arm yourself with education
Keep studying, keep growing your knowledge base. Learning new things keeps your mind sharp and primes you for challenges. Knowledge is always the most empowering tool a leader can have to hand.
Any career path that involves leadership is both challenging and exciting. If you want the best for yourself, and the opportunity to become an influencer of note and achievement, make sure you evaluate and grow your skills with focus and confidence every day.