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How to improve leadership skills in the workplace

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Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 02/08/2021

No matter where you are in your career the prospect of advancing to the top of your field is what makes it possible to keep plugging away, honing your skills and taking on new projects.

Continuously improving your technical skills and demonstrating your strong work ethic will take you so far in your career journey but after a certain point, you’ll also need to focus on soft skills in order to take on a leadership role.

Some people are natural leaders, but anyone can develop the leadership skill set needed with some practice. You can use leadership skills in any industry and role, especially if you’re in a leadership role or are striving for one. Even if you aren’t in a leadership role, leadership development is still super important and investing in it makes you an ideal employee in any workplace.

In this blog, we’ll delve deep into the world of leadership skills and explore exactly what it takes to be a good leader so you can keep advancing your career. So, if you’re interested in developing leadership skills at work, you’ve come to the right place.

What are leadership skills?

According to Indeed, “leadership skills are the abilities used in organising people and teams to reach a common goal.” These skills enable you to provide clear instructions, delegate responsibilities, set achievable goals, motivate others and manage deadlines. Leadership skills cover a huge range of different attributes, including personality traits and developed skills.

There are tonnes of different leadership skills and a good leader will boast a wide variety of skills that can be put to good use in a variety of job roles. These leadership qualities can be fostered and developed throughout your career to help you, your colleagues and your business to progress and to achieve goals. Developing leadership skills provides you with a great foundation for moving into leadership roles and make you a more effective employee.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to developing leadership skills

Examples of leadership skills

As stated above, developing good leadership skills takes practice and requires honing your own personal leadership style. Here are some examples of leadership skills to help you understand:

Communication

Communication skills are incredibly important no matter your role or position. Communication skills include but are not limited to: writing, listening, speaking and presenting. Having effective communication skills enables you to decide the best mode of communication for specific messages, such as an email compared to an in-person meeting.

Delegation

Delegation refers to your ability to assign tasks to yourself and others. When you’re a good delegator you can select the best team member for the task and provide them with clear instructions.

Dependability

To be an effective leader, others need to be able to depend on you and people should feel like they can trust you to complete a task right and on time. You should set a standard of behaviour and work ethic that others can depend on you to maintain in the workplace. Being dependable also means leading by example to encourage others to act the same.

A good leader can delegate with ease

Integrity

Having integrity means being honest and sticking to your morals, irrespective of any pressure you’re under. Integrity also involves being accountable for your actions or mistakes, and great leaders sometimes hold themselves accountable for their team’s errors too.

Decisiveness

If you’re decisive you can quickly make educated and high-quality decisions, even under pressure.

Motivation

Motivating others is an essential leadership skill. You must be able to convince your team to complete tasks, reach goals and develop in their own careers. Having self-motivation is also important.

Conflict management

The ability to resolve conflicts means you can effectively mediate between parties who have different stances on a topic or situation, and it is a highly regarded skill that’s difficult to master. An effective leader would use conflict management to understand each side’s argument, assist in examining all arguments, mediate a discussion between the sides and move the conversation towards a compromise.

Team building

Distinguishing strengths and areas for improvement in each member of your team helps to create skilled teams with compatible personalities and is one of the most important leadership skills to develop. Team building also involves being able to promote collaboration and support through training and bonding activities that allow teams to get to know each other better as professionals and even friends in their personal life.

Being able to motivate employees is a good leadership skill

How can you improve your leadership skills?

Leadership qualities and skills can be enhanced through practice and working towards building your expertise in a particular area.

Here are some ways to improve your leadership skills and make a positive impact on your career development.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Even if you aren’t in a leadership position right now this exercise is still relevant.

Think about the kind of leader that you currently are against the kind of leader you want to be.

How big is the gap between your current leadership level and your envisioned leadership potential? What do you need to do to get to the level you desire?

It can help to actively seek critical feedback from others and use this information to improve yourself.

Remember to be kind to yourself whilst undertaking this exercise, success doesn’t happen overnight, focus on improving your strengths over time.

Learn to follow

If you’re truly interested in developing leadership skills you must learn to follow as well as lead. An effective leader has no problem giving control to another person when appropriate. And you should never feel threatened when someone disagrees with you, questions your thinking, or puts forth ideas of their own.

Learn from other leaders

As well as learning how to follow you should also learn from other leaders.

Learning from proven leaders can help you determine which leadership style you’d prefer to adopt, notice how they use their skills and further your leadership development.

The leaders you choose to learn from could be celebrities, business owners, or even an important friend or family member who has inspired you.

Learn leadership skills from other leaders and those you look up to

Be a good listener

Good listening skills are necessary if you want to succeed as a leader.

When you take time to listen properly, it helps the other party to feel acknowledged, understood, appreciated and respected.

Simple strategies for active listening include upholding eye contact when talking with someone, smiling, asking questions to gain a better understanding/show interest and answering questions.

Seek a mentor

A good leadership mentor can help you improve your leadership skills more quickly.

Ideally, a mentor should be an experienced leader and someone you trust.

A good mentor should be available, approachable, willing to listen and coach, willing to share their knowledge, offer advice and feedback.

To make the most of your mentorship, take note of the way they work. Examine how they motivate people, how they set goals, how they give direction, how they make decisions, how they give feedback, how they adapt to different challenges and environments and how they delegate work etc.

Take on more projects

An excellent way of developing your leadership skills is to take on more responsibility. You shouldn’t take on more than you can handle, but you do need to do more than simply what’s covered in your job description if you want to grow. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the only way you will learn anything new and doing so will get you noticed as someone who takes initiative.

Set high standards for yourself and others

To improve leadership skills a leader needs to lead by example to create a positive impact on employees.

Try to be a leader who sets high standards for themselves and watch others follow.

If you lead by example others will follow

Practice humility

Having lots of confidence is great for leadership roles, however, you must remain humble.

A humble person knows that it’s not just about them, they are able to focus on other people and the big picture that the company is aiming for. Being humble does not mean that you are a pushover and people can walk all over you, however.

Manage conflict

As a current or future leader, you will face conflict at the workplace. In these cases, conflict management is a key skill that will serve you well.

Potential problems can arise if a conflict isn’t dealt with properly. Unresolved conflicts can lead to stress, tension, frustration, disappointment, anger, communication breakdown and lack of trust.

To resolve conflict, try to understand each side’s argument, assist in researching all arguments, mediate a discussion between the parties and move the conversation towards a compromise, as mentioned above.

Find leadership resources

There are many free resources available that can help you develop your leadership qualities.

Why not look for interviews and news from leaders you admire. You could also listen to podcasts that feature industry leaders or are focused on professional development.

In addition to books or podcasts, you can be even more proactive in developing your leadership skills. Generation Next has a wide range of leadership resources available that guide you through the process of identifying and developing your abilities.

In our leadership programmes, you’ll learn from proven leaders using proven techniques.

Leadership styles

As well as developing leadership skills, it’s also important to learn about leadership styles.

Various leadership styles have emerged and developed over time, each enabling great leaders to provide direction, implement plans and motivate people.

These can be broadly grouped into five different categories:

  1. Authoritarian leadership
  2. Participative leadership
  3. Delegative leadership
  4. Transactional leadership
  5. Transformational leadership

Let’s explore each style:

Authoritarian

Authoritarian leadership styles allow one single leader to impose expectations and define outcomes. Although authoritarian leadership is efficient in time-constrained periods, creativity can often be stifled since input from the wider team is limited. The authoritarian leadership style is also used when team members need clear guidelines.

Participative

Participative leadership styles are based on democratic theory and encourage team members to be involved in the decision-making process. In participative leadership, team members feel included, engaged and motivated to contribute. However, if there are disagreements within a group, it can be a time-consuming process to reach an agreeable outcome.

Delegative

Delegative leadership focuses on delegating initiative to team members. This can be a successful strategy if team members are competent, take responsibility and prefer engaging in individual work.

Delegating tasks is a key leadership skill to develop

Transactional

Transactional leadership styles use ‘transactions’ between a leader and their followers. Using rewards or punishments to get the job done.  The leader sets clear goals, and team members know how they’ll be rewarded for their compliance.

Transformational

In transformational leadership styles, the leader inspires followers with a vision and encourages and empowers them to achieve it.

It is important to recognise and understand different leadership styles however, you are unlikely to be a successful business leader simply by mimicking these. Leadership is not about providing a certain response in a certain situation. It’s about using your natural leadership strengths in an authentic manner to inspire and motivate others.

Learning different leadership skills and styles can help propel your career and build confidence

The important thing to note though is that there is no right or wrong style of leadership. By identifying which leadership style you have or which you want to use, you can refine the skills needed for that style and find opportunities to keep improving.

Developing leadership skills at work – how Generation Next can help

Good leadership skills are essential to career development.

At Generation Next, we know how important it is to develop leadership skills – so we work with people like you to help you thrive and give you the opportunities you need to grow.

By becoming a Generation Next member you can access a huge resource bank of business support and advice from real experts, helping to develop your leadership skills and knowledge, whatever career stage you’re at.

We host a range of formal and informal networking events designed to put you in front of the people you need to succeed and even find a leadership mentor you could learn from.

As well as networking, Generation Next can also help you cultivate your leadership skills via our dedicated programme of educational workshops, hosted by business leaders who want to share their unique insights to help you grow.

Plus, you can hone your leadership skills by giving the next generation of leaders in the East Midlands a voice, shaping policy and contributing to our communities.

With the right support, there’s no knowing what can be achieved. For more information on how Generation Next can help with soft skills training, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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