If you want to advance in your field, you should show a continued desire to learn new skills and take on more responsibility. As you progress into new positions, there eventually comes a point in your career when you need strong leadership skills.
Anyone can get started at building leadership skills. It is important to note that there are different leadership styles, but the fundamental leadership skills appear in each of these different styles. By learning how to practice leadership skills when an opportunity comes up, you can give yourself a better chance to progress to a leadership role with more responsibility.
What are leadership skills?
Leadership skills are a set of core abilities that enable a person to motivate a group of people to achieve a shared goal. While individual leadership personality traits and styles may vary, any good leader should have a high level of self-awareness, know how to communicate, understand how to influence different people and be able to strategically solve problems.
How to develop your leadership skills
While some people are naturally more suited to leadership roles, you can develop leadership skills through both knowledge and practice.
You can use the following steps as a guideline to develop your leadership skills:
1. Firstly, know your strengths and weaknesses
Take stock of your current strengths and weaknesses. All good leaders have high levels of self-awareness. Not only do good leaders always look to improve but they also know exactly what they excel at and what they need to work on as a leader.
You need to understand what type of leader you are based on how your unique personality matches with different leadership styles. Do you prefer a more relaxed leadership approach in which you delegate decision-making among team members, or would you rather have full control over all major decisions?
If you are unsure of your strengths and weaknesses, you can get some outside help to make things clearer. For example, you could go to a career guidance counselor who can help you figure out your leadership abilities. Another example of something that can help you get to know your strengths and weaknesses is to take a personality test that focuses on leadership styles or characteristics.
2. Secondly, improve your communication skills
You may already consider yourself a good communicator. However, it is vital to always improve your communication skills if you want to be a good leader. Communication involves more than just speaking clearly. You need to know how to actively listen to people when speaking to them.
Another aspect of communication that is commonly overlooked is non-verbal communication. Good leaders use eye contact well, they can read body language cues and they are adept at both verbal and written communication.
To improve your communication skills, actively focus on the aspects of communicating you feel weakest at. For example, if you rarely speak up during meetings, attend a public speaking club like Toastmasters to build your confidence. If your written communication skills are weak, consider taking an online business writing course that teaches you to express ideas clearly.
3. Thirdly, seek outside opportunities for developing leadership and management skills
Many excellent leaders looked outside their jobs for ways to develop leadership skills. Not all roles provide frequent opportunities for building leadership skills. By being proactive, you can find ways to spend your spare time that develop your leadership skills while also being enjoyable.
For example, you might consider playing a team sport and working your way up to a captain’s role. You could also become a board member of a local charity organization to practice leadership skills. There are many opportunities to become a leader outside of work, you just need to seek them out.
4. Then, learn how to motivate and influence people
The ability to motivate and influence people is a crucial part of becoming a leader that succeeds. Leaders tend to be able to get the best out of people, nurture their progress and inspire them to achieve goals.
The driving forces behind the ability to influence and motivate are building trust, setting out a shared vision and setting an example through your own work. For some good examples of strategies for motivating people, you can turn to some of the most well-known self-development books on this topic written by authors like Stephen Covey and Dale Carnegie. In the workplace, focus more on relating to people on a personal level, for example, by asking how their day is going.
5. Next, be strategic by keeping your end goal in mind
Good leaders are strategic in that they always keep their ultimate goals in mind. Effective leadership means having a clear vision of where the team or the business is trying to get to and reminding people of that vision. Strategic thinking leads to taking consistent action that helps to achieve goals.
An exercise for becoming a better strategic thinker is to conduct thought experiments about how you would react in unexpected work situations. Unpredictable issues often derail teams and narrow their focus so that they forget the overall business goals. Good leaders need to know how to deal with problems before they even happen by having plans in place and maintaining focus on goals.
6. Finally, understand how to build teams
A big part of building leadership skills is understanding how to build an effective team. Putting together the wrong team is likely to result in a loss of productivity. For example, make note of who works well together and consider the personality dynamics of a potential team so that all team members’ personalities and skills complement each other.