Business Leadership Today

7 Ways To Develop Leadership Skills


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

In the dynamic world we live in, leadership skills are no longer just a requirement for those at the helm of organizations or in positions of power. They have evolved to become essential abilities that can benefit everyone, irrespective of their role or position, both in their personal and professional lives. 

Leadership skills serve as a compass that can help us navigate the complex landscapes of our careers, foster healthier relationships, and achieve personal goals with confidence and clarity. They empower us to influence, inspire, and drive progress, not just for ourselves but also for those around us. 

But the question that arises is—how can we develop these fundamental skills?

The development of leadership skills is not a one-size-fits-all process. It requires a multifaceted approach tailored to the unique strengths and areas for improvement of each individual. 

Leadership skills can be developed by cultivating self-awareness, improving communication, fostering empathy, honing decision-making abilities, building confidence, promoting accountability, and committing to continuous learning. 

Each of these areas represents a fundamental aspect of leadership. They serve as stepping stones that pave the way toward personal growth and professional advancement. 

By understanding and developing these seven skills, we can nurture our leadership potential and transform not just ourselves but also our environments, creating a ripple effect that promotes growth, innovation, and progress. In essence, we can all become better leaders in our own lives, driving change and making a difference in our unique ways.

1. Cultivate Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. In the context of leadership, self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s strengths, weaknesses, emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. 

It is a critical leadership skill because it forms the foundation for how leaders perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others.

The importance of self-awareness in leadership cannot be overstated. Self-aware leaders can lead with authenticity, make informed decisions, and build stronger relationships with their team members, creating a strong sense of belonging and a trusting work environment. 

Self-aware leaders are better equipped to manage their emotions, adapt to change, and handle stress. They are also more likely to be empathetic, which can foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment. Leaders who possess self-awareness are better equipped to unleash their own abilities and the potential of their organizations, as well as the individuals they collaborate with.

Developing self-awareness is a continuous process. Here are a few strategies to help you improve your own self-awareness:

Reflection: Regular self-reflection can help leaders understand their actions, reactions, and decision-making processes. This can be achieved through practices such as journaling or mindfulness meditation.

Feedback: Constructive feedback from peers, mentors, or team members can provide valuable insights into a leader’s behavior and impact on others. Leaders should be open to receiving feedback and use it as a tool for growth and improvement.

By cultivating self-awareness, leaders can gain a deeper understanding of themselves, which can ultimately enhance their leadership effectiveness. 

2. Improve Communication

Communication is the process of transmitting information and understanding from one person to another, but how we communicate that information is just as important as the information we are communicating. 

In leadership, effective communication provides much-needed clarity and ensures that team members understand their roles, the tasks at hand, and the overall organizational goals.

Effective communication in leadership serves multiple purposes. It fosters a clear understanding, builds trust, promotes team harmony, and boosts morale. Leaders who communicate effectively can inspire their teams, drive engagement, and, ultimately, lead their organizations to success.

Improving communication skills is a continuous process, just like developing any other essential leadership skill. It requires consistent effort and dedication to achieve mastery. Here are some tips to enhance your communication skills:

Active Listening: Leaders should not just hear but also listen to their team members. Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and then remembering what is being said.

Clarity and Conciseness: Clear and concise communication helps prevent misunderstandings. Leaders should avoid jargon and be direct in their communication to ensure their message is understood.

Non-Verbal Communication: Non-verbal cues, such as body language, gestures, and facial expressions, can complement verbal communication. Leaders should be mindful of their non-verbal communication, as it can clarify or undermine their message.

Open-Mindedness: Leaders should be open to feedback and different perspectives. This can foster an environment of mutual respect and open communication.

By focusing on these areas, leaders can significantly enhance their communication skills, leading to more effective leadership.

3. Foster Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It involves putting oneself in another’s shoes and viewing situations from their perspective. 

In leadership, empathy is more than just a soft skill; it’s a critical component that can significantly impact a leader’s effectiveness, as well as the effectiveness of the teams they lead.

Empathy in leadership plays a crucial role in building strong relationships with team members. It allows leaders to connect with their teams on a deeper level, fostering an environment of trust and mutual respect. 

Leaders who demonstrate empathy can better understand their team’s needs, concerns, and aspirations, which can lead to more effective decision-making and problem-solving.

Additionally, empathetic leaders are often seen as approachable and understanding, which can boost team morale and productivity. They can create a supportive work environment where everyone feels valued and heard, leading to increased job satisfaction and employee retention.

Enhancing empathy involves active effort and practice. Here are some ways to develop empathy:

Active Listening: Pay full attention to the speaker and show genuine interest in understanding their perspective.

Open-Mindedness: Be open to different viewpoints and avoid making quick judgments.

Emotional Intelligence: Develop emotional intelligence to better understand and manage emotions.

Ask for Feedback: Regularly seek feedback from your team to understand how your actions and decisions affect them.

By cultivating empathy, leaders can not only improve their leadership effectiveness but also contribute to a more inclusive and harmonious workplace.

4. Hone Decision-Making Abilities

Decision-making is a cognitive process that involves evaluating a number of alternatives and selecting the most appropriate one based on a set of criteria. In the context of leadership, the ability to make effective and timely decisions, particularly in high-stress situations, is a must-have skill.

Leaders are often faced with complex situations and challenges that require quick and effective decision-making. The ability to make decisions under pressure can significantly impact the outcome of these situations and have long-term implications. 

Leaders who can maintain composure and use critical thinking skills to make informed decisions can lead their teams through challenges more effectively.

Decision-making skills can also affect a leader’s credibility. Leaders who make fair and consistent decisions can earn the trust and respect of their team, enhancing team cohesion and productivity.

Improving decision-making skills involves a combination of critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and experience. Here are some ways to enhance your decision-making skills:

Critical Thinking: Develop your critical thinking skills to analyze situations objectively and make rational, evidence-based decisions.

Emotional Intelligence: Understanding your emotions and those of others can help you make more balanced decisions.

Experience: Learn from past experiences, both successes and failures. Reflect on the decision-making process and the outcomes to improve future decisions.

Seek Diverse Perspectives: Encourage input from your team. Different perspectives can provide new insights and help you make more informed decisions.

By honing decision-making skills, leaders can navigate challenges more effectively and lead their teams to success.

5. Build Confidence

Confidence is a belief in one’s abilities, and everyone can benefit from a healthy dose of it (as long as we avoid overconfidence). It’s about being certain of what you can do. In leadership, confidence plays a pivotal role as it influences how a leader acts and how others perceive them.

Confidence matters in leadership for several reasons. Firstly, confident leaders inspire confidence in others. They can motivate their team members to strive for success and overcome challenges. 

Secondly, confident leaders are more decisive and are willing to take calculated risks when necessary. They are not afraid of making mistakes and see them as learning opportunities. 

Lastly, confident leaders are more likely to be respected and followed by their team members.

However, building confidence doesn’t happen overnight. It requires consistent effort and practice. Here are some strategies to boost your confidence:

Positive Self-Talk: Maintain a positive attitude and remind yourself of your skills and accomplishments.

Preparation: The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel about your ability to succeed.

Set and Achieve Goals: Setting and achieving small goals will boost your confidence and prepare you for bigger challenges.

Embrace Failure: Don’t fear failure. Instead, learn from your mistakes and use them to grow and improve.

Seek Feedback: Constructive feedback can help you understand your strengths and areas for improvement.

By building confidence, leaders can inspire their teams, make better decisions, and lead with conviction.

6. Promote Accountability

Accountability is about taking responsibility for one’s actions and decisions. In leadership, promoting accountability is crucial, as it fosters a culture of responsibility and ownership within the team.

The significance of accountability in leadership is manifold. Leaders who take responsibility for their actions set a powerful example for their team members. It encourages team members to also take responsibility for their tasks, leading to higher productivity and efficiency. 

When leaders are accountable, they build trust within their team. They show that they are not above the rules and are willing to own up to their mistakes.

Cultivating a sense of accountability can sometimes be challenging, and, as with these other skills, it is an ongoing process. Here are some strategies to improve accountability:

Set Clear Expectations: Clearly communicate what is expected from each team member. This gives them a clear understanding of their responsibilities.

Lead by Example: Show accountability in your actions. When you make mistakes, own up to them, learn from them, and make the necessary changes.

Provide Feedback: Regular feedback can help team members understand where they stand and how they can improve.

Encourage Ownership: Encourage team members to take ownership of their tasks. This can be done by giving them autonomy and trusting them to do their job.

By promoting accountability, leaders can foster a culture of responsibility and ownership, leading to a more effective and efficient team.

7. Commit to Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is the process of consistently updating and improving one’s skills and knowledge. In leadership, committing to continuous learning is essential, as it enables leaders to stay relevant, innovative, and effective in their roles.

The need for leaders to continuously update and improve their skills cannot be overstated. The world is constantly changing, with new technologies, methodologies, and challenges emerging all the time. 

Leaders who commit to continuous learning can adapt to these changes, make informed decisions, and lead their teams more effectively. 

One of the best things about continuous learning is that it fosters a growth mindset, encouraging leaders to see challenges as opportunities for learning and growth. This can lead to great achievements and long-term financial growth for businesses. 

Here are some suggestions for how to become a lifelong learner with a continuous improvement mindset:

Professional Development Courses: Enroll in professional development courses or workshops related to your field. This can help you stay updated with the latest trends and best practices.

Reading: Regularly read books, articles, and reports related to your industry. This can provide you with new insights and ideas.

Networking: Engage with other professionals in your field. This can provide opportunities for learning from others’ experiences and perspectives.

Feedback: Seek feedback from your team members and peers. This can provide valuable insights into your leadership style and areas for improvement.

By committing to continuous learning, leaders can ensure they are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to lead effectively in a constantly evolving world.

Leadership Is a Process

Leadership is, indeed, a process, a journey of personal growth and professional advancement. 

Developing leadership skills is a multifaceted process that involves cultivating self-awareness, enhancing communication, fostering empathy, honing decision-making abilities, building confidence, promoting accountability, and committing to continuous learning. 

Each area represents a fundamental aspect of leadership, serving as a stepping stone toward personal growth and professional advancement. These are the building blocks that shape effective, influential leaders, enabling them to inspire, motivate, and guide others toward a common goal.

It’s important to remember that leadership skills are not innate; they are not traits that we are born with. Instead, they can be learned, practiced, and refined over time. And others can help us grow these skills 

As you may have noticed, feedback plays a central role in building these leadership skills. Being receptive to feedback can help you refine these skills. Giving feedback to team members can help them develop these skills. 

The journey to becoming a better leader is a continuous one, filled with opportunities for learning and growth. It’s a path marked by self-discovery, self-improvement, and self-transcendence.

So, whether you’re an aspiring leader just starting your journey or an experienced one looking to refine your skills, I encourage you to start developing these skills today. Every step you take toward developing these skills is a step toward becoming a more effective leader. 

The journey might be challenging and filled with trials and tribulations, but the rewards—personal satisfaction, professional success, and the ability to make a positive impact—are worth every effort.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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