Developing the right leadership skills can further both an individual career and a business. Industry knowledge and technical skills are essential, but there are several ‘soft skills’ which will propel your career to the next level and help a business to grow. The term ‘born leader’ is used a lot, but in reality, there are very few people who have natural leadership skills. The majority of us only become effective leaders through practice and experience. Whether you’re already in a position of leadership or you have ambitions to become a business leader, here are ten essential skills you should try to develop.
Take the initiative
If you are working within a company at the moment, you should take every opportunity to show that you have initiative and are motivated to go the extra mile. The majority of managers will only give tasks to the employees who they know can deliver, so it’s important to make it known that you are willing to take on more responsibility. By exceeding expectations in your current role and acquiring new skills in areas which fall outside your remit, you will continue to learn, and others will see that you are capable of managing extra responsibility.
Excellent listening skills
The best leaders are those who listen to the people around them and take on board what they’re hearing. By listening to the opinions and feedback from others (positive and negative), you will understand your team members on a deeper level. You will learn what other people enjoy about their work, what they need more support with, and how processes could be improved. Effective listening skills require good eye contact, focused attention, and appropriate responses. The body language of the other person will also communicate their feelings, so try to learn some basic body language to help.
Critical thinking is the ability to independently evaluate and analyze information in an objective way, without being influenced by your own biases or the influence of others. Leaders need to be excellent critical thinkers so that they can raise questions, identify potential problems, and develop effective solutions to those problems. Being openminded and practical in your approach to business is often more successful than letting personal preferences or passion dictate your actions. This kind of thinking can also uncover potential opportunities for businesses.
Motivate & inspire others
A leader is someone who inspires others to think, to imagine, and to act. If you can influence the people around you to follow your example of positivity, you will be an effective leader. When the people around you are demotivated or losing focus, you need to be able to reenergize them. This involves having a good understanding of what motivates the team you’re working in or leading. They may feel that their contributions are not being acknowledged, that their skills are being underused or that they are being excluded from key parts of a project. Leaders will recognize this in the people around them and approach the issue directly before the negativity can spread.
Continued learning and self-improvement
A true leader recognizes that they have never finished learning. No one is perfect, either personally or professionally, and there is always the opportunity to develop and grow. Business owners, in particular, should be investing in their training and education regularly as the business world evolves at a rapid pace. For example, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course is designed to enable business leaders to challenge their skills in the key areas of business. You can study MBA online with RMIT to continue working while studying at your own pace.
Micromanagers are not leaders. If you can’t trust your employees to complete tasks or manage projects, there may be issues with your training and management skills. You need be able to empower your employees by delegating work to them as this will help them to develop their skillset and feel that they are part of the team. When you delegate effectively, you are freeing up your time to focus on the key parts of the project which need your attention. You should regularly be communicating with your team to ensure you have an overview of activity, but trust is essential.
Discipline is essential to ensure that you and your team are able to achieve your goals. The best plan in the world will fail without the right level of discipline, and this applies to both you and your team. Whether you’re planning an event, a proposal for investors or launching a new product, poor communication, missed deadlines, and a lack of coordination will result in mistakes and, potentially, failure. Self-discipline is essential, and, as a leader, you will need to comfortable with instilling discipline in others.
Conflict and disagreement is a part of human nature, and in pressured situations, they become even more prevalent. An effective leader needs to know how to manage team members who are falling below the expected standards or are negative in their attitude and to resolve disagreements between team members. Direct and honest conversations can be difficult, but they are essential when trying to resolve conflict in a calm and unconfrontational manner. Highlighting problems or, in extreme cases, firing someone requires a lot of courage and tact, as well as the willingness to listen to the employee in question to see if there is an alternative resolution.
Willingness to follow others
Every individual in a team has unique value and skills to offer, and a wise leader knows that diversity and collaboration create strength. Make sure you take the time to recognize the skills and talents of others. You may be able to learn from them and extend your own skillset while encouraging others to do the same.
Be an Influencer
All of these skills combined create an effective leader, but it’s important to note that there is a difference between being an authority and being an influencer. Ultimately, it is our ability to positively influence the people around us, so take some time to think about how you can be more influential in the workplace and set an example for others to emulate.