Good leaders inspire and transform teams and companies. They have passion, a long-term vision and are willing to take risks to succeed. There’s no doubt that those who have natural ability make successful leaders but equally, leadership skills can be learned and honed throughout a career. Good leaders never stop learning, so read on for ten ways to become a better leader.
What kind of leader are you right now?
Ask yourself what are my strengths and weaknesses as a leader? Do I have any blind spots? Take some time to examine this (there are lots of books and resources online) because a self-aware leader understands how best they can influence and lead others. Remember good leaders come in all shapes and sizes. It's most important to be your authentic self because that is what will engage and mobilize others.
Keep it simple
Leadership isn’t complicated. It’s about being your best, knowing what you are passionate about and doing something to achieve it. So if you haven’t got a clear vision about what you want to achieve or a simple way of communicating that vision, then work to improve this.
Don't underestimate listening
Listening is an often overlooked tool in leadership. On an interpersonal level, listening builds relationships, trust and confidence in you as a leader. On a practical level, listening to others provides diverse ideas and possible solutions that no one person can accomplish on their own. So make space in your day to listen and ask questions. It’s not a sign of weakness in your leadership style to listen to others, it’s your secret weapon.
Communicate with purpose and clarity
Many of the great leaders throughout history were influential and inspiring orators. Think of JFK’s inauguration address or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Clearly your next presentation to the board room doesn’t have to go down in history, but you do need to communicate with purpose and clarity to inspire and motivate others. As a very basic 101, prepare what you are going to communicate and how; deliver your message with conviction and relate it to your wider goals; and finally, evaluate the effectiveness of your communication and take corrective action if necessary. Effective and clear communication really is the key to being a successful leader so seek feedback and invest time in this area to reap the benefits.
Being curious means being open to new ideas, new experiences and new ways to do things. If you are curious about your industry you’ll constantly gather new information and become an expert in your field. Being curious equals being passionate, personal growth and a collaborative mindset.
Manage your emotions
Being able to manage your emotions is an incredibly powerful tool. If you appear emotionally unregulated by showing anger, frustration or fear it damages your authority, credibility and your reputation as a leader. For example, when the proverbial hits the fan no one has to see you sweating, even if you are. In a crisis or a difficult situation, learn to put on your best poker face. Ride out the initial emotional response (which science shows only lasts about 90 seconds), and give yourself time to think by asking questions to get more information.
Value your people
Anyone in authority can recognize a good employee with a bonus, a gift certificate or even a promotion. But good leaders appreciate people, showing them how highly valued they are - which is fundamentally different. You can show someone how valued they are by saying thank you, acknowledging their achievements or expertise publicly or demonstrate your trust in them by giving them challenging new responsibilities. You can also seek their advice and mentor them in their careers to show your team how appreciated they are, and in turn, motivate them.
Prepare to take risks
Playing it safe and not being prepared to take risks can in fact be dangerous in today’s fast-paced market. Without some element of risk, it is difficult to achieve anything worthwhile or new. When you step outside of your comfort zone you discover that success and failure are connected and essential for growth.
Trust your instinct
In business, the most successful and respected leaders are those who know when to follow a hunch. It takes time and experience to know when to do this, but even if it doesn’t work out you can use that experience to further sharpen your instincts. This doesn’t mean you don’t use the information available to you but if you follow up with conviction, commitment and a flexible approach, trusting your instinct is part of a good strategy.
Accept that nobody's perfect
Finally, we all make mistakes. If you can be big enough to admit when you’ve made a mistake or calm and measured when it's on somebody else, you can move forward quickly to make it right. Don’t dwell on mistakes. Be resilient, keep going and remember: stay positive!
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