As John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”. Any leader who thinks he knows it all and has seen it all and is through learning is going to lose his effectiveness and strength. For a leader to be a strength to his people through time, it is important to be open to learning, improving and growing.
Enhancing your existing leadership skills is essential to stay with the times, and ahead of others.
1. Improving Your People Skills
Everyone who works under you should feel important, respected and valued. If you are great at what you do but not good at making others feel appreciated, your leadership lacks inspiration. Work on your people skills by involving everyone you work with. Seek the opinion of your employees on various counts, respect their views, have group discussion on various matters and pay attention to each individual. Even the smallest efforts such as remembering each team member’s name, asking after their families, remembering a birthday or passing a compliment about the work or otherwise can make all the difference. And as any successful industry leader will tell you, a happy employee is an effective employee.
2. Pay Attention To Your Followers
People can tell when you are genuinely interested and when you are only pretending to be interested. Pay real attention to the people you lead, or you might end up turning them against you or missing out on something important. Develop your listening skills before you work on improving any other traits. Be alter both mentally and physically when you talk to your team- it is important to listen well as well as adopt a posture and expression that displays a keen interest. While listening, let go of any biases or prejudices you might have about an individual, or your vision of them will always be narrowed. When you are in conversation with your team, eliminate all distractions. Pay close attention and make sure you remember all the important things; you never know when it might come in handy.
3. Get The Preparation Part Down Pat
Learn to plan and prepare well. Short-term as well as long-term plans have to be carefully thought-of, structured and executed. When it comes to succeeding in business, you cannot hope for success if you want to wing it or play it by the ear. You must prepare well in advance to be able to perform well when the time comes. Research the situation, evaluate all possible aspects, divide your goals into realistic milestones and create a specific, outlined task for each member of the team.
4. Work On Inspiring Others
motivating and inspiring other people is as important as maintaining your own optimizing. Keep each team member in the loop, talk to them about the goals, encourage them on staying focused and make each employee feel valued and challenged at the same time. Keep the bar high, and every time someone passes it, make sure you reward them and appreciate them suitably. Make achieving goals a positive, enjoyable process.
5. Be Likeable: Be The Leader Others Want To Follow
Being likeable is very important in the corporate environment because one of the biggest complaints of employees is that their bosses are not nice people or don’t promote a happy, healthy atmosphere at the work place. If you are enthusiastic about the work you are doing, as well as the work your team is doing, it is going to translate into more effort. Show that you are pleased with their effort, supervise all the projects and offer advice or praise as it is needed, and give as much help as you possibly can. The people you lead should see you as someone they want to grow and learn under.
6. Dealing With Difficult People
Learning to discipline your followers when they’re not doing well can be tricky. The best way is to discuss the situation quickly and nip it in the bud as soon as you can. While a problem is still fresh, it can be resolved. Leave it for too long, and you’ll have a habit on your hands. If a particular person is responsible, speak to them alone. It is important to maintain that you respect the person in public, even if you do reprimand them in private. Always give the person a chance to explain, even if you’re not seeking an explanation, because it will make him/ her feel respected. And above all else, don’t get petty or personal. Embarrassing someone who made the mistake is the worst possible way to deal with the situation.
7. Take A Leaf Out Of Henry Ford’s Book: Divide The Labor!
Henry Ford had it right with his revolutionary Model-T when he decided to break up the task into smaller, more achievable tasks. The ‘assembly line’ concept that changed the world worked on a very simple principle: each goal was broken up into smaller goals that were assigned to different people and parts. The assembly line was a long set of complementary milestones that tied up together into one final goal. Delegating well is possibly the best way to improve leadership skills. If there are people who you can train to do the work you are doing on your own, you can free up all that time and concentrate on other goals that only you can meet. Identify the individual strengths of your team-members, allocate work accordingly, keep a track of each person’s progress and oversee the entire project. This way you unburden yourself and allow yourself time to do highly specialized work, as well as getting the most out of your employees. It is an empowering move for yourself and your employees.
8. Let History Show You The Way Forward
There is no better coach than history, and no better leader than the one who allows the past to teach him. The annals of time are brightened by great men and women who have changed millions of lives, changed the times they lived in as well as changed future generations for years to come. There is much to be learnt from the leaders of the past, for some leadership traits and techniques will remain effective and relevant forever. Whether it is through the works of Mahatma Gandhi or the speeches of Nelson Mandela, or the grit and genius of Steve Jobs, one can always learn a skill from watching other strong players. The successes of other great achievers, as well as the failures they overcame to get to those successes can be an illuminating way to learn. Even if you are only running an organization or a team within an organization, studying the decisions of acclaimed industry, political, social and religious leaders from around the world can help you enhance your own strengths, as well as adopt new ones. Zero in on common leadership traits and model your own leadership style after that of history’s greats, and one day, you might be remembered just as reverentially.
9. Give Yourself A Chance To Learn
A good leader is one who is willing to grow and learn with his team. Even the best of leaders are followers: allow yourself the opportunity to learn something new or something better from someone who has a skill or a strength that you do not. Also, it is good to return to the basics every once in a while and attend training sessions or workshops or coaching or learning groups, just like the rest of the team. It might seem too simplistic to you at first, but it always pays to touch base with the roots. You might just revisit a great old idea or technique you’d forgotten, or you might learn something new. It will also enable you to watch your team as they grow and learn, thus giving you an insight into their development.
10. Be True To Yourself
One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is to try to ignore their own morals, values and set of ethics in an attempt to move forward or adopt new practices at work. Remember, as a leader you must focus on the future, but you cannot do so at the cost of your own conscience. If you try to stifle that little voice in your head or turn the other way when you come across something that disturbs you, it is going to affect your work and your leadership style. If you are constantly bothered by a bad feeling or a sense of anxiety that nags you through the day, you will hardly be able to work yourself, let alone get others to work. The subconscious mind is a very powerful thing and can completely destroy your career if you choose to fight it. Make choices that are in tune with your values so that you are never at loggerheads with yourself. Integrity is key to being an effective leader, and it makes an already tough road much smoother!
Patrick Alain is the founder of the business communication warehouse LeaderPhrase.com, which is one of the top business, communication, and Leadership strategy source worldwide. Patrick Alain is internationally known for his contribution on some of the best-selling video games around the world.