Effective leaders know the importance of leadership skills and will always work on improving their soft skills to ensure effective leadership. A leader need to develop different skill in order to realize vision, achieve desired goals and manage people through change.
There is a joy you feel when you found yourself in the position of a leader and you are using it to influence lives or get the task done. I am sure this extreme joy brought you to my blog because you want to be a better leader. You want to find ways to improve your leadership skills to achieve a successful outcome.
First, let me congratulate you because you have come to the right place. I am sure by the time you finish reading this article, you will know what it takes to develop effective leadership skills. You will find out how to develop and improve leadership qualities.
A lady went for a job interview and the interviewer asked her about her ability to work independently. The interviewer also asked about her work experience and her leadership skills. She told the interviewer that she has good problem solving skills and decision-making skills and the interviewer told her to prove it.
The lady took the job application file on the table and wrote as a remark in front of her name “hired for the job”. The interviewer was shocked.
Interviewer: you can’t hire yourself.
The lady: but you have a problem of staff shortage.
Interviewer: yes, so?
The lady: so, I proved my problem-solving skills and decision-making skills at once.
What a smart move *wink.
Now, let’s get into the business of the day. There’s a worksheet for you, kindly download it after reading this article.
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Leadership is not hamburger that can easily be defined. Definition of leadership, its aspect and concept vary from individual based on culture, background, exposure, lifestyle and social norms. However, no matter how you choose to define leadership, leadership traits and skills are valid for all.
Leadership is like a car. It has the ability to convey you from one point to another. But it is your responsibility to define the direction you want the car to move to. Just like a car, ‘leadership’ will await your order. And you will be fully responsible for the outcome of the order (the destination).
If you happen to seat at the driver’s side of a car, you know you are in charge. The passengers will have to follow the direction you are heading to, except if they decide to get out of the car.
You will agree that a driver skills and experience are important for the journey and the destination. Likewise, leaders skills, qualities and experience are important for the leader to lead, and inspire the team to achieve set goals (get the best result).
Leadership skills definition
Leadership skills are the strength, ability and capacity an individual possess to motivate, transform, and lead others towards the achievement of goals and purpose.
Leaders understand that their leadership role is nothing without leadership essential skills. Therefore, the ability to lead depends on the leadership skills and qualities a leader possess.
Importance of leadership skills
Leadership skills are important for successful leadership. A good leader needs to possess the best leadership skills in order to coordinate, motivate, and inspire the team to maximize efficiency. Also, to help to bring out the best in them and to achieve goals.
A person cannot function properly as a leader if s/he lacks leadership development skills. Leadership skills help the leader to create a compelling vision to engage others and inspire change.
Leadership skills examples
There are various types of leadership skills but always ensure to have the top leadership skills, if not all. Check the Leadership skills list below:
- Emotional Intelligence.
- Critical thinking.
- Passion and determination.
- Commitment and Resilience.
- Discipline and integrity.
- Conflict resolution.
- Creativity and innovation.
- Giving and receiving feedback.
How to improve your leadership skills
I will give you top 10 proven ways to help you improve skills needed for effective leadership. I need you to understand that your leadership skills and qualities have nothing to do with your height, gender, race or background.
Understanding the key aspects of leadership and what makes an effective leader is very crucial for excellence as a leader.
Leadership areas aren’t restricted to your company, business or career. Leadership qualities apply to every aspect of life and situation. Therefore, for you to be a successful leader, you need to improve the skills needed to be a leader.
Take an honest look at yourself without being judgmental. You must blank your mind from the societal and mental acceptable rights and wrongs and view yourself as a baby without knowledge of good or bad.
This is because you need to find your true self. You need to be able to define and redefine yourself. Don’t accept the definition the people, society, culture, and background has imposed on you.
Look at yourself objectively! Who are you on the inside? Answering this question will help you analyze yourself to know yourself better. You will be able to understand the areas of your strength and weaknesses.
Self-awareness will give you a clear perception of your personality. It will give you insight into your belief, emotions, strength, weakness, thoughts, motivations, styles, preferences and actions. It will also help you make good decisions, improve problem-solving skills, time management and stress management.
When you know yourself better, it makes it easier for you to relate with others, understand how people perceive you, and your attitude in response to them.
Importance of self-awareness and the role it plays in leadership effectiveness cannot be overemphasized.
Self-awareness will empower you with the knowledge to make better choices and decisions. It will help to improve your emotional intelligence.
Your ability to use self-awareness as a tool to manage your behaviour and your relationship with others will improve leadership effectiveness. Therefore, to improve your leadership skills, you need to master self-awareness. Self-awareness is one of the top skills of a leader.
Self-awareness in leadership helps to identify key strengths of a leader.
Being honest about your strength and shortcomings will put you in a position for improvement and growth.
One of the elements of a good leader is that a good leader is aware of areas in which s/he is strong. And those areas which may need some work. Self-awareness is a good way to improve your leadership skills and become a better leader.
Take self-awareness and personality tests online.
There are free online tests you can take and I think they can help you get started:
Power questions to ask yourself to help you in the self-awareness process.
2. Challenge yourself
Don’t shy away from challenges. If you want to improve your leadership skills, it is good to always take up new challenges. This is because it will stretch you beyond your comfort zone. And help you to discover other potentials, and talents you never knew you had.
I have said YES to some tasks/challenges I initially knew nothing about. I remembered when I was working as a customer relations manager. The company was having issues with accounting and the MD asked if I knew anything about accounting software (Peachtree) and I said yes.
As a matter of fact, it was my first time hearing the name Peachtree accounting software. However, I am the type that always seeks to solve problems.
Crazy right? As crazy it might sound, I took the challenge. So I was compelled to learn accounting software and yeah, I was able to get the job done. The truth is that lots of things I know today are a result of me taking up new challenges.
I have taken up some challenges that made my heart to race, my palm sweaty and body shaking. However, all the challenges enhanced my growth and development.
I acquire knowledge even if I fail in tackling any challenges (after I ensured to give it my all: body, soul and mind). So it’s often a win-win situation for me.
As an entrepreneur, are you thinking it’s not important to take up new challenges since you have competent teammates or employees to handle every task?
Let me tell you the secret of leadership 21st-century skills. In this 21st century where knowledge and information are available at your fingertips, if you refuse to use it, you will be a figurehead, a puppet to be tossed here and there.
Knowledge is power!
How would you effectively showcase your leadership skills if you cannot communicate and give valuable contributions or suggestions relating to the tasks you allocated to your employee? When your team members communicate about issues or ideas, you will be like a dumbass. Therefore, it won’t give you a good image as a leader.
As the CEO of my organization, my team members are always happy to discuss their challenges or ideas with me. This is because they know that I will give a valuable contribution no matter the field or sector.
I am not saying that I know everything. But I can boldly tell you that I know at least something about everything. My personal policy is “know something about everything and know everything about something”.
I always make it a duty to have at least a basic idea or knowledge about something and know how it works. As a result, I can engage in meaningful conversation with my team members about anything or any field such as programming, accounting, manufacturing, financing, etc. even though I am not an expert in those fields.
You don’t have to be an expert in everything.
The truth is that you can’t know everything. However, it is advisable to have basic knowledge of everything.
Delegation and empowerment are part of the top 10 leadership qualities that make good leaders. Delegating tasks is a good time management strategy. You can’t do everything, so getting someone else to do some tasks will boost your productivity since you will have time to concentrate on other things.
However, it is also important to have basic knowledge about some things. Before delegating a task, at least endeavour to know basic things about that task. You can read up or conduct some research. When your employee or teammates know that you have a basic knowledge about the task you delegated to them, they tend to respect you and put in more hard work to please you. Also, it helps you to lead your team effectively and provide adequate direction and guidance. You become the go-to person for advice.
If you are an employee, don’t be afraid to take up new challenges. When you take up new challenges, it is will propel you to move up the corporate career ladder. You will find out that your promotion will become easy and accelerated.
Taking up new challenges enhances your leadership qualities and equips you with more knowledge.
Always have the attitude of “yes” or “I will do it” to new challenges.
The ability to take up new challenges and responsibilities is one of the top leadership strengths a team leader should possess. There are many different ways to take up new challenges at work or in life, so be open and explore the different ways available to you.
Further reading recommendation:
3. Effective communication
Communication is very important in every aspect of our lives, therefore make communication a priority. Communication skill is one of the five skills effective leaders possess.
Leaders have to communicate the vision and goal to his/her team or employees so as to motivate and inspire them to achieve it. Leaders also need to think with clarity, express ideas or opinions, and frequently share information and feedback with his/her team.
To improve your leadership skills, it is compulsory to develop your communication skills. Good communication skills make a strong leader.
If you don’t communicate effectively with your employees or teammates, you will make things complicated for them. They are not spirits to know what you have in mind.
Be approachable! Yes, I know you are the leader but you don’t have to be high and mighty. Your focus should be on improving teamwork and achieving excellence.
With good communication, you can improve your relationships, both business and personal. Communication isn’t all about talking, learn to listen as well.
Strategies to improve communication skills
Master the art of listening: The art of listening is an invaluable life skill. Practice active listening, make eye contact, show you understand, defer judgment, provide and ask for honest feedback.
Learn the basics of nonverbal communication: As a good leader, pay attention to nonverbal signals, consider the context, and be observant.
Have an open mind: Be willing to consider or receive new ideas. Don’t be too quick to judge. Listen without thinking or passing judgment.
Be creative with your communication, common step it up. As a good leader, you don’t have to be engaged in 100% formal communication. A blend of both formal and informal communication will help to improve your communication skills. And enhance your leadership and influence skills.
4. Express yourself
I know there are standards and general beliefs of how a leader should act. However, I believe that leadership begins with you and not the position. So it is very important that you find yourself first.
You don’t have to follow general leadership principles if it isn’t working for you. Why not set your own personal principles with the core values of mentoring and inspiring your followers to achieve success. You know what? Just do your thing.
Don’t change yourself to please others or to fit in. Please embrace your uniqueness. Learn to feel your feelings and follow your own values. You shouldn’t be afraid to express yourself freely.
I have a friend who doesn’t like to wear suits even though he’s the MD. Many people tried to talk him into wearing suits, telling him that’s how a leader ought to dress. So he too started wearing suits but it wasn’t his thing at all.
I noticed he feels strange in it and that always harm his charisma and confidence. I spoke with him and told him that he doesn’t have to fit in. He’s at his best when he expresses himself freely.
I made him understand that the way he dresses won’t undermine his leadership traits and skills. It’s important to wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident as long as it’s presentable and decent.
It’s been over two years now and my friend is doing great as a leader and in being himself. He won the outstanding achievement award this year in March.
Yours might not be your manner of dressing, it could be anything but whatever it is, don’t ever lose yourself. Learning to express yourself will not only help to improve your leadership skills, and soft skills, but it will also improve your sense of happiness, and satisfaction.
5. Never stop learning
To improve your leadership skills, you should never stop learning. Learning is a continues process. Since you are reading this article, it’s a confirmation that you’ve never stopped learning (wink). So keep it up.
A leader needs to work on improving learning skills. The 4 core of learning skills is creative thinking, critical thinking, collaborating and communicating.
Knowledge changes with time so it is very important to get yourself updated. Always seek to improve your soft skills. If you stop learning new things professionally or personally, you will become outdated and irrelevant.
For example, an Olympic champion has to continuously work on his/her self to maintain that title. Obviously He/she cannot rely on past success. The day he/she stops learning and practising, he/she will become ex-champion. If you don’t want to be an ex in life, you have to embrace the art of learning.
Problem solving is an essential skill for a strong leader. So, leaders must continuously learn to effectively solve problems. Never be afraid to try new things and acquire a new skill. Even if you fail in trying, you will gain experience and you can always learn from your mistake. Therefore always seek to upgrade your skills.
6. Embrace positive energy
Every day, always appreciate yourself and be grateful for where you are even as you make an effort to improve your life, career and relationship.
Make sure you surround yourself with positive energy. The truth is that people emanate energies and it could be positive or negative energy.
When you surround yourself with positive people, you will absorb their positive energy. And this will keep you in a good mood all the time and increase your productivity.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a staff, friend, family or acquaintance if they always have negative thoughts, opinion or actions, please avoid them.
Always ensure that people around you emanate positive energy. You might think you can handle negative energy but in reality, it’s not possible. These negative energy always have a way of affecting our morale, confidence and vision either consciously or unconsciously.
Energy is like a seed, and when it is sown, it germinates really faster than we think.
I once had a teammate who was pessimistic. She always emphasizes the negative part of a situation more than the positive.
I knew it was a red light and it could kill the morale of the other team members and bring them down. So I excused her from the teamwork for 2 months and told her to work closely with me.
Why I did that was to help her to stop being pessimistic. As a motivational speaker and her boss, I started mentoring her. I taught her to identify and focus on her good qualities and to face her fears.
I realize that pessimism is a thing of the mind and is triggered by past incidence or situation. So if she could learn to face her inner fears, she would be able to handle situations better.
I recommend how to overcome with fear: befriend your fear
After a while, I noticed an improvement in her and I delegated some tasks to her. Today, she’s a team leader and very optimistic.
Please note that being pessimistic isn’t always bad, it actually makes people closer to reality and be less disappointed and frustrated. However, pessimism shouldn’t be the order of the day. You can be an optimist and yet be realistic by taking measures. Have various plans for an alternative approach to situations (plan A-Z).
Not everyone can effectively manage a pessimist, so it’s best to avoid people who never see positivity in anything. Create boundaries and minimize the time you spend with pessimists because it’s important to your sense of wellbeing.
Advice and encourage a pessimist to take professional help. Let the pessimist work on his/herself first. Don’t let anyone be a drag on you. One of the characteristics of a great leader is to shun negativity and lead a positive lifestyle.
Whenever you feel stressed or exhausted, always learn to take a break. I know you have so much to do and time is a limited resource. But the truth is that you won’t achieve anything meaningful when you are feeling stressed or exhausted.
If you go on struggling with your body and mind, you will realize it’s a waste of time. What you are supposed to accomplish within 2hours, will take you 12hours.
Taking a break is important for managing stress. Why not take a break to replenish your mind and re-energize your body. It is important to always stay positive, it will help you to develop your decision making skill. Don’t let anyone or anything drain the life out of you. Ensure to maintain a positive mindset.
Further reading recommendation:
7. Embrace playfulness
Don’t take life too seriously! This is the key to overall wellbeing. Play is a way to explore the world and live life to the fullest.
You don’t have to play with toys or games. Playfulness is all about openness to try something new, responsiveness, willingness to let go and express feelings openly.
Qualities of playfulness are being fun, and lively. Playfulness is the key to creativity and innovation, it awakens the mind.
Playfulness is part of my daily life. If you give me 5 hours to do a task, most especially if it’s a cognitive task, don’t be surprised to see me watching movies or chatting with friends for the first 2 hours.
Over time, I have realized that when I relax my brain, my creativity peaks. Amazing ideas and solutions start flowing through my mind freely. And it is those moments that make me feel like a genius.
Within the 3 hours I have left, I will be able to complete the task without stress. The first 2 hours I spent playing was my initializing stage. At this stage, I get a clear picture of what I am supposed to do.
Playfulness awakens creativity
Whenever I notice my employees are feeling so stressed due to an approaching deadline, I give them a recess break. Yeah, I am aware of the threatening deadline, but we will still take a break.
We will start talking, cracking jokes, playing comic videos and playing music and games. During the recess, everyone becomes hyperactive and tend to be relieved from stress.
Our morale becomes so high by the time we go back to tackle the task at hand. And it helps to improve competencies and productivity.
Playfulness is one of the effective stress management strategies leaders need to embrace to improve everyday functioning.
As adults, we often undermine playfulness because we believe that it’s only associated with children. But this is often a missed opportunity for creativity and growth.
If you want to enjoy creativity in business, career or relationship, don’t be so uptight, try to loosen up.
Do you still remember this popular quote? ‘All work and no play, makes…” I know you know it, kindly complete the quote.
One of the strategies to improve team performance is to embrace playfulness. Embracing playfulness and practising mindfulness is how to manage a team, leading a team through change and stress.
If you are looking for keys to successful teamwork, don’t underestimate playfulness. Trust me! Cultivate a playful mindset and culture.
So if truly you want to improve your leadership skills, learn to embrace playfulness and practice mindfulness. It will help you lead an active life.
Don’t think that if you embrace playfulness, your followers or employees will be disrespectful to you, and would think that you are being weak, childish or crazy. Embracing playfulness is an act of bravery. And it has a positive influence on you and others, promoting happiness and good wellbeing.
However, don’t forget that there is a limit to everything!
8. Be a fan of your teammates or followers
Always desire the best for your teammates or followers. Their success should be your success. It is good to be a player, it is also cool to be a fan. So let your followers know that you’ve got their back.
Great leaders are great followers. Leaders know when to lead and when to follow. To make good team, leaders need to encourage and empower their team. Be their cheerleader!
Effective leaders are a source of inspiration for the team, people, and organization. Therefore, a good leader knows how to identify and nurture the talent and skill of his/her people/ team.
Acknowledging and rewarding goodness is one of the good team leader qualities. A good leader should always give feedback, inspire and encourage the team.
Great leadership is not about authority, it’s about influence.
Improve your leadership skills by influencing your followers. A great leader doesn’t put his/her followers or team down.
Be mindful of what you say as a leader. Use your leadership skills in mobilizing power and people to accomplish goals. The ability to carry everyone along is what makes a good leader.
9. Know your leadership style
Understanding your personality will give you insight into your leadership styles. It is very important to know your style of leadership, management and coaching. You can improve your leadership skills by knowing your leadership style and focusing on what works best.
Style of leadership
There are different styles of leadership. Many leaders are able to develop and combine different styles for effective leadership, management, coaching and team building.
- Democratic leadership: the leader involves the followers/employees in the decision-making process.
- Autocratic leadership: the leader gives an order (what to do and how to do it) without asking for advice or opinion from followers/ employees.
- Laissez-faire leadership: the leader gives free-will to follower/ employees.
- Coaching leadership: the leader teaches and supervises followers/ employees.
Best leadership styles
Every leadership styles have their cons and pros depending on the situation or issue at hand. I wouldn’t say a specific style of leadership is the best because it depends on the situation.
For example, if you have a new employee who has no experience, the autocratic leadership may be the best style. You should tell the employee what to do and how to do it based on your experience and expertise. That way, the new employee can learn, and obtain knowledge through your guidance.
If you are dealing with an experienced employee, democratic leadership may be the best style. That way, you brainstorm together and come up with a mind-blowing solution.
If you are dealing with highly skilled employees, laissez-faire leadership may be the best style. Give them the free will to do what they know how to do best. All you have to do as a leader is just to share one or two opinions and then approve the task if satisfactory done.
If you are in a situation where result/ performance requires improvement, the best leadership style is coaching leadership. You motivate, inspire, and encourage your team to boost their morale and increase performance skills. Coaching will have a positive effect on your team performance.
For good leadership skills, a leader needs to know how to blend various types of leadership styles.
As a leader, know your primary leadership style and learn how to blend it with others, to enhance your leadership potential for effective leadership.
Take free leadership styles quiz online to know your leadership style.
10. Handle failure like a pro
Failure is part of the learning process. Some things are bound to fail, so when it fails, don’t be too harsh on yourself or your followers instead learn from it. There is always room for growth, improvement and success.
Failure often helps to develop your leadership potential if you are willing to acquire knowledge. It’s OK to admit mistakes; it doesn’t make you less than a leader. It shows how wise you are and your willingness to obtain lesson from mistakes. Also, failure helps to point out leadership improvement areas, and encourage you to develop leadership soft skills.
When it comes to team failure, don’t continue to find faults in your team. Point out where and what went wrong and motivate the team to work on improving it. One of the skills of a leader to handle failure involves great troubleshooting skills.
Set more short-term SMART goals for your team, to leverage failure into success.
Short-term goals are really needed because it makes it easier for you to measure your progress as you strive towards the long-term goals.
Make good use of strategic thinking, and management skills to turn failure into an opportunity for growth and success.
What is leadership, if you cannot effectively handle failure? The full package of leadership includes failure. So don’t let insecurities, self-doubts, pain, mistakes etc. get the best of you.
Always pick up yourself, get back into the car and ignite the engine again. Improve your leadership skills by learning how to handle failure like a pro.
Further reading recommendation:
Ensure to improve your basic leadership skills by practising the top 10 ways to improve leadership effectiveness. You can as well engage in Leadership skills training program.
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Copyright by Ayobami Abiodun