The prospect of advancing to the top of one’s field is what makes it possible for many people to keep plugging away at their jobs, honing their skills, and taking on new projects. But after a certain point, career development depends on more than technical skills and a willingness to work hard. You also need a few soft skills, not the least of which is the ability to take on a leadership role.
Some people are natural leaders, but anyone can develop the skill set needed with some practice. If you want to take your career as far as possible, you have to be willing to put in the work. Here are nine strategies to help you develop your leadership skills and advance your career.
What is a leader?
Before we dive into how to become a leader, it’s important we cover what a leader is.
At its most basic definition, a leader is someone who leads a group of people toward a common goal through inspiration, motivation, and a strong vision setting.
For instance, a teacher leads her students toward the goal of learning and uses motivation and inspiration to help them reach that goal.
The motivation and inspiration aspects are key. A leader isn’t just someone who barks orders and hopes people obey. Instead, an effective leader is highly emotionally intelligent and connects with his or her direct reports to create stronger relationships before driving the group toward change.
Additionally, a good leader is someone who is effective at big-picture strategizing, and equally adept at communicating that vision to the rest of the team.
If you’re still unsure what a leader is, here are a few quotes from leaders who’ve defined the term for themselves:
“As a business leader, I think of myself as a coach. It’s my responsibility to build a strong team, design a winning strategy, and execute the strategy with excellence to bring the team to victory.”
Find out your ideal leadership style based on your personality here: Which of These Leadership Styles Is Right For You? (Decision Tree) learn leadership skills from experts at the leadership development program in India.
1. Practice discipline
A good leader needs discipline. Developing discipline in your professional (and personal) life is a must to be an effective leader and to inspire others to be disciplined as well. People will judge your capacity to lead by the amount of discipline you display at work.
Demonstrate discipline at work by always meeting deadlines, keeping appointments, and ending meetings on time. If you are naturally disorganized, then you may have your work cut out for you, but you can always start small. Try implementing good habits at home, like waking up early and getting daily exercise, and work your way up from there.
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2. Take on more projects
A great way to develop your leadership skills is to take on more responsibility. You don’t have to 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 by executives as someone who takes initiative. Live projects from experienced experts in leadership development.
3. Learn to follow
A true leader has no problem yielding control to another person when appropriate. You should not feel threatened when someone disagrees with you, questions your thinking, or puts forth their own ideas. Keep an open mind and give merit where merit is due. It won’t always be easy, but if you learn to value and respect others on your team, they’ll be more likely to step up to the plate for you.
4. Develop situational awareness
A mark of good leader is someone who can see the bigger picture and anticipate problems before they occur. This is a valuable skill to have when handling complex projects with tight deadlines. The ability to foresee and provide suggestions for avoiding potential problems is invaluable for a leader. This ability also helps you recognize opportunities that others overlook, which will certainly earn you recognition. This can be especially difficult to develop when leading remote teams but with practice, you can become more attuned to your teams and projects.
5. Inspire others
Being a leader means you are part of a team, and as a leader, you should be able to motivate and inspire those you work with to collaborate as best they can. When a team member needs encouragement or guidance, offer it. Sometimes, all a person needs is someone to listen and be sympathetic. How to develop leadership skills
6. Keep learning
The best path to becoming a good leader is to be open to learning new things. It keeps your mind sharp and your skills fresh. It primes you for new challenges that may come your way, which is always a good thing for a leader.
7. Empower your teammates
No one is the best at everything, and the sooner you realize that the sooner you can learn to be a good leader. Delegating tasks to others not only frees you up for things you do well, but it also empowers other people on your team.
8. Resolve conflicts
Don’t be a manager from hell! Not everyone will get along all the time. Instead of ignoring interpersonal conflicts and hoping they will go away, address them by talking to those involved privately. Also, be open to reassigning team members if the conflict can’t be resolved.
9. Be a discerning listener
Becoming a leader doesn’t mean you always have to be in the spotlight. How to develop leadership skills An important trait of a good leader is someone who listens to suggestions, ideas, and feedback from other people and builds on them. Good listeners know that communication is not only about words, but picking up on non-verbal cues, such as eye contact and body language.
Good leadership skills are essential to advancing your career, but as you can see, leadership is much more than simply being in charge. As American statesman John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
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Why Goal Setting Is a Critical Component of Good Leadership
As you move into a leadership role, you might feel pulled in many different directions by stakeholders with different goals.
This is why setting goals is vital for leading a team successfully: It keeps you focused on what matters to your team.
When you create goals for your team, you’re effectively prioritizing what you will say yes (and no) to over a given period. Additionally, you’re ensuring your team clearly knows where they’re headed and how to get there — an essential component of good leadership.
Here are a few other reasons goal setting is a critical component of good leadership:
Goal setting helps you enable your employees to work more autonomously. If they know what results in you’re expecting from them, it doesn’t necessarily matter when, where, or how they reach those.
Goal setting helps you stay focused on what matters most for your business. It ensures you don’t get distracted with quick wins, and instead remain fixated on long-term success.
Goal setting can spark more engagement from employees.