You can learn leadership skills and develop into an iconic leader if you master these ten skills.
The Most Crucial Leadership Skill
Empathy is a leader’s most critical skill, though it’s often not considered a top leadership skill. Fortunately, schools of thought on leadership are changing. Empathy and emotional intelligence are starting to be taught at various leadership schools, including government schools and in Linked in Learning classes on leadership.
What is Empathy and Why Does it Matter?
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand a problem from their perspective. Empathy is vital as a leadership skill because it’s the key to understanding the viewpoints of the people you lead.
Leading with empathy ensures that you consider the thoughts and feelings of every team member. It makes your team members feel heard and respected, motivating them to follow you. Empathetic leaders lead with compassion and build trust amongst their team.
10 More Essential Leadership Skills You Should Master
Learning empathy is an excellent start to becoming a masterful leader. However, it’s not the only skill you need to master. Learn these ten additional leadership skills and become a great leader that people rely on.
Communication is essential to leadership. As a leader, you must learn how to communicate with your staff clearly, concisely, and in ways they will understand.
Poor leaders often give vague or misleading instructions, then get angry at their teams for producing inadequate work. While it’s true that leaders can’t always provide step-by-step instructions, employees must be appropriately trained and know what to expect when receiving directions. Is there a specific way this project needs to be done, or is there room for creativity and interpretation? A great leader will make sure their employees know when something needs to be completed a certain way and when the employees have the freedom to do things their way.
Communicating these expectations, not just at the outset of a specific task but as a cultural standard, will help you become a fantastic leader.
When in a leadership position, you must listen to your employees. Active listening is about being present when someone is speaking to you. In our world of constantly being on the go, it’s challenging to stop multi-tasking and focus all of your attention on one person, but it’s essential.
Active listening is the act of listening for understanding. Often, when we listen, we only do so to wait for our turn to speak. You may find yourself zoning out or crafting a response while the other person is still talking. Active listening is ensuring you completely understand what the other person is saying.
A great leader must be willing and able to break that mold and try new things. They must think outside the “this is the way it’s always been done” box and develop solutions to modern problems.
Thinking creatively isn’t only about developing solutions. Sometimes, the answer is already there. It’s already been discussed by team members and subordinates. As a leader, it’s your job to see the solution and to have the courage to implement it.
One big mistake that supervisors and bosses make is focusing solely on the mission and forget about the people that complete the mission. As a true leader, your most important job is to develop the people you lead.
Mentorship is the act of coaching and developing people. In a formal mentoring relationship, the mentees are not traditionally direct reports. However, as a leader, you must regularly provide mentorship and guidance to your employees, not just about their current tasks and roles, but about their future, career goals, hopes, and dreams. Mentoring your employees will inspire them to achieve greatness, whether in their current position or future roles.
We’ve all had that leader who micromanages. These experiences likely taught us that micromanagers create toxic work environments.
As a leader, learning how to delegate is immensely important. You can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t expect to. There’s a reason why you have employees, and that’s to do the work. Give them the work to do. Let them do it their way. Trust them to do the jobs that they were hired to do.
You likely are scratching your head, wondering why positivity is listed as one of the top 10 leadership skills. What about being goal-oriented, driven, and decisive?
The truth is that leading with positivity is a key to accomplishing those goals. Study after study has shown that positive leaders who create a culture of inclusion and a positive work atmosphere achieve better results.
It makes sense if you think about it. Are you more likely to put in your best effort for an overbearing, impossible-to-please boss that makes you miserable for eight hours a day or for an optimistic, supportive, caring boss that makes your office life enjoyable?
Great leaders are dependable. Employees should know exactly what to expect when they come to you. They should know how you will react given the circumstances, and they should also know that they can count on you to support them.
There’s a reason why the trust fall exercise is so commonly used in corporate team-building efforts. Being able to trust and rely on your coworkers and leaders is essential. However, it can’t just happen at a team-building practice event. A leader must create a culture of trust and dependability.
To do this, prove to employees that they can count on you to have their back. Fight for them to get raises, promotions, time off, and recognition. Build them up to managers, and give credit where credit is due. Listen to their concerns, and do anything in your power to alleviate them. When employees know they can depend on you, they will be more willing to put in the extra effort for you.
Do you understand the impact that your words and actions have on those around you? Have you ever made a poorly timed joke or said something that fell flat in a crowd?
When you aren’t a leader, getting feedback on your words and actions is easy. Coworkers, friends, and family members will often tell you the joke wasn’t funny, or what you said could be taken differently by different people.
Leaders don’t always have the luxury of people telling them these things. Often, employees will laugh at their employer’s horrible jokes and say everything is great even when it’s not. Some may fear reprisal, others may have a cultural reason to always agree with leaders, and others may not want to cause any waves.
Unfortunately, this aspect of human nature can make it difficult for leaders to know if they are really getting their message across or not. To be an effective leader, you need to be aware of what you say and how the things you say may come across to others.
There will be personality conflicts whenever you have a group of people together. Workers don’t have to be friends with each other. They just need to get along, be civil, and do the job. A great leader recognizes this and refuses to take sides in personality clashes. Instead, a good leader must be empathetic toward all sides of an issue and develop a diplomatic solution.
Diplomacy is about more than compromise. It’s about understanding that different people have different backgrounds, cultures, and opinions and ensuring that those are all considered with potential solutions. Diplomatic leaders respect their employees and ensure that proposed solutions create desired outcomes for all involved.
Being a leader is about guiding employees to a specific outcome. Leaders must consider the end goals and make a plan to achieve those goals. Strategic thinking is identifying short-term and long-term goals for the team and the organization.
Great leaders need to think strategically about what needs to be accomplished next week, next quarter, and next year to keep the business on the right path. Employees want to work for someone who has a plan and can steer the boat. They want to be moving forward with the team. If, as a leader, you can motivate your employees to believe in your strategic goals, you will have a solid team that will blow those goals out of the water. However, you have to be able to see the goals to get everyone else on board. As a leader, you must be able to do the work of developing these long-term plans and make decisions on the best way to achieve desired outcomes.
Develop Your Leadership Skills
At the beginning of this post, we asked if leaders are born or if they are developed. Although some people may have an innate talent for these skills, the vast majority do not. Leadership skills are learned.
Don’t give up if you lack any of these skills. You can still be a great leader. Like any skill, it takes time and practice.
The first step is to take courses in the skills you most need to develop. A class will give you a baseline, someplace to start. The next step is to put the skills you learn into practice. It doesn’t have to be at work. Practice your communication skills by joining a toastmasters club, exercise those active listening muscles with friends and family, and master mentorship by volunteering with kids. There are numerous ways you can put these skills to work outside of a typical job.
You will soon realize that these skills weren’t that hard to develop. They take time and effort, but with practice, anyone can be a great leader.
Learn To Deliver Constructive Criticism
To be a succcessful leader, you must learn to coach your employees. Constructive criticism is essential.
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