- Understand yourself
- Set goals
- Work on your communication skills
- Connect with people
- Learn to manage up
- Take initiative
- Invest in learning
- Manage time
We are led to believe that leadership is a quality that is reserved for a select few. That it is a gift that either you have or don't have. We'd like you to consider that leadership is like a muscle. If you work on it, you can develop it. All of us are capable of being leaders in our own right. Many of us are already leaders. If you are a parent, manage a home, lead a project, or even are a solopreneur, you are a leader already. You may not be leading a large group of people yet, but you are already a leader.
All good leaders invest in developing themselves. Learning new skills and management techniques that can help them help others. Be it reading a new book, take a class, or even just reading an article on developing the leader within you (much like this one) are all crucial to being a better leader. In this article, we will talk about small but important steps you can take to become a better leader.
All leaders have a deep understanding of who they are. They are comfortable in their skin and often take steps to understand themselves better. There are many ways to learn more about yourself. For instance, you can take leadership tests or even other standardized tests to see what motivates you. What type of leader are you? What is your approach to getting things done?
You can learn more about yourself by also practicing meditation and other spiritual practices. You will learn more about yourself by diving deeper. These practices will not only help you understand yourself better but also make you centered and calm. These skills are extremely vital when you have to guide others during a stressful situation.
These practices also develop an important life skill - self-love. Accepting and embracing who you are, as you are is extremely important for any leader. You want to like yourself before anyone else likes you. But self-love is deeper than that. It build integrity within which is reflected in all your relationships without.
...and achieve them on time. Even if you aren't a leader yet, get the practice of setting goals and working towards them. This will help you to think ahead, plan, chart a course, and also get things done. Make sure that the practice goals you set are achievable and reasonable. Start with smaller goals and tasks first and then take on more challenging assignments. While doing this exercise can be fun, remember that you cannot achieve your goals at the expense of your health or relationships.
If you fail to achieve your planned goal then don't just get on to the next one or even waddle in self-pity. Take the time to understand why you were not able to achieve your goal. What went wrong? Were you overly ambitious? Did you not bake in the time for relaxation? Were your goals not measurable? Were they not clear? A big part of leading is to learn the lesson when you fail so you can avoid the same mistake again.
Communication is key when you want to lead. The most important communication skill is to learn to listen to others. Not just with your years but also with your eyes. Observe the body language, facial expressions, and gestures. Try to really listen to the person you are talking to. Don't just listen to what is said but also think back to what is left unsaid. Make the person you are talking to heard.
On the other hand, you also need to work on your speaking and writing skills. Writing better emails, being able to talk over the phone/video call, and talking to someone in person are equally important. You can practice talking in front of the mirror and understand how you are coming across to others. If you think that being a leader in the role you want to be in requires public speaking, you can even join the local debate clubs, Toastmasters, or other such courses that help you learn how to speak in public.
Being a leader is people business. Connecting with people and spending time with them becomes extremely important. Going out of your way to talk to people has many advantages. First of all, you get to meet a lot of people and actually understand them. Many of these relationships tend to become lifelong friendships. If that is far-fetched, then talk to people so you can better your communication skills. If you are in a large corporate setting, it may help to have great relationships with colleagues. Not only does that make your work-life fun, but it also makes it productive and satisfying. But it's not just talking to people you work with. It's about talking to people from all walks of life. be it on the metro, shared cab, or in a waiting line, strike up0a conversation with someone. Get to know them and understand them. If you can make them feel better for a moment or even smile, that's an added bonus :)
Often, we talk about leadership in the context of managing or leading a team. While that is an important function, there is an even more important function - managing up. Even if you don't have people who report to you yet, you always have someone to who you report. Learning to manage your manager is an important skill. Instead of them taking the time to understand you, try to understand them. What do they usually struggle with? Not getting that approval? Try to understand why. When was the last time you got the approval? What was different that time? Was it because they had the time to read it in full? Can you possibly summarize your report so it's easy for them to review? Instead of being told to pull those numbers each week, can you anticipate them? Maybe automate them so they can view it whenever they need it? If you make the effort to truly understand your manager and make their life easier, they will take notice. And who knows, you may be on that list of promotions next time.
In line with the principle of managing up, this one is also extremely important. Taking the initiative of projects that usually involve collaborating with other teams can help in developing the leader in you. We are talking about those projects that no one wants to do because it is an added task that does not sound exciting. And you aren't going to be paid more for it. Guess what? That's what good leaders usually do. Take initiative and get things done. Especially those things that most people don't want to do. And leadership and management mean more work. So you want to grow as a leader, this is the right time to practice multitasking.
We often believe that leaders are the smartest people in the room. But the reality is that leaders surround themselves with the smartest people, listen to them, make way so they can do what they do best and when needed, guide them. However, to make those decisions of hiring, guiding, listening, etc, leaders also need to upskill themselves and keep up with the times. While they may not be experts, they have the foundational skills and soft skills required to make big decisions. Investing in learning about your area of expertise as well as soft skills can help in developing the leader in you.
Last but not the least, good leaders learn to manage time. As you can see form the list above, there are several areas you need to tackle if you want to develop the leader in you. To be able to take on even some of the things mentioned above (in addition to the job you are already holding) will require better management skills.
In conclusion, we'd like to leave you with this quote by the wonderful Gloria Steinem. You have been waiting for the leader, for the mentor. But you are that leader already. Trust yourself and follow your heart.
The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you gain the power to change ANYTHING in your life.
We hope that these suggestions to develop the leader within you were helpful. We would love to hear from you. What are some of those things you do on a regular basis to develop your leadership skills?