It’s true: people with outgoing, charismatic personalities often rise to the top when it comes to leadership selection. Their personality traits naturally help them stand out from the crowd. However, neither charisma nor intelligence predicts long-term leadership effectiveness.
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and with many different personalities and skill traits. You are responsible for identifying how you can best hone your leadership skills so that you attain your highest leadership potential. Commit yourself to a journey of self-improvement and get ready for a life of making a difference.
Most leadership skills can—and must—be learned. You can even learn to be more charismatic! Leadership skills require frequent practice before they become second-nature (that’s when people assume you were born with your leadership abilities!). Research suggests that learnable skills like the examples below will help you stand out from the crowd and benefit your organization.
Fear-based leadership is usually short-lived. Relationships built on trust, however, can stand up to the trials of life and work. Do you tell the truth? Do you follow up on the things you say you will do? Do you show respect to your coworkers, regardless of their title, gender, race and other factors? Once you’ve built trust, do everything in your power to maintain it—because once it’s broken, it is very difficult to rebuild.
Good communication starts with great listening. Focus on learning as much as possible from people across your organization. Don’t limit yourself to the executive team or your peers; listen broadly. Also, you must excel at written and verbal communication (both one-on-one exchanges and in groups). If you cannot convey your goals and your train of thought, your leadership journey will be severely limited. Play to your strengths, though. If you’re not comfortable speaking off the cuff in a big group, look for ways other than town hall meetings to reach large employee groups.
Leaders can’t afford to be control freaks about every single thing. Figure out what is imperative for you to do and learn how to delegate the rest. Learn who your experts are for things that aren’t in your wheelhouse. You may benefit from an executive assistant to help you stay sane. Spend time with them so that you can work efficiently together. Delegating also opens up valuable opportunities for your team. You’ll get buy-in on projects as they assume responsibility, and your team benefits from creating their own professional equity. Delegation done well is a win-win!
This is one of the hardest skills to learn, but its power is immense. Learning how to inspire involves two primary pieces—logic and emotion. While some people respond positively to a well-thought-out plan, others need an emotional connection. Keep in mind how each person or group will be impacted to help you envision the various scenarios you need to plan for.
No one wants to follow someone who doesn’t even believe in themself. Make a list of the contributions you’re proud of, no matter how small. Confidence shines through your body language and your tone of voice—and people notice. When paired with good listening, excellent analytical skills and communication, confidence will help you build that last important skill—motivation.
Approach your leadership development with purpose. Resolve to be open-minded about those areas where you need improvement. Get real feedback from your coworkers via a 360° Evaluation so you’ll know which areas need the most focus.
Consider enlisting an executive coach to help you. They offer a safe space where you can practice new skills. They’ll also help you keep an eye out for any skills that you’re taking too far, such as displaying too much confidence or going beyond motivation to manipulation.
Where do you want to make a difference? What skills will you need to be a positive influence? Let the journey to better leadership begin.