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Developing Leadership Skills

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 5 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Develop Leadership Leadership Skills

There are many who believe that good leaders are made not born and that anyone can develop leadership skills with practice and training. In fact, it is never too late and you are never too old to begin improving your leadership skills – after all, leadership takes practice and even those with a natural advantage may need to continually improve their skills, so it is worthwhile to always be aiming for improvements.

Here are 10 ways to develop your leadership skills:

1) Get feedback – it is important to find out what others think of you and your leadership style. This includes not only your followers but possibly also your superiors and your peers. Be aware that staff and employees may sometimes be reluctant to give honest feedback so it is crucial that you offer a safe environment for open communication and that you remain open-minded and approachable, rather than becoming defensive about what they may say. Remember, constructive feedback is one of the most powerful drivers for change and improvement.

2) Share leadership – instead of jealously guarding their power, great leaders delegate and involve other members of the team, so that there is a greater sense of ownership throughout the whole group – and this in turn usually leads to more productivity overall. Know your team and distribute tasks according to each individual’s abilities and strengths.

3) Listen – practise being a good listener; this means being genuinely interested, showing empathy and being open-minded and hearing people out before passing judgement. Great leaders are invariably great listeners – no exception. When people are unhappy in a team, they will usually try to voice their concerns – it is up to you to make the effort to listen, even if they may not be saying things directly or loudly.

4) Be constructive – be careful about patronising or being overly critical of other members of the team. Certainly, it is important for a leader to be assertive and confront a team member who is not fulfilling his/her responsibilities but practise rephrasing negative remarks in a more positive fashion and without any emotional judgements attached. Good communication skills is one of the traits of great leaders.

5) Learn to let go – don’t think of your followers as things that have to be controlled or managed all the time. Trust your team and have faith in their abilities; if you can’t trust them to do their job well, then you either have the wrong people in your team or they have not been trained properly. So give them the latitude to take actions and make decisions themselves – without constantly looking over their shoulders and checking their every move.

6) Let your team be creative – one of the key differences between managers and leaders is that the former is always trying to tell others how to “fix” a problem whilst the latter gives followers the opportunity to find solutions themselves, thereby possibly coming up with new, alternative and potentially better ways of doing things.

7) Be genuine in your efforts – many poor leaders behave in certain ways just to look good to their superiors and this is transparently obvious to the rest of their team – it breeds distrust, resentment and lack of respect. Integrity is one of the most important qualities in a leader because it is what trust and respect is built on. This means the integrity to make decisions for the good of the group as a whole, and not just your personal benefit.

8) Create and contribute to a “fun” work environment – people are more productive and get along better when they are enjoying themselves. So don’t be afraid to integrate humour into the workplace or group activities – this will build team spirit and also enable the rest of the team to feel that you are “one of them” as opposed to “the boss”.

9) Explain yourself – don’t ever pull rank when members of your team question your decisions; your followers will respect you more and give you greater loyalty if you take time to explain your rationale to them.

10) Ignore the hierarchy – don’t let official titles and ranks place barriers between you and your team – let them get to know the “real” you so that your employees, followers or team members feel like they have a real partner with a common goal.

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