On Developing Leadership Skills

Often, we hear of someone successful, “He/she is a born leader.” It starts early, on soccer fields and in classrooms.

But even if no one ever said you are a natural leader, don’t despair. Contrary to conventional wisdom, leadership isn’t an inherent skill. Sure, some people exude a natural charisma, but you don’t have to be a motivational speaker to develop tools to successfully lead in the workplace.

Let’s look at some leadership skills you can hone, as well as traits to avoid if you desire to be a superior chief.

Do This

  • Take risks. If you wait to take chances until every opportunity is a sure thing, it’s going to be tough to grow. Waiting for every detail to be answered results in opportunity costs we cannot gain back. Put a well thought out plan in place, trust in your team, launch your project and trust in the strength of the plan and the people.
  • Delegate tasks. Delegation is one of the hallmarks of leadership. First, no one person can accomplish everything alone, and hopefully, you’ve built a team of employees with varying strengths and skills. Farm out tasks and allow your team members to shine.
  • Communicate effectively. This should be a no-brainer, but all too often, we assume people read our minds. And, communication isn’t simple: it’s a skill that requires practice in order to be able to effectively convey goals and policies. Keep in mind the best leaders don’t only talk. Communicating is a two-way street that entails listening to others and processing information.

 Don’t Do That

  • Don’t try to be everyone’s friend. Running a productive team doesn’t mean you will be everyone’s buddy: it’s not a popularity contest. Most of us want to be liked by those we work with, but as the team leader, it’s far more important to be fair, hold team members accountable for their actions, and chart progress (or lack thereof.) Conflict is a part of life and can be productive. Hiding from it in the workplace usually means everyone ends up unhappy, and one of the marks of a strong leader is someone unafraid to stare conflict down.
  • Don’t try to be perfect. No one expects their boss to be flawless, and the ones to get respect from direct reports are often the ones who willingly accept personal responsibility for mistakes. While it’s often tough to swallow our pride, showing you can publicly own up to and correct errors go a long way to building trust in your command.
  • It’s not all about you. Ego can be a healthy part of self-care, but a boss who abuses power and takes the credit for positive accomplishments is an example of ego run amok. Create ways for employees to enhance their own careers and skill sets. They will appreciate you and make you look good.

In short, the best leaders are ones who aren’t afraid to empathize, communicate openly, reward success, and take responsibility. Developing these skills aren’t beyond any of us. Take small opportunities in volunteer organizations and the workplace to improve yourself.

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