How to develop as a leader

Whether you are a natural-born leader, or have developed your leadership skills over time, there is always room for growth

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Business News Daily

One way to become a better leader is by setting yourself leadership developmental goals. The goals you set should be geared toward improving your weaknesses and enhancing your leadership style.

We spoke with a number of leaders, and leadership experts, to identify the top development goals every leader can work toward. Keep in mind that the leadership qualities you need to work on will depend on your specific expertise and skill levels.

Become an active listener

A top trait among successful leaders is active listening. An effective leader facilitates a culture of clear communication, and actively listens to what their team has to say. Go into every conversation with the intention of listening to your team’s insights, regardless of whether you receive positive or negative information.

“Showing your willingness to listen will create a strong measure of trust and encourage people to be more vocal and share their ideas,” Michele Hall-Duncan, president and CEO of the enCourage Kids Foundation, told Business News Daily. “This will, naturally, lead to productivity and forward movement toward accomplishing goals for both individuals and the organisation.”

Offer constructive feedback that facilitates growth

Companies that foster clear communication and employee growth often do so through feedback. As a leader, you can drive your team to excellence by providing constructive feedback that focuses on improvement, not fault. Giving feedback is more than just reviewing someone’s behaviours – when done correctly, it can stimulate growth and development. Create an environment where your team feels confident in the intent of your feedback.

“Learn to give feedback in a way that reinforces and affirms the things that people are doing well so that they continue to do those things, but also develop a skill set where you can give feedback around places that need to be optimised in a way that a person is left with a sense of encouragement to grow, or [feels] inspired that they can do better,” says Joey Klein, CEO and founder of Conscious Transformation.

Be adaptable to change and growth

Instead of assuming you know it all, set a goal of being adaptable, and open to learning new things. Openness to change puts you in a better position to successfully run your company. Staying open-minded to new opportunities, and new ways of operating, will help you grow over time.

Improve your emotional intelligence (EQ or EI)

Successful leaders often have high emotional intelligence. The five major components of EQ are self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, social regulation and motivation. These traits help with making decisions, setting goals and managing stress – which are all key elements of leadership. Although some leaders are naturally gifted with high EQ, it is something that can be improved. Joey says that every leader should have a clear understanding of what emotional intelligence is, and also have a plan to develop their capacity for emotional intelligence.

Become more efficient

Leaders often manage various conflicting responsibilities, which is why time management is so crucial. Identify ways you can become more efficient, and work toward these goals. As you become more efficient, you will have more time to spend improving other skills and accomplishing other tasks.

Build dynamic teams

The best organisations are diverse and inclusive, comprising unique individuals. A good leader can objectively identify the best employee for each job in order to create a successful, well-rounded team.

Joey says that leaders often tend to appoint people who are a lot like themselves; however, in order to thrive, organisations are better served by an eclectic team with a dynamic skill set. “Leaders need to get good at evaluating if an individual is right to fulfil the outcome that the organisation has, while being a great fit for the culture,” Joey explains. “The more eclectic teams they can build that are still in coherence with each other, the better.”

Lead by example

The culture and foundation of an organisation start with its leadership. If you want an organisation that facilitates open communication and teamwork, you have to embody those traits. Consequently, if you set a poor example, your employees will be likely to follow that.

“As a leader, you should lead during this time with exemplary actions,” comments Daniel Snow, CEO and founder of The Snow Agency. “You should lead by example, and not illustrate how turbulent times may be affecting you on a personal level.”

Be a mentor

Good leaders are also mentors. Your team looks to you for coaching, counselling and guidance, so make effective mentorship a priority when setting your goals. Create a development plan that helps each team member grow, both as an individual and in their role.

Eliza Nimmich, co-founder and chief operating officer of Tutor the People, says top leaders meet with each member of their team to explore their career goals. “Work with them to think about ways they can achieve these goals,” Eliza explains. “Give them regular feedback and advice after your meeting to help them along the way. Show them that you care about their personal development by taking the time to listen to them, and by identifying new opportunities to challenge them.”

Show appreciation, recognition and empathy for your team

Every great leader recognises that an organisation’s biggest asset is its employees. Express gratitude and appreciation for your team, especially when they reach a new milestone. Having a team of satisfied employees can boost productivity and reduce turnover rates.

“Recognise your staff publicly so they know that they are valued and appreciated,” advises Daniel. “Demonstrate that all the work they are doing is not taken for granted and that they are a very important asset to your company. Have a company-wide meeting where staff can give a shout out to each other on who has been helping them in every way possible, or who has gone above and beyond.”

Be honest, transparent and accountable

Every leader should be honest and transparent with their teams, and must always take accountability for their actions. These qualities facilitate trust between management and employees; this is especially important during times of uncertainty.

“While turbulent times can clearly affect every industry for better or worse, you need to be able to give employees notice, and be transparent with your plans, so that everyone is aligned on your vision,” says Daniel.

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