Companies prize leadership. If you don’t believe me, consider that almost 90% of companies cite leadership as important while spending over $30 billion on leadership programs every year. Bad leaders not only drag down their company’s performance but get fired far faster than effective ones.
Unfortunately, according to the Harvard Business Review there’s a decade-long gap between when people become managers and when they actually start leadership training. If you’re in that chasm, keep in mind there are plenty of ways to pull yourself out of it. Leadership and management are not one and the same. Managing is often about control –– keeping track of what your staff does and dictating how they should proceed. Leaders inspire. They motivate others to follow them –– not through intimidation but through a set of behaviors that act as a beacon. So whether you are running a division or collaborating with coworkers, here’s how to transform yourself to the next level with these important leadership and management skills.
It’s important to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. You might want to start with a list of what you do best and the areas where you need to improve. Getting feedback from a trusted friend or colleague can also be helpful. You may discover that empathy is an area where you could use improvement. For many companies, this is one of the most desirable of the leadership and management skills they seek.
Although this is innate for some people, it can also be learned. One of the most prized of the soft skills, empathy is defined by Psychology Today as “…the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character…It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced.“ It’s important to acknowledge your own biases so you’re not viewing their choices through the lens of your own experiences. Practicing empathy can help you lead your staffers to great heights. According to research conducted by the Center for Creative leadership, “empathy in the workplace is positively related to job performance. Managers who practice empathetic leadership toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses.”
Be the Best Listener, Not the Best Talker
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking leadership means giving inspiring speeches. That may work in the movies but in real life the best way to motivate a room is to listen. Develop the habit of repeating what was said. This can prevent you from merely thinking about what you want to say while someone else is speaking. The best leaders know their staff and the best way to get to know the people you work with is by being an active listener. That means making eye contact, not interrupting, and asking questions after they conclude.
Set An Example
Never be afraid to take out the trash. Delegating is important but if you’re only “delegating” the unpleasant jobs you’re not really leading. So no matter what your position, be willing to roll up your sleeves and dive in. Join your staff for inventory. I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last which shows the value of putting others before yourself. Prioritizing your team over your individual needs will help them succeed.
Trust is a vital ingredient to all relationships. If you want to develop one of the most important leadership and management skills, keep your word and honor your commitments. If you’ve ever had a boss renege on a promise, you understand how losing trust in a superior undermined your relationship. So be realistic with your goals but strive to make your deadlines. Modeling dependable behavior is a great way to help your staff succeed.
Develop Other Great Leaders
An often overlooked leadership skill is the ability to recognize talented future leaders. Think about the response from your supervisors if you consistently train talented managers. Mentoring and skills development are important if you want to be an effective leader.
Build a Team
You can’t be a leader without other people. If everyone is off in a different direction it will be difficult to get anything done. Bring your staff together. Great leaders help their staffers develop positive relationships at work. This can be done through team building exercises and striving toward a common goal. However you won’t succeed until you take the time to talk to the people you work with and get an idea of their own goals and how they can mesh with your company’s.
Developing leadership and management skills will do more than help you reach the next level. It will help your staff and your company succeed as well.
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