Start Leading Now: How to Develop Your Leadership Skills
You don’t need a job in corporate management to learn how to develop leadership skills. As the manager of a team of recruitment professionals, I look for qualities of leadership among individual contributors and managerial candidates alike. Almost all businesses involve working in teams where there are opportunities to lead by example, if not by title.
How Can I Develop My Leadership Skills?
Here are seven leadership characteristics you can start working on today:
- Speak up—and be a good listener. A good leader knows how to communicate. If you think your company is missing an opportunity, propose something new that will allow you to leverage your experience. Listen to others’ points of view and absorb all the information you can, especially from successful people who can mentor you. You can return the favor by mentoring someone else down the line.
- Go beyond your job. A leader has an ability to adapt and learn new skills as well as inspire others to do the same. Immerse yourself in industry news and become a subject matter expert. Participate in online classes and seminars, read periodicals or blogs—do whatever you need to do to gain knowledge over the full spectrum of your industry, not just your job or company. Information is power, and it will make you a leader.
- Be self-confident. A leader never forgets that their contribution is important and adds value. Maintaining your sense of self-worth and a positive attitude can help you manage problems and pressures on the job. Remember, you’re often evaluated not for the difficulties that may arise but for how you handle them when they do.
- Lead by example—and get excited about it. An optimistic, can-do attitude gets people excited about your ideas and willing to follow your lead. In fact, in hiring scenarios, it can often trump the skillset. But be sure to ground your good attitude in a strong work ethic in which you are willing to take on more responsibility and emulate success where you find it in your coworkers. All of these things can help you as a silent leader create camaraderie, team chemistry and good corporate culture.
- Delegate and empower people. Whether you’re a manager of a team or an informal leader of a project, learn how to recognize people’s talents and interests so you can direct them to tasks that will challenge and engage them—then get out of the way. Micromanaging suggests you don’t trust the people on your team; empowering them inspires confidence.
- Own the mistakes. In other words, be ready to take criticism. If you are ultimately calling the shots on a project, your team needs to trust that you will take responsibility if things go sideways. (Nothing deflates a team like someone who points blame elsewhere.) You want your team to know you hold yourself to the highest standards and expectations, as a leader should.
- Give credit where it’s due. Always celebrate others’ accomplishments. Be sure to credit team members for their work on a project, and pass on to them positive feedback when you hear it. And, of course, don’t forget to quietly remind yourself about the work that you’ve done well (see #3 above).
What leadership skills do you make the most of in your job? I invite you to add your ideas to the discussion.