Some individuals have an innate charisma that makes them seem born to lead. Others work their whole lives but never break through to the top echelons. How can you cultivate the skills you need to truly be a leader?
There are differences between managers and leaders, but these traits are not inherited. You can learn how to develop leadership skills in order to run your own company, rise to the top of a corporation, and pursue whatever passion you choose.
Here are seven keys to leading instead of purely managing.
1. A Vision
True leaders possess a vision of where they want to go and how. They know what they are building: its merits and how it will benefit the world.
Often others will disagree. Many famous leaders encountered obstacles on their way to the top. People called them crazy, or weird.
Sometimes it takes a unique perspective to change the world. This way of seeing things differently is not always appreciated immediately by others. It is, however, a common trait amongst leaders.
2. Ability to Delegate
One important difference between leaders and managers is the ability to delegate. A manager may give subordinates tasks to complete but will be responsible for the final outcome. He or she may hover over everyone making sure that deadlines are met.
Leaders also must take ultimate responsibility for their projects. If things go wrong, the final judgment falls on them.
However, a true leader will know how to spread out responsibility so that everyone has a stake in the game. They will see potential in others and assign top talent to key roles. They will surround themselves with managers who are good at what they do and who all can contribute to the common goal.
Often leadership requires humility; the leader has to concede that they are not an expert in everything. They may invent a superior technology, but require a marketing expert to get it to market. They may need a talented lawyer to patent their ideas.
Delegating authority also creates team loyalty, by showing staff that you have faith in their abilities.
3. Talented at Communicating
Another factor for success in leadership is communicating one’s vision to one’s team in order to make it a reality. You need to describe what you are envisioning so that people will jump on board, from investors to potential customers to your sales force.
Communication skills are needed for many tasks at the top. If there is a crisis, a leader will soothe nervous banks and executives. If there is dissension in the ranks, the leader must bring everyone together for a common goal.
Communication must be consistent. From the brand statement to internal policies, a good leader will employ a series of consistent messages which will keep staff engaged, investors informed, and customers happy.
4. Calm in a Storm
Whether you are a leader or manager, you will surely face some crises in your company. There may be financial woes. There may be personnel upheavals, with important executives or staff leaving.
Poor public relations can devastate a company. Once a company name is associated with bad customer service, dangerous products, or lies, it can be almost impossible to recover.
Great corporate leaders take charge in a crisis. They communicate effectively to all of their stakeholders, often by accepting responsibility immediately and conveying remorse. They come up with solutions to prevent these disasters from ever happening again.
They also monitor morale and make sure that employees remain committed to the company and productivity. When a company is perceived to fail, it risks losing its talent trust. Leadership entails keeping team members around through thick and thin, through good communications, recognition of achievement, transparency, and listening.
5. Be a Problem Solver
Another important difference between leadership and management is the former’s need to solve problems. Managers must solve problems too, but leaders are expected to do this on a broader scale.
Leaders need to anticipate possible problems and propose ways to avoid these pitfalls. They may rely on their managers and subordinates to alert them to mechanical, logistical, or financial issues that require solutions, and to provide suggestions.
Ultimately, the leader will need to choose the solution. They must weight the risks and benefits of possible ways forward. They need to look far enough into the future to see how much each problem might cost in the long run.
Great leaders inspire greatness. Their staff wants to please them.
An effective leader gives his employees the resources and environment to excel. This not only inspires people to do better, but it helps retention. Happy well-compensated employees are less likely to look elsewhere for another job.
Recognizing talent and keeping it close are significant skills for great leadership.
If you reward your subordinates with not only salary increases but promotions and recognition, they will strive to improve. They may come up with great ideas for marketing, partnerships, and expansion that you never even dreamed of.
7. See the Big Picture
A team relies on its leader to see the big picture. Bumps and curves on the road to success must be put into the context of the whole plan.
A manager who berates staff for a tiny mistake, or focuses too intently on a small step in the entire process may have lost sight of the big picture. A real leader will be able to prioritize issues so that each is given the weight it deserves in the grand scheme of things.
The Differences Between Managers and Leaders: What You Need to Know
If you want to improve your professional standing and rise to the top of the corporate ladder, learn the differences between managers and leaders. You need to understand how to inspire your staff, put conflicts into context, and move on from obstacles and crises.
Acquiring the skills to become a true leader will benefit your company and your career. You can do it if you frame your thinking expansively.
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