Leadership is one of those unquantifiable human characteristics whose nature has baffled experts and the men on the street alike. In the past, many find themselves subscribing to the belief that leaders are born, not made. Various research on the subject, however, has thrown a serious challenge to it (Muse, 2019). It confirms what many see: having promising young talents with leadership qualities whose performance fizzle out in the end.
On the other hand, many have proven to be good leaders without showing any clues in the early stages of their lives. As it turns out, development is key. As real-life events show, many grow into positions of leadership. In the business world, they are able to motivate office and remote employees after extensive courses in developing their leadership qualities.
In this article, we shall take a look at exactly how to develop leadership skills and how to improve leadership skills, knowing the specific traits and knowledge for one to rise to the top and reach their potential as a leader.
For those seeking career development, alongside personal and financial growth, a leadership role is considered the desired path to take. Being a leader provides the farthest career advancement an individual can achieve, depending on the roles available in the organization and how far the individual is determined to go up the leadership ladder. It also unlocks opportunities for greater recognition and be connected with fellow leaders, especially those who have mastered the art of how to develop leadership skills.
But in order for one to be considered a leader, it is important to develop the skills needed to become one. It is not easy to obtain these leadership skills as one needs a great deal of experience and learning, as well as having the right attitude towards self-development. It also pays to be updated with the most current leadership training trends. How to develop leadership qualities is also a lifelong process.
The skills serve as the foundation of the leadership path one takes in their career. Whether this path takes one quite far in their leadership journey or otherwise, it is important that the path is a solid and well-paved road that will enable them to reach their journey without falling by the wayside.
There are 13 skills that would-be leaders need to develop to be able to prove themselves suitable for the role. Non-leaders can develop these in their workplaces or by joining a community service project. We shall look at each one in the list of leadership skills and abilities, why they are considered vital, how one can demonstrate they possess each skill, and how to build leadership skills.
Leaders are expected to have higher than average communication skills in order to better convey directives or inspire the team in their work. A good leader should learn how and when to use the right words that will grab the audience’s attention, enough for them to understand and heed what was being conveyed. This is applicable to both oral and written communication, so it is important to be fluent in both.
As a role model, it is important for a leader to exhibit discipline. Being able to show this attribute gets team members to follow suit, which can help bring about greater work efficiency. Discipline also makes it easy for team members to easily comply with a leader’s directives or instructions, as they see that the leader does indeed ‘walk the talk.’
Demonstrating discipline is as simple as meeting deadlines, keeping commitments, and being on time to start or end meetings and other engagements. Having a daily routine and sticking to it consistently also help instill discipline. If these tasks may seem too daunting, it is enough to start with the smaller tasks first and improve from there.
Conflict is a natural occurrence in any organization. As such, a leader is not expected to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place. However, a leader should be able to resolve such conflicts in an effective manner and must make sure that conflicts do not erupt as often as possible. One effective way of resolving conflicts is to talk to the parties involved and act as a facilitator who must sort out and clear any misunderstandings between the parties. And in worse situations, the leader must be prepared to make difficult decisions to finally arrive at a resolution. This may involve having one or both parties assigned to different teams in order to ensure a positive working environment.
While it is not expected for a leader to do a lot of work since leaders are expected to delegate tasks to the team, it is still important for a leader to be able to take on additional responsibilities if necessary as a way to show initiative and help out the team if they are short-handed, thus taking on more responsibility. Such acts help demonstrate and develop the trait of being willing to go above and beyond their job description in order to help the team get things done.
How to learn leadership skills is counterintuitive in that a good leader needs to be a good follower, a concept that has been around since ancient times and is a common philosophy among many religions. (Schroeder, 2019) A leader understands that things do not always go one’s way and that some may have better or more viable ideas or preferences than what they may have in mind. In such cases, a good leader knows when to stand back and entrust others to lead the way in reaching for a particular objective. Such experiences can also serve as an opportunity to learn new ideas that can help in their development as leaders.
It is important for leaders to always have an open mind towards possible new ideas and not feel threatened whenever someone disagrees with their ideas. There should be an open exchange of ideas and mutual respect for each person’s views. This helps build respect within the team towards the leader and build a positive working environment as well.
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With so many things happening around one’s environment, It is easy for one to be unaware, unintentionally or otherwise, of certain developments at first. Being a good leader is one who has not kept oneself abreast of everything that is going on within the team or the organization but also takes time to catch up regularly on any developments one may have missed the first time they occurred.
In keeping themselves updated with the developments, leaders can now also see possible patterns and trends that can help them in their decision-making and ensure that the team and the organization are ahead of the curve. This also helps them anticipate possible issues and handle them swiftly before they begin.
Through words and actions, a leader should always aim to inspire the team to do their best despite the circumstances. A leader just doing a job regardless of what it is and the circumstances can be enough to motivate others to keep pushing. Giving even a simple encouraging statement or some comforting words to a team member needing one can make a huge difference in boosting one’s morale.
It is important for a leader to develop a sense of empathy that will help them have a better understanding of what people go through in their lives and be able to show proper support that can help them in such difficult times.
Knowledge is one of the most important assets of a leader and in order to be a good leader, one has to continuously learn new things with regards to the role. There are leadership training programs or seminars one can take if one is seriously looking to grow professionally as a leader in an organization. But knowledge can also be attained through awareness of what is going on around them and, most especially, through real-life experiences on leadership and gain important insights as part of the learning experience. It also helps to learn from more experienced leaders who can provide much greater and deeper insights that will enrich one’s leadership skills.
It is important for a leader to acknowledge the efforts of the team and let them know of their worth as a way of empowering them. Acknowledgments like these encourage them to do better and be more productive as their way of showing that they are not letting their leaders down.
A leader can also empower their team by delegating important tasks to certain team members. For the team members concerned, the delegation of a particular task implies trust in one’s character and expertise in getting the work done, which in turn helps in their professional development. It is important for a leader to help team members in their professional development and make them feel like they are important contributors to the team’s and the organization’s growth.
In a similar vein as a good follower, a good leader must also be keen to listen to suggestions, ideas, and feedback from other people that can help improve processes, the team, or the organization overall and not only act but also improve upon them. Leaders would benefit from doing active listening where one pays full attention to the speaker and acknowledge the message being imparted. Active listening can be done by maintaining eye contact, avoiding distractions, and responding appropriately. Showing an effort to actively listen helps people feel motivated that they are being listened to.
Collaborations are helpful in building relationships within or even outside the organization, and in building leadership skills. As leaders may not always have the manpower or resources available to complete certain tasks, it is important for them to be always open to working with other individuals or teams who can help fill in the gaps. In return, leaders should also be ready to provide help if necessary.
Being a leader is not easy, with all the tasks, responsibilities, and pressures placed on them. Regardless of these challenges, a good leader is one who strives to maintain a positive attitude. One that is optimistic that the job will be done and is passionate about the work that he or she does. A good leader shows that one does one’s job out of love for the work and a sincere desire to see the team and the organization succeed.
One of the ways to improve leadership skills is for a leader to be decisive and not be easily swayed to change decisions afterward. A good leader knows the importance of every decision one makes so he or she takes time to see both the benefits and the drawbacks of each decision and come up with a decision that benefits the team and organization the most. Knowing that all options were considered and all possible results were plotted out helps leaders be more firm in their decisions
The impact good leadership can bring to an organization has been proven to be an immense one. The research Impact of Leadership Style on Organizational Performance: A Case Study of Nigerian Banks conducted by R.M. Ojokuku, T.A. Odetayo, and A.S. Sajuyigbe examined the effect of leadership style on the performance of organizations. (Ojokuku, Odetayo, & Sajuyigbe, 2012).
“From the result, it was discovered that there are both positive and negative correlation between leadership style dimensions and organizational performance, the model gives good account of dependent variable of organizational performance on leadership style dimensions,” said Ojokuku, a professor at the Department of Management and Accounting in the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria. “This finding agrees with the work of Howell and Frost (1989), Fu-Jin et al. (2010), Obiwuru et al (2011), and Jeremy et al. (2011) that leadership style has a significant effect on organizational performance.”
The researchers further noted “That transformational and democratic leadership style, in which employees are allowed to have a sense of belonging, carry out higher responsibility with little supervision, and followers are helped to achieve their visions and needs enhance organizational efficiency.”
Every leader agrees, especially the top female CEOs, that knowing how to develop leadership skills is the most crucial element in a person’s professional and personal advancement. Getting educational credentials is one, for instance, taking up a master’s in Organizational Leadership program.
You can push the envelope further by advancing to a doctorate degree in organizational leadership, even via online.
But even if an individual has no aspirations for leadership, learning these skills and leadership skills development can help unlock opportunities for growth, even in non-leadership roles. In essence, leadership skills are universal in nature that help individuals become better and thrive in whatever they do. The tips above should point one in the right direction.