Posted by Robert Half on 11 September 2014
If you think leadership is a soft skill that only senior management needs to possess and cultivate, think again.
In today’s fast-moving business world with flatter hierarchies, every professional needs good leadership skills. Even if you don’t supervise a team or are a junior professional, you need to work on these skills in order to be a productive employee and a fully contributing member of your team. Furthermore, you’ll be in a better position to advance your career and get ahead in life.
Here are several points to keep in mind as you acquire and hone good leadership skills.
Fight your lack of confidence
Few are born leaders, but everyone can be made a leader. Don’t talk yourself out of becoming one just because you think you do not have the “ideal” set of leadership skills. If you present yourself to your colleagues and manager as someone who is reluctant or unable to lead, you’ve lost half the battle even before you begin.
Identify top leadership skills
Good leadership skills comprise more than one or two traits, and there is more to leadership than just knowing the technical aspects of how to manage a team. Effective leaders are many things: determined, ethical, innovative, passionate, kind, curious, focused, confident, collaborative, courageous, wise and empowering. They are excellent communicators who express themselves equally well in writing and in person. They’re also risk-takers who are able to learn from failures and recover from setbacks. Chances are you already possess several of the above attributes. Add other qualities that you think are part of a good leader’s skill set. Now think about what you lack and what areas you want to improve.
Maximise your strengths
We tend to think all leaders are extroverts, but that’s not entirely true. Numerous people who describe themselves as being quiet and introspective have been outstanding leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and Warren Buffet. Quiet strengths like knowledge, concentration and empathy are good skills to have. Even introverts’ preference for working alone is an asset, since planning and preparation are good leadership skills.
Dare to be different
Apple founder Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. Rehashing safe, old ideas and sticking with the usual are about as far from top leadership skills as one can get. The first step to thinking creatively is recognising what’s wrong with the existing process. That requires possessing strong knowledge of the process and then recognising its shortcomings. As exemplified by Jobs, innovation requires vision, courage, persistence and the ability to persuade others that the direction is a good one.
Never stop acquiring good leadership skills
You may wish to consult the numerous books, articles and videos out there on how to be a great leader. Identify the leadership style that you resonate with or find leaders whose style matches your own, and then emulate them. Heads of state, philanthropists and entrepreneurs are obvious examples, but excellent role models and mentors can be found almost anywhere – including your own office. Better yet, ask them to mentor you. Remember to constantly refine the skills you achieve.
The notion of leadership can be intimidating to some. But good leadership skills are increasingly critical to success in today’s business environment, regardless of where you sit on the organisation chart. Developing your personal leadership style will take time and effort, but you’ll likely reap the rewards in the form of greater respect, authority and accomplishments.