Taking on the role of a leader comes naturally to some… and not so naturally to others.
Whether you see yourself as a born leader or a reluctant one, you must continue to develop yourself as a leader to thrive.
Here are 8 actionable ways you can progress along your path to becoming a better leader.
1. Align Your Attitude
Positive people are much more likely to get positive outcomes. You don’t need to be a believer in the Law of Attraction or The Secret to understand that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.
If you want to be a better leader, then you should think about how your attitude affects the way your direct reports perceive you. Do you snap at them when the chips are down or are you there to create actions that prevent crunch times from happening?
Think before you speak and align your response to the attitude that gets results.
2. Know Your ‘Why’
The path to becoming a great leader is fraught; without proper motivation, you might not make it to the end. Think about your ‘why’.
Why do you want to be a leader? Why do you want to be in your industry? Why do you want to progress?
Examples of popular reasons to work your hardest include providing for your family, reaching a salary that you promised yourself, or buying that dream home.
These should be long-term drivers of success. Don’t think about your reasoning for getting through the next year; think bigger!
You might think that you know what this is, but really digging down into what you want in life will serve to motivate you in the long term.
Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward. You’ll be able to make more intentional choices for your business, your career and your life. You’ll be able to inspire others to buy from you, work with you and join your cause.
3. Hone Your Communication Skills
The best leaders are able to communicate what they mean both fully and succinctly.
If you waffle on and on in emails, this wastes your colleagues’ time and they’re less likely to take note of the most important points.
On the other hand, if you’re too succinct and miss out important pieces of information then your colleagues may not fully understand what you’re trying to convey.
Seek to improve all your communication skills, not just the electronic ones! Practice what you want to say before you say it; this will ensure you’re imparting the right information in an appropriate and succinct way.
For longer messages, work on prioritising the important points first and delivering these in an easy-to-digest manner.
As you come to know your colleagues, you can also tailor your communication style to their personal preferences to get the results you’re looking for.
4. Continue Your Education
If you’ve excelled in your career and been promoted to a leadership role, this doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels.
Reading books, listening to podcasts and seeking out a professional qualification are all ways that you can continue your education as a leader.
Management books are popular for a reason, and once you get to know the authors who inspire you most, you can revisit these books again and again to reinvigorate your passion for leadership.
In the last decade, the role of a leader in the workplace has changed significantly. It’s in your best interests to keep up with new innovations, strategies and experiences that could take you to the next level.
5. Encourage Feedback
The best people to tell you how you’re performing as a leader are those working under you.
By showing that you’re receptive and open to feedback, you can elicit truly honest opinions.
Be very careful when receiving feedback; if you snap or get emotional even once, you could effectively close off this feedback source in future.
If you’ve already reacted poorly to feedback from team members, you might need to get creative about how you ask for feedback. You could set up an anonymous online form, ask for feedback to be filtered through your own manager, or arrange a 360 evaluation.
To respect the time that your colleagues have taken to give you feedback, you should try to act on their advice where appropriate. If this won’t be feasible, explain to them why this is the case to create a culture of respect among your team.
6. Coach and Mentor
The processes of coaching and mentoring your colleagues not only assists them with their own development but also improves your own experience.
There’s nothing to say that you can’t learn from a less experienced colleague, as they may have an entirely different viewpoint than your own.
Working with another colleague to improve their performance or set them up for a better position can also be hugely rewarding. This can reignite your spark as a leader and help you to see the value that you bring.
7. Nurture Your Intuition
Your gut feeling is important, so put it to good use! Learning to evaluate options and make decisions quickly when needed is a vital part of honing your business acumen.
This doesn’t mean that you should instantly veto a proposal because you don’t like it, but you should fully explore why you’re reticent about the idea. You may have subconsciously linked a proposal to a past experience or an article you’ve read, or there may be a more concrete reason for the warning bells.
In either case, it’s important to think consciously about what’s influencing your feelings in order to avoid any pitfalls and nurture your intuition.
8. Be Grateful
Never underestimate the value of expressing gratitude to those around you. You’re the leader, but you wouldn’t reach your goals by working alone. Spread positivity and gratitude to make your team feel appreciated.
Leaders that express this will get more from their team. This also sets a positive tone and culture for others, as they’ll look to you for cues on how they should act.
Make sure you use this appropriately; you don’t want to spend 30 minutes praising someone for passing you a pen. If the gratitude is excessive then the positive effects begin to wear off and could even become patronising.
Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight, but by continuing to develop yourself, you have the potential to achieve your professional goals. Make it easy for others to respect you and continue to push yourself to improve, and the pieces will fall into place.