Being a leader means inspiring change and motivating those around you to work towards a common goal. Needless to say, possessing leadership skills gives you a considerable advantage over your peers. Not only is it one of the most sought-after soft skills in the market, but it also helps you achieve your personal and professional goals. It gives you a leg up in all walks of life, be it in society, the workplace, or home. With leadership skills, you develop the confidence to pursue your dream, take action and make crucial decisions.
With sufficient leadership skills, you can create a positive environment for those around you, thus enabling people to work to the best of their abilities. This, in turn, leads to more remarkable outcomes for the organization.
Despite its significance for the individual and the workplace, many firms face a considerable leadership gap. Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 survey shows that as many as 77% of organizations experience a shortfall in meeting organizational goals due to a lack of leadership. This goes to show that influential leaders are still high in demand.
However, the question is, what can you do to make yourself an ideal candidate for a leadership position? This article answers just this by recommending seven tips that will help you hone your leadership skills and stand out from the crowd.
1. Take leadership courses
Suppose you’re looking to hone your leadership skills. In that case, the classroom setting is an excellent place to start growing and developing your skills. Instead of taking a short course on business, you can even opt for an online liberal studies degree to broaden your professional horizon. This will equip you with all the tools and techniques needed for leadership and boost your resume instantly.
2. Go SMART
The SMART approach allows individuals to improve their leadership skills by creating specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based goals. The SMART criteria can be applied to several situations: personal development, project management, or even employee supervision. Going SMART is about setting the right goals and determining priority. By meeting its criteria, you avoid creating vague, confusing, or unachievable plans that contribute little to nothing while working towards an organization’s long-term vision.
It’s like finding your way on a map. If the destination is clear, you will draw a practical course and easily estimate the time and resources needed to get there. However, if the goal is unclear, then creating a route towards it would not be easy. Moreover, you won’t be able to anticipate or prepare for any obstacles. This hinders your team’s performance significantly.
3. Build empathy
Empathy is all about understanding people and their perspectives on things. A keen understanding of organizational behavior and why people behave in specific ways is essential to building empathy as a leader. So, perhaps a better question to understand in building empathy is what is organizational behavior and why is it important to leadership?
Organizational behavior is the way people behave and perform in an organization. For any good leader, it’s essential to understand how employees operate, what motivates them, and how they feel about the organization as a whole. These insights are necessary for leaders looking to enhance performance, bring about positive change, and creating an impact.
4. Communicate clearly and effectively
A 2017 Interact/Harris poll found that 91% of employees thought their managers are bad communicators. This highlights the importance of communication in the workplace. If you can’t communicate properly as a leader, it will negatively impact employee motivation and engagement.
To be good at communicating, you must know when to speak and when to listen. So when you talk, do so with clarity and never hesitate to use props and imagery, as long as it helps you convey your point. It is also necessary that you ask for feedback from your employees. Ensure to involve them in the discussion as this brings more ideas to the table. Once they share their opinions, show them that you listen actively by asking follow-up questions, taking notes, or asking for elaboration.
5. Give credit where due
According to OC Tanner, 79% of employees mentioned a lack of appreciation as the main reason behind quitting their jobs. Similarly, a 2020 TINYpulse research found that 21.5% of employees who feel less appreciated are twice as likely to look for new jobs.
The data indicates that being a leader entails much more than getting the job done. It’s also about giving due credit to your staff. Praising fellow employees and bringing attention to their positive results boosts their self-esteem. By doing so, you enhance their intrinsic motivation, which, in turn, reflects in their performance.
6. Learn to delegate
Good leaders know how to delegate tasks. They understand their team well, including each member’s potential and skills. With this knowledge, they can delegate tasks effectively and make sure employees use their strengths for the organization’s collective benefit.
A good delegator also ensures that the employees have room for improvement. According to Smarp, 37% of employees checked recognition by the manager as the most crucial factor in their professional development. Many employees want to challenge themselves and increase their skill set by tackling different tasks, so the opportunity to grow professionally must be given from time to time.
7. Practice self-discipline
Self-discipline describes your ability to complete the tasks that YOU need to do on time. It exists to bring some amount of order and a sense of self-control in your life to achieve long-term goals.
You can improve several aspects of personal discipline, but as a start, choose one that you feel will contribute more positively to your role as a leader. For instance, being punctual to work or running 10 miles a day. Start small and practice daily till you have achieved your desired goal.
Exercising self-discipline, in many ways, prepares you for being a leader. By setting an example, you also raise the bar for your peers. When they see you ‘walk the talk,’ this, in turn, motivates them to work too.
All in all, try to remember that the employees you are dealing with are humans just like you. Each has different strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Your job as a leader is to identify them and learn to acclimate yourself to work with all of them.
It starts with hiring the right talent and inspiring them, championing their creativity, and being invested in their professional development. An effective leader always works on fostering a good working relationship with their colleagues and keeping them engaged. You must set the standard high and keep raising the bar through continuous self-improvement. By following these tips, the probability of achieving collective and individual success will be much higher than before.