The world of business is a competitive field, and it can often feel like a race to the top. By taking the time to develop your leadership skills, you can give yourself a head start, setting you apart from the rest and enabling you to get ahead.
But what leadership skills should you be looking to develop to enable you to become an effective leader, and how can you use these skills to your advantage? In this article, we’ll talk you through some of the key skills possessed by some of the top names in business, giving you a head start in your career.
What Makes An Effective Leader?
If you aspire to become a great leader in business, you might be wondering what exactly makes an effective leader. The best leaders possess a wide range of leadership skills, ranging from communication and strategic thinking through to conflict management and team building.
A strong leader won’t just excel in one particular skill – they’ll be experienced in a wide range of skills, creating the perfect balance for strong leadership to form. This will enable them to effectively manage a motivated team of people whilst guiding the business in the direction of success.
But what are the key skills that you should build to become an effective leader? Read on to find out.
What Are Leadership Skills?
Leadership skills are the abilities that enable a person to be an effective leader. This will enable them to organise a team of people and motivate them to work together to achieve a common goal.
Contrary to popular belief, leadership skills aren’t just about telling people what to do. An effective team is organised and motivated, and an effective leader will set achievable goals and manage deadlines whilst supporting their team to reach their targets.
Let’s take a look at some of the core skills required to become an effective leader in business.
Although communication is a valuable skill in almost every job role, this is one of the most important skills of any leader.
You’ll find that most successful leaders are great communicators. This doesn’t just mean that they can talk the talk – they also need to be able to listen. This includes practising active listening skills, with positive body language and knowing exactly which questions to ask to elicit the information you need.
A good leader will also have charisma, enabling them to build rapport with others quickly and effectively. They’ll be assertive when they need to be, making their point firmly but without showing aggression.
Good communication as a leader also means that you are able to provide constructive feedback to both peers and subordinates, without sounding like you’re criticising others’ work. However, you’ll also need to be able to accept feedback on your own work, even if you don’t agree with it.
Finally, you’ll need to feel confident when it comes to speaking in public. Whether it’s leading a meeting with a group of colleagues, presenting in front of the board members or speaking at a public event, you’ll need to have the confidence to project your voice, as well as the charisma to captivate the audience.
Integrity might not be the skill that first springs to mind when you think of leadership, and it is easy to underestimate its importance. However, if you want to be a leader that people believe in, you’ll need to show integrity at all times.
In the modern world, ethics is everything. When people are looking for a leader, they want to be led by someone that is ethical above all else. If a leader acts with integrity, people are more inclined to trust that they will do the right thing for the business, its employees and its customers.
There are a few things that you can do to develop and display integrity in the workplace. Firstly, it’s important to be honest at all times. This means holding yourself accountable and admitting when you make a mistake. A leader doesn’t need to be perfect – allowing yourself to be vulnerable and admitting when something goes wrong is a great way to demonstrate integrity at work.
If you’re working on a project, ensure that you recognise the contributions of everyone in the team. It’s easy to accept praise as a leader, but acting with integrity means acknowledging the role that each team player has also played in the success of the project.
By instilling integrity at the heart of leadership, a company can create a culture that values ethics and integrity, helping to strengthen the company’s position in the market.
3. Strategic Thinking
One of the most important skills that a leader can possess is the ability to think strategically. This means always being aware of the long term goal and ensuring that everything you do aligns to that vision.
It’s easy to be distracted by smaller everyday issues, but a strategic thinker is able to put these to one side and focus on the overall vision.
The first step to becoming a strategic thinker is to clearly define your vision and your long term goals. You need to understand exactly where you want to be before you can start planning how to get there.
Once your vision is clear, you can begin to set achievable short and long term goals that work towards this vision. Don’t forget that all goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound).
When you’re making a decision, it’s important to ask yourself whether it will take you closer to your end goal. If the answer is yes, you know you’re making the right choice. If the answer is no, you’ll need to carefully weigh up whether it fits in with your long term strategy.
By developing your ability to think strategically, both yourself and your organisation will have the best possible chances of reaching your goals and achieving success.
4. People Management
Effective leaders are backed up by a supportive and efficient team. After all, it’s impossible for one person to efficiently fulfil every role in an organisation!
Your success as a leader will depend on the team that you are being supported by, so it’s essential that you know how to manage your team effectively so that they can offer you the support that you need.
People management starts with recruitment. You’ll need to have a solid process in place to ensure that the people you’re recruiting are the right fit for your team, both in terms of skills and experience, as well as their personality. Recruiting people that will work well together will help you to build the strongest possible team.
You’ll also need to be experienced with performance management. Make sure that you celebrate the successes of your team, as well as offering support where required to improve poor performance. It’s important to balance both praise and criticism, giving ensuring that you reward good work whilst offering constructive criticism wherever required to help your team to grow.
Finally, a good people manager is a great listener. This means asking open-ended questions and really listening to the answer. This will enable you to understand the wider picture, as well as making your team feel supported and listened to.
Developing your people management skills will help you to become a better leader, as great leaders are supported by a strong team.
You might think it goes without saying, but a good leader needs to know how to delegate. It can be tempting to try and do everything yourself, but if you try and spin too many plates, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll drop one of them eventually.
Every member of a team has different skills and experience. A great leader understands the strengths of each member of their team and delegates work according to their unique skillset. Not only will this help to reduce the burden on you, but it also helps to motivate your team, by giving them responsibility and making them feel trusted.
Many people find it difficult to delegate, feeling protective of their work. However, if you delegate work carefully, ensuring that each task goes to the most appropriate person, you’ll find that your work is enhanced and morale within your team is increased.
To be an effective leader, you need to know how to motivate your team. This applies whether you are the line manager of the team, or if you are a higher level manager.
When you’re in a position of seniority, it’s essential that you create a motivational environment that enables people to perform at their best. This means ensuring that they feel supported and empowered to carry out their job role to the best of their ability.
One of the best ways to motivate your team is to show your appreciation for them. This means noticing their efforts and rewarding good work. We all want to be appreciated from time to time, and if your team know that their work is appreciated, they’ll be more motivated to perform at their best in the future.
Giving your employees development opportunities and facilitating growth is another great way to keep your team motivated. This can be as simple as offering opportunities for job shadowing across departments or making funding available for both internal and external training opportunities.
7. Conflict Management
No matter how carefully you manage your recruitment process, sometimes there will be conflict in the workplace. Whether this is because two people simply don’t get along, or there’s a clash of opinions when it comes to the best way forward, conflict management is a vital skill that every leader should possess.
A great leader will involve all parties in the conflict management process, keeping the channels of communication open and working together to find a resolution that everyone is happy with. This isn’t always an easy task, and it can take some practice to develop effective conflict management skills, but it’s an ability that every good leader should have.
Once the conflict has been resolved, it’s important to follow up with everyone involved individually. This will enable you to find out if they are happy with the resolution and whether there are any measures that can be put in place to avoid future conflicts from occurring.
8. Change Management
Every organisation goes through periods of change occasionally. Whether it’s a change in direction, a new way of doing things or a new system that is being implemented, it’s important to have a strong leader during a period of change.
When people feel insecure, as is often the case during changes, they look to the leadership for guidance and support. A great leader will guide the team and the wider organisation through the change process, providing stability and structure when it is needed the most.
A change will be most successful when people understand the reasoning and motivation behind it. The role of the leader is to explain the change clearly to the team, presenting compelling arguments in favour of the change. The leader should then drive the change forward, ensuring that it is implemented smoothly within the organisation.
During the volatile change period, it is essential that you are there to listen to any concerns that employees have regarding the change. They need to feel heard and supported in order to have confidence that you are in control of what is happening.
Whilst change management might not be the first skill that springs to mind when you think about leadership, its importance shouldn’t be underestimated, as people often look to leadership in uncertain times.
How To Develop Leadership Skills
It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to developing your skills to become an effective leader. Here are some steps you can take to aid your personal development and hone your leadership skills.
- Take leadership courses – There are plenty of courses around that aim to develop your skills and help you to become a strong leader. Take the time to look at different courses and choose the one that is the right fit for your key development areas.
- Find a mentor – Don’t underestimate the value that a good mentor can provide. Whether it’s an experienced colleague, a network connection or an industry leader, a great mentor will help you to identify your individual leadership style and refine your skills.
- Take the time to reflect – Leadership skills aren’t something you can develop overnight, and even the strongest of leaders are always looking for ways to improve their leadership. You’ll need to continuously work to develop your skills, which means constantly assessing your strengths and looking for new development opportunities to become a better leader.
Leadership can feel like a race to the top at times, and it might seem like an uphill struggle. The strongest leaders have a broad skill set which enables them to strategically manage both their team and the direction of the wider organisation whilst projecting the company values.
By focusing on developing core leadership skills, you can become a better leader and give your organisation the best possible chance of achieving success.