Leadership is one of those skills that’s highly valued, but difficult to develop if you aren’t born with the propensity to direct and manage others.
But don’t let that stop you! Because leadership is so highly valued in the workplace, it’s a good idea to put some effort in developing your own skills in this area. If the thought of putting yourself in the spotlight makes you panic a little, try the following steps in order to become a better leader:
Step #1 – Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Before you begin this process, clear your mind of any pre-existing conceptions you hold on what “leadership” means. Too many of us think of leaders as drill sergeant, attention-seeking types who get their thrills from telling others what to do – but the reality is that this is only one type of leader.
In fact, there are plenty of different leadership styles out there – including one that prefers to operate from the shadows by delegating tasks to others and only following up to ensure their completion. So don’t worry if you don’t feel like barking out orders like some sort of commander heading into battle. There’s a place for everybody at the leadership table!
To get started on your own leadership journey, take a few moments to identify your own strengths and weaknesses. How do you feel when you’re placed in the spotlight? How do you prefer to communicate and interact with others? And how to do you handle situations in which tasks aren’t completed on time or to your specifications?
By understanding the unique skills and perspectives you bring to the table, you can begin to develop your own concept of what “leadership” means to you.
Step #2 – Lead from a “you” perspective
If you’re comfortable giving direct, sometimes critical feedback, then a more extroverted process of leadership will suit you best. Or, if you tend to avoid conflict, a strategy that relies more heavily on delegation and teamwork will help you to get the job done.
But whatever leadership strategy you decide to pursue, it’s important to manage from a “you” perspective.
Essentially, this means that a project or objective isn’t about you, the leader. Instead, it’s about managing the resources on your team effectively in order to ensure that the necessary work gets done.
To do this effectively, you can’t prioritize your own success as a leader ahead of the achievements of the group. While it’s natural to want to take credit for your accomplishments, putting the potential for your own recognition ahead of your team’s dynamics is a sure-fire recipe for disaster!
Instead, take the time to get to know all the different members of your team – as well as how they operate most effectively. If you’re working with a mixture of introverts and extroverts, you may need to adapt your management style in order to help each employee to reach his or her own potential. Support your team members and take more pleasure in their success than in your own – believe me, your value as a manager who can balance these different challenges and still wind up with a successful project outcome will be recognized and rewarded by others in your company!
Step #3 – Solicit honest feedback
Of course, this vision of a team working harmoniously in balance is often just that – a vision of what could be, not what actually is!
Be aware that it can take time to develop your leadership skills and to embrace your own unique style of leadership (especially if your skills put you in direct opposition to commonly accepted forms of leadership). However, the one thing you can do to speed up the process of leadership learning is to solicit honest feedback from both your superiors and the people you’re supervising to determine where improvements can be made.
This can be done in a number of different ways, from asking staff members to provide feedback throughout a project to sitting down with individuals after the fact and asking for their honest reviews.
Unfortunately, you may not always like what you hear. Negative criticism can be difficult to accept and can bring down your confidence in your ability to lead effectively – that is, unless you choose to view this feedback as a learning opportunity. Even if you’re truly upset about a piece of feedback that’s given, thank the deliverer and allow yourself some time to process both your immediate feelings and your later, more rational thoughts on how you can improve.
It can be a frustratingly slow process – especially if you feel that you aren’t inherently suited for leadership roles. But by taking the time to understand the unique strengths and weaknesses that you bring to the leadership table, you’ll go on to develop both a highly valuable skill and the respect of people below you and above you within your organization.