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7 Tips for Developing and Improving Your Leadership Skills

Woman smiling with a group of co-workers having a discussion behind her

Most people are not born natural leaders. They don't inherently have the skills necessary to be effective in a leadership role. Having these skills is a critical part of advancing your career, especially if you want to fast-track it.

Leaders direct individual efforts towards a common purpose. Without that direction, everyone, including the leader, may not see the shared objective or the path to it the same way.

Education is critical to your career. It helps you develop the technical skills you need to succeed, but it is not enough. Leadership development is essential, as well. Consider these seven leadership styles that can help make you into an effective leader.

1. Take Initiative

Initiative in the workplace means stepping up to the plate and volunteering. Taking initiative will establish you as a valuable team member — one that is not afraid of hard work. It also demonstrates to decision makers your sense of self confidence and willingness to learn. Finally, it says you are a person interested in personal development.

You can take the initiative in other ways, too. For example:

●      Find the time to get to know other employees. Be that mentor they come to when there is a problem or they need motivation.

●      When you see something isn't working or believe the process could be more efficient, use your problem-solving skills to develop a solution. Present your new idea to company leaders. If possible, solve minor problems on your own.

●      Take the time to clarify. Clarifying questions shows interest and flexibility.

Volunteering to take on additional responsibilities, especially outside your comfort zone, tells those in charge that you have the initiative to move ahead.

2. Inspire Others

One of the most critical leadership skills to have is the ability to inspire others. Enthusiasm spreads throughout a team. If you can be that motivating factor, you will earn the respect of those you work with and for at the same time.

The inspiration needs to be real, though, not manufactured. True leaders are self-aware and know their weaknesses, strengths, and talents. It is important to believe in the work you do and want to help others find value in it, as well.

Positive inspiration also generates infectious energy. Pay close attention to others in the workplace that might need that energy. Maybe they tire of the day-to-day tasks or become disappointed in their role in the company or the lack of recognition.

Take a minute to give them that attention and to show empathy regarding their struggle. Listen closely to what they have to say. Just lending an ear can be all it takes to empower them to keep going forward. Your ability to inspire coworkers and create a positive environment can help you get noticed.

3. Practice Active Listening

Communication skills cover a lot more ground than simply speaking well. Listening is a critical component. If you do one and not the other, it affects your ability to communicate with others properly.

Active listening is a skill that benefits you in and out of the workplace. It means concentrating on what is being said. It also involves remaining neutral as you listen and not trying to correct someone mid-sentence.

You are an active listener when you:

●      Use your body to give clues you are paying attention, such as leaning in, making eye contact, and smiling or nodding your head.

●      Mirror what is said. Repeating back what you hear lets others know you understand.

●      Ask questions relevant to the conversation — but only when it is your turn to speak. Clarify anything you think is unclear but do it in a nonjudgmental way.

Active listening helps you earn the trust of coworkers and improves your work effort because you fully understand every situation.

4. Resolve Conflicts

Every workplace has one or two people who are difficult to work with or unable to get along. It's up to leaders to resolve conflicts that might exist to help boost morale and productivity. For some, that might simply mean working to build positivity and self-confidence. Others might need a leader to address these issues directly and in private.

When dealing with workplace conflicts, it is vital not to make personality the focus of the conversation. Instead, someone in a leadership position needs to be specific about behaviors and events that play a role in the conflicts.

Practice active listening during this discussion, too. That might offer some insight into what is behind the behavior. Then, once you have all the information you need, create a plan to resolve the problem and follow through with it. Sometimes, that plan might include making changes like reassignments or even terminations.

5. Continue Learning — Always

Learning is something you should do enthusiastically throughout your life. It is the best way to develop new skills while keeping your mind in focus.

Learning is critical on the job, too. Pay attention to what skills are emerging in your industry and stay on point. For example, what are companies looking for in new employees right now? Asking these questions helps direct your learning path in a way that improves your chances of continued success.

Take advantage of micro-learning opportunities within the company. Are they offering any training you haven't taken yet? Being willing to learn new things could be the difference between getting promoted or getting passed up again.

6. Master the Art of Being a Follower

To be a good leader, you must know how to follow. There is a lot of crossover between these two skill sets. Following may be the key to effective collaboration and enhanced credibility.

Good followers learn to read individuals and recognize what irritates and inspires them. A team grows stronger when each member is aware of the others. That understanding helps when delegating tasks, too.

Learning to be a follower enhances the diplomacy skills necessary to lead a team. It starts with recognizing the different points of view within the group. Taking the time to understand different perspectives is key to guiding a team to work together.

Good followers also put their critical thinking skills to work. They support their leaders but still think for themselves and provide feedback and new ideas when necessary.

7. Discipline Yourself

Self-discipline means taking control of your reactions to external influences. That ability to stay calm and control your responses in difficult situations is the hallmark of an excellent leader. It keeps you and your team on point and helps you make focused and informed decisions.

Discipline is not a skill that comes naturally to many, so practice developing yours. Set high standards for yourself. Create a plan to meet them, and don't deviate. The practice will help you define your long-term goals and better understand what you can accomplish, both on the job and off.

At Bryant & Stratton College, we are proud to play a role in developing leaders that create change. Learn more about what Bryant & Stratton College has to offer you today.


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