01 Aug Learning to be a leader
Leaders are made, not born. Fortunately, many of us can learn to become great leaders. Leadership skills are developed over time, and the attributes of an effective leader are available to anyone willing to put in the effort. If you want to develop your leadership potential, set yourself on the path to success by fostering the following skills…
Communicate clearly, and often
The ability to communicate clearly (and frequently) is one of the most critical leadership skills you can learn. As a leader, your team will look to you for guidance, clarity and purpose. Make sure you have a clear idea of what needs to be achieved (and why), and share this with your team to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
This can’t be a ‘one and done’ situation either – you need to keep communicating constantly to keep people on track. Make sure you’re touching base with your team all the time – whether in person, via email, over the phone, or even online messaging. The more effective a leader is at communicating, the less mistakes you’ll see happening due to miscommunication.
Be open and upfront with your team. People don’t like being kept in the dark, and they definitely don’t like being lied to. If you expect your team to be honest with you, lead by example. A little transparency goes a long way when you’re trying to build trust. Of course, there will always be certain information which must remain private, but be transparent about what you’re unable to share and why.
Respect your team’s questions and concerns. People will understand that transparency has its limits if you are always as open and honest as you can be. It’s also important to show integrity in your dealings with your team. If you’ve made a promise, keep it. Trust is difficult to repair once it’s been broken, and nothing destroys your credibility and any trust you had built up like a broken promise.
Trust your team
As a leader, you must learn to delegate tasks, and trust that your team will get them done. Leaders who insist on holding on to critical responsibilities and who micromanage their team make employees feel like they can’t be trusted with the work. Value the contribution that each team member makes by identifying what they’re good at, trusting them with the responsibility, and allowing them the freedom to complete tasks in the way that they see fit. Also invest in training and facilitate constant learning, so that you’re constantly preparing your team for new and more challenging responsibilities.
Motivate and inspire
To be a successful leader, you need to recognise that everything is not about you – your focus needs to be on helping your employees and your team reach greater heights. To do this, you need to unite them through a shared vision, working towards a common purpose. It’s up to you to inspire your team to share the big picture vision and make them feel an integral part of it. Motivate them by celebrating achievements and giving recognition where it’s due. Make people feel important, and that their work is important, to keep morale high. A positive attitude is key to keeping your team motivated.
Lead by example
To lead by example, acknowledge that you are there to support your team and enable their success in whatever way you can. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ also applies here. If you expect respect, show respect. Treat your team as you would have them treat you, and your clients. A leader is not above getting their hands dirty to help their team.
Being a great leader is often about doing the best you can with what you have, and putting your team first. If you want to develop your leadership potential, commit to continuous learning and personal growth throughout your career. There is always more to learn, so be open to criticism and feedback, and treat your mistakes as learning opportunities.