You may have heard the term “natural born leader” before. It’s true that there are certain people who just seem to assume leadership roles with less effort that others. However, this does not mean that you either are or are not a leader. If you take a step back and look again at these natural leaders, you will come to find that they are not so much displaying innate abilities, as they are using a few key skills. If you look at several different leaders, each in different situations, you can begin to pick out these skills.
Developing leadership skills is something anyone can work on. You do not have to be resigned to thinking that leadership is only for “certain people”, but not you. It’s simply not true. Leadership skills are learned. While some people may have learned them at an earlier age, there is no reason to believe that you can not learn them now. Some of these approaches make a good use of common sense, and others help to shape your confidence and determination. A basic leadership skills class is always a great place to start, but what are the key skills of a good leader? Let’s take a look at a few.
We are all guilty of getting too comfortable in a job, or a class, and then thinking we know everything there is to know. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Feeling proficient in your job is in fact a great confidence builder. The problem is that it leads to complacency, and complacent people do not become leaders. Try looking at your job or your assignments in new ways. You may have gotten good at doing the same thing over and over, but is there a way to take this higher?
The fact is that there is always more to learn. You may be doing an excellent job as a receptionist, but if you are looking to eventually move up to a junior associate, you are going to have to learn what that job entails. Take it upon yourself to acquire new skill sets, and learn new things. People in leadership roles do not wait for an invitation to begin learning something new, they seek it our for themselves.
Become a Good Listener, and a Good Communicator
onversations are two way streets, and a good leader recognizes that. There is always something to be gained by listening to your coworkers, fellow students or community members. Be sure that you are not just waiting for your turn to speak again in a conversation – but really absorb what others are saying. For instance, by listening to a complaint from a coworker, you might gain some insight on a company-wide issue that you might be able to help address. Likewise, by listening to someone relay a story of a particularly difficult assignment might help you better understand how best to approach that same assignment yourself.
When it is your turn to relay information, it is absolutely vital that you be clear and direct. Imagine if a teacher gave out a homework assignment, and told her students that “This should probably be done by Wednesday”. That is too ambiguous. Is the assignment due on Wednesday, or not? Are there penalties for turning it in after Wednesday? Are there bonuses for turning it in on time? By leaving that much up for interpretation, this teacher has not presented herself as a confident class leader.
Speak in definite terms. “The meeting is at 2:00”, “I can finish this assignment today, but I will need Jim to assist me”, or “This course of action is not working,” are all examples of clear and direct ideas being relayed. There is little room for interpretation, and you are conveying the idea that you are in control of the situation.
Become a Good Delegator
Leaders are busy people. There is no escaping that fact. However, there is a lot to be said for a leader who can delegate certain aspects of their job appropriately. Handing off tasks to trusted associates not only allows you to focus on the most important issues, it also helps build a good rapport with your employees. There is an understanding that you are asking them for their help because you trust them, and know they will do a great job.
This can sometimes be a surprisingly difficult skill to master. When your name is attached to a project, the temptation to micro manage, and oversee every last detail is strong. That is why delegating is as much about trust as it is about time management. Surrounding yourself with trustworthy people, and allowing them to share the workload with you as coworkers is one of the fundamental aspects of a confident leader.
Learn to delegate any task to any person here. It will change your life.
Be a Motivating Force
Work is work, and that means it is not always fun. Getting up the motivation can be difficult sometimes, and that is why leaders are particularly good at it. Simply being a positive presence is a great start. If people enjoy being around you, they are more likely to want to work with you.
Also, it is important that you recognize some of the issues that can drain a person’s motivation. It could be a matter of personal difficulties. In that case, you may want to make yourself available to talk, if the other person feels comfortable doing so. More often than not however, lack of motivation comes from people feeling that their work is not appreciated. It is easy to let this happen, especially when working with a large group. It is always worth it to take a moment or two to personally encourage or thank those around you. It helps them feel like they are an integral part of the work day (and they absolutely are!).
There are many different backgrounds, feelings and ideas all swirling around any given workplace. At some point, it is inevitable that a few of them are going to clash. In these cases, it is vitally important that a good leader be able to handle the conflict quickly and professionally. People often look to their leaders to help resolve conflicts, so approaching them with confidence is going to be very important.
Always remember that at the heart of any workplace conflict there are people. People with feelings, and ideas and voices. A good leader would never approach a known conflict as a matter of changing office policy in the hopes the conflict will go away. A good leader has to address all members of the conflict personally. They must listen, and diffuse the stress as soon as possible. A leader who ignores or tries to sidestep conflicts will end up losing the trust and personal connections they’ve worked so hard to establish.
Become a Role Model
Is there a certain way you want your employees or associates to act, dress or behave? Model that behavior yourself. You can’t very well give someone a hard time about being having a disorganized desk if your office itself is a mess. Likewise, you can’t demand that your employees be on time every day, if you are continually late. Making a good show of positive habits and a good work ethic sends a strong message – “This is the way things should go around here.” Be the type of employee you would want to hire, and make sure your skills and attitude are often seen.
Be a Follower
Yes, believe it or not, after working so hard to rise to a position of leadership, it is still important that you take direction and education from others whenever you can. You may be the CEO of a company, but you are not the I.T. specialist. By spending a little time with her, you can learn a lot from her experience. Now you won’t have to go into a panic every time your computer freezes, or your phone locks up. Remember that receptionist I mentioned earlier? She will be the first voice your customers hear over the phone, and the first face they see when they come through the door. You can probably learn a lot about keeping a positive attitude, multitasking and interpersonal skills by being around her.
The point is, you are never so full of skills that there isn’t room for some more. Observe, listen, ask questions and really pay attention to those around you. They may not be in a leadership position, but that does not mean they lack highly specialized expertise. New technology is rolling out all the time, and there is nobody more plugged into that than young people. Be sure that you are not discounting the experience of someone around you simply because they are young.
Udemy always has great resources available. Brush up on your Leadership Skills by checking out “Leadership, management & entrepreneurship in the 21 Century“.