By Alexandra Yan
Leadership skills can play a large role in a person’s career development. Technical skills and a college degree may only take you so far. To be an effective leader and help move your career forward, you’ll also need soft skills, such as the ability to be a good listener and communicator.
There are several core leadership skills that are considered important traits to help you become a more effective leader. Whether it’s taking the initiative, developing critical thinking skills, or learning how to motivate and empower those around you, you must constantly be challenging yourself to enhance your leadership capabilities.
By showing that you have what it takes to be a leader, you can fast-track your career. If you’re looking for a new job or promotion, you’re more likely to get where you want to go if you have a steady track record of being successful in leadership roles in your professional and personal life.
There are many different types of leaders, but very few people are natural, born leaders. Most of us need to learn, develop, and improve on how to be a good leader. Leadership development involves identifying and mastering the key skills and characteristics that are required to become a successful leader.
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- Leadership skills are considered critical traits necessary to get to the top of any career field.
- Early on, step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself to improve, and remember; the more work you take on, the more you learn.
- Be a critical thinker; good leaders can foresee potential problems before they happen.
- Learn how to listen and provide feedback since listening effectively to employees and customers are necessary to be an effective leader.
- Motivate and positively influence others, encourage and empower them, and be their support system.
Most bosses will only assign employees tasks they know they can do. That’s why it’s important to volunteer to take on more responsibilities while going above and beyond at your current position. Focus on learning competencies that fall outside your primary knowledge area.
Don’t be complacent. Step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to improve. Remember, the more work you do, the more you are learning. Learning more and taking on more responsibility will eventually help move you into a leadership role at your workplace. Also, others will more easily accept you as a leader when that day comes, because you will have established a track record of taking the initiative, being a student of learning, and using that newfound knowledge for making improvements.
To be hired for a high-profile job, you will need to be a critical thinker. Good leaders can foresee potential problems before they happen. They can also develop ways to prevent problems from happening.
Good leaders are also aware of potential opportunities and take advantage of them to benefit the company and employees. In other words, be proactive. Don’t wait for things to happen; instead, anticipate them, and help the team be ready in case something goes wrong. If you’re a leader and an employee brings a problem to your attention, help them determine the cause and put preventive measures in place to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact the employees, the company, and the customers.
Communication skills are critical to being an effective leader, whether it’s presenting in front of the team, creating and writing a business strategy, or communicating to employees and clients. One of the most important communication skills for a leader is listening. Without listening skills, you are not able to get feedback from others and get a sense of what team members like about the projects they work on.
Oftentimes, managers and leaders must hire people who specialize in certain tasks or specialties. Listening to your team of experts will help you understand what can and can’t be done. Let them have a private discussion with you one-on-one if necessary, to voice any concerns so that you can move forward with everyone on the same page.
Feedback is key. To listen effectively, you need to maintain eye contact, avoid distractions, and respond appropriately. Keep in mind that communication is not just about verbal communication. Be aware of body language and gestures to determine what people are really saying.
A true leader should positively influence people. When employees or coworkers lose their ambitions and passions, a true leader can energize and motivate them. How do leaders motivate people? First, they know what people need and want. For example, if an employee loses motivation because they think their hard work is not being recognized, a good leader will talk to that person and offer the recognition that is deserved.
Sometimes, people lose their motivation because they are facing difficulties, are tired of doing the same repetitive tasks, or are disappointed they are not being asked to get involved. A good leader should seek out team members to see how they’re doing, listen attentively, and empower them to be more involved in the process.
Creating a positive work environment is also a key motivating factor. Establish positive rewards for hitting benchmarks, such as a weekly new client goal or an error-free work week for a production area. Reward them with a Friday lunch or an afternoon of snacks and treats to help people decompress and know that they’re appreciated.
Discipline is required in order to execute the goal. Even if you have a vision or a good idea, it’s useless without discipline. If you want to execute effectively, you need discipline.
For example, say you and your team wanted to create a business plan to attract investors. You had lots of ideas for the business plan, but there was no discipline in place to ensure the presentation was rehearsed. When it came time to present the proposal, you were not able to properly communicate your objective to the investors. This outcome resulted in the investors declining your proposal.
To be a good leader, you need to be self-disciplined, and make sure others on your team are disciplined.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” said John F. Kennedy.1 When things are changing rapidly, it is important to constantly learn and challenge yourself. Study other leaders and their qualities, mannerisms, and the way they communicate. Although you don’t have to copy another leader, incorporate some of their traits into your style.
Know-How to Delegate
According to Theodore Roosevelt, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”2
A successful leader won’t micromanage. Delegate work to your employees and let them feel empowered. If you do this, they will feel more involved and have more opportunities to develop new skills. Delegating will allow you to concentrate on the goals you need to achieve yourself. If you are a project leader, you are still responsible for the work in the end. This is why it is important to oversee the project when delegating and be sure to assign tasks to those who have the skills to complete them. Establishing clarity of roles, responsibilities, and deadlines is critical to delegating and getting a project completed.
Leaders have to know how to handle difficult people and resolve conflicts. If an employee doesn’t work to the best of their ability and brings a negative attitude to work, leaders have to step up and talk to that person in private.
Leaders have to be honest and straightforward. This requires a lot of courage. It is not easy to point out a problem or fire someone, so remember to always listen to the employee’s side of the story before you reach a conclusion and take action.
Be a Follower
Leaders should learn to recognize the value of team members, learn from them, and encourage other team members to learn from them. Learn things that you didn’t know from a person who specializes in a particular area. If an employee has a new idea, encourage it, and see where it goes. Be one of their biggest fans. Help them to step out of their comfort zone and by believing in them; you’ll instill confidence. Recognize when one of your employees is taking the type of initiative that you took when you were just starting out, building your skillset, and honing your leadership skills.
The Bottom Line
Good leadership skills are essential to career development. If you want to improve your leadership skills, think about what actions you can take to be more influential. If you are already a leader, think about how you can influence others.
*Alexandra Yan is a financial analyst for Investopedia ULC, where she specializes in financial analysis and research.
*This article first appeared on the investopedia.com website.