Team around a table enjoying a group workshop

How can you improve & develop your leadership skills?

Leadership skills seem to come naturally to some. Despite how easily certain individuals can appear to just slip into leadership roles, the truth is that leadership is something that grows from experience as much as wisdom, empathy, and a host of other essential traits. Managers, supervisors, and CEOs are all business positions that demand leadership skills, but how to improve your leadership skills? Fear not – no leader is a finished product, and there are always ways to learn, grow, and succeed alongside your teams.

What are leadership skills?

Leadership skills are the tools you’ll need to properly steer your people in the right directions, whether that’s helping them to manage their workloads or supporting them through a difficult and stressful time in their life.

Leadership isn’t simply taking people and moulding them into something that works for you; good leaders amplify the traits of the people working alongside them. It’s making the individual mindsets and skill sets of those people into their greatest strengths and harmonising them so that they can work as an effective team.

Leadership skills truly are skills because they demand a high level of commitment to get right and expertise to use properly in the workplace. Anybody can delegate tasks, but real leaders know who the best person is for a task, and how to give that person everything they need to complete it to the best of their ability.

With the right skills, leaders become beacons for their teams. They know how to react to sudden changes that could damage staff morale and how to reorganise and rally when things aren’t working. Simply put, they’re the glue that holds everyone and everything together.

Can anyone be a leader?

Anybody can LEARN to be a leader. The question is whether those lessons are taken to heart and whether the hard work will be done to really understand leadership.

A person cannot learn to be an effective leader by sitting down and listening to a presentation on leadership. That’s like learning to be a parent by only reading books! Theory is fantastic, but it’s only half of so many roles.

Early leadership experience doesn’t need to be gained formally. Many people gain leadership experience in job roles but it can also be gained from school and college projects, team sports, and family roles.

Some people might gain leadership skills without even realising it, becoming the individuals who others look to for guidance and help. For these people, active development of leadership skills that have come about ‘naturally’ can take them even further as leaders.

How do I know if I am a leader?

There’s no special guidelines you need to meet to qualify as a leader.

You’re a leader the moment that people choose you as their leader, though the position can slip away if it’s not respected. Managers might have their title on paper, but that doesn’t make them good leaders with all the necessary skills.

You might not think of yourself as a leader despite holding such a position, and that could be a good thing! Leaders need to keep their egos in check and have a sense of humility. What you don’t want is to doubt your own leadership because of something like imposter syndrome, despite doing a good job.

If people look to you for guidance and support beyond that of their other colleagues, and to mediate difficult situations, then you’re a leader. You don’t need to be the manager; you might be a leader amongst your peers despite all being at the same organisational level. Leadership stems from ability and attitude, not title.

What are the qualities of a good leader?

It’s easy to pick out the qualities you don’t want a leader to have. Nobody wants to answer to someone hot-headed, short-tempered, and too busy with themselves to listen to anything you say.

But it can be harder to nail down the specific traits of a good leader, especially when one leadership role differs to another from workplace to workplace. General qualities of a good leader include:

Self-awareness

Good leaders know their role in the team and don’t let ego get in the way. They don’t confuse themselves with the goal; their team should be aiming to achieve their goals, not solely make their leader happy.

Self-aware leaders know how they can come across and they tune their energy carefully. They need to pass that energy on to the people they work with and not bog work down with negative emotions and stress.

Leaders who can see themselves unfiltered through both their colleagues’ eyes and their own internal perspective have fantastic self-awareness. More importantly, they learn how to improve other leadership skills because they’re always watching themselves with a critical eye.

Empathetic and selfless

Whether leading a team of ten people or an entire office of a FTSE100 company, leaders need to understand emotions and how different people have different feelings at any given time.

Empathy is not sympathy. While both are good for a leader to have, empathy is a quality that takes more involvement because you need to share the feelings of another person, and that takes more effort than simply acknowledging harm or upset that has come to another person. Empathy is much more active.

In many ways this goes hand-in-hand with selflessness, being able to put other people as the focus of your efforts and do what’s best for them, even if it doesn’t benefit you in the same way. A leader is no good if they’re ready and willing to throw their team under the bus to save themselves.

Influential, not forceful

Motivated individuals don’t need persuading to do something. Good leaders build this attitude through positive influence, rather than ruling with an iron fist. Making demands can get results, but only in the short-term.

Teams that face the wrath of a leader that cracks the whip rather than extending a hand face ongoing challenges to their ability to perform their roles. One Gallup survey found that amongst the top five factors for burnout from participants was unfair treatment at work, unmanageable workloads, and a lack of communication and support from one’s manager.

Influence is a much softer power than force, which is why some leaders may think it doesn’t work. It takes more skill than being loud and demanding, but the long-term gain is much stronger than the short-term – whilst also keeping your staff happy and keeping turnover low.

Ways to develop your leadership skills

How to improve leadership skills can be done by people who really understand what makes leaders great. Hollow motivational seminars with inspiring Powerpoint slides might see you leaving refreshed and ready to make change happen, but they likely won’t be equipping you with the key knowledge and actual skills needed to make that change a reality.

Developing leadership skills is most effective when leaders are put into situations designed to test their skills in new ways and get them thinking introspectively. Really effective leadership training should break down the role of a leader before building it back up with new understanding and fresh insight. Leadership training days with Team Academy are disruptive and engaging to provide as much fresh ground for these revelations to take place.

Some leaders might prefer intensive discussions whereas others will want to get active and working alongside their team to achieve a time-sensitive goal. Either way, much like the skin on your hands becoming calloused as you work, leadership skills need to be tested so that they can improve.

Activities to improve leadership skills

There is a variety of ways to improve leadership, whether the trainee themselves is brand-new to leadership or a seasoned professional. Team Academy offers these differentiated approaches including:

Reboot

Groups of high-performing individuals with a group of leaders can have different demands to a typical, one-person-led team. For groups like this, the relationships between the leaders are as vital as regions of development as the relationships they hold with the people working under them.

Reboots challenge leaders on every level of their thought processes and behaviour to fundamentally shake up their approaches. They’re not for the faint of heart, but then neither is leadership!

Click here if you would like to find out more about Reboot leadership training

Strategy on a page

Leaders who need a concrete plan on paper might consider something more simple but equally as effective as building the skills they use day-to-day.

This approach clears the way for business leaders who get bogged down in unclear direction or convoluted strategy. Even the most effective and seasoned individual can’t guide a team very far if nobody knows what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.

Strategy on a page aligns everybody on an organisational level, unifying common goals and getting individuals on the same page.

Click here if you would like to find out more about Strategy on a page leadership training

Exploring leadership

It’s an ever-challenging question: what is leadership?

Exploring leadership is particularly effective for new and inexperienced leaders, people who want to develop and build the skills they need to succeed and help others succeed in turn. A leadership training programme gives leaders a readymade kit of skills and experiences to draw from without throwing themselves into the deep end.

Leadership training with Team Academy

Our leadership and management training can be adapted for any individual and learning style, and is always guaranteed to shake up your thinking and disrupt whatever’s holding you and your team back. We show you how to develop leadership skills in ways that you won’t soon forget.

To learn more about our innovative leadership training courses, contact us today.

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