How to improve your leadership skills

David Baker
Digital Project Manager | Prince 2 Training
20th June 2017

Whether or not you’re in a direct leadership role, the ability to lead is an inevitable part of any career progression, and the qualities of a good leader, are in fact, core components of any good worker’s practice. 

For many of us, the prospect of climbing further up the career ladder provide the motivation that drives us forward in our jobs, honing our skills, and adding on new projects. However, whilst learned technical skills are no doubt fundamental to career development, maturing your soft skills is also necessary, primary among them is your ability to take on a leadership role.

7 essential leadership skills to develop

Leadership doesn’t always come naturally, but that’s no reason to avoid taking on those important leadership roles. With a little practice and by implementing the following strategies, anyone can develop the essential skills required to be a great leader.

Level up your communication skills

Communication is the number one skill when it comes to being a good leader, even if you excel in every other aspect of leadership, you will probably hit a wall if you aren’t a good communicator. The ability to properly communicate, not only your own progress, but to clearly and articulately outline the objectives and processes to your team, is an essential part of being both part of a team, and a leader. Communication is the crux of every workplace relationship, project and the effective running of a business as a whole.

If anything, it is always better to over communicate, and no matter where you are in the chain, this is a skill you can always build upon. Setting up routine meetings with your managers, or any colleagues working on ongoing projects with you is an excellent way to begin to develop confidence in your communication skills. Similarly, identifying where your strong suits lie, whether you’re a natural when it comes to verbal communication, or far better at writing a succinct email, and choosing to focus on evolving your weaknesses, will make you a far more valuable employee, now, and leader in the long run.

Become a better listener

Being a good leader isn’t always about directing the point of play, equally as important as the ability to effectively communicate your ideas, is the ability to listen and process the ideas, suggestions and feedback of others. Ultimately, opening up communication between you and your team can drastically improve ongoing projects, reinforcing the original structure with the skill sets and knowledge of your colleagues.

It is imperative to keep an open mind, and not feel threatened when a member of your team may disagree, or question, you, especially when their idea has merit. If you learn to value and respect others on your team, they’ll be more likely to step up to the plate for you.

Becoming a good listener isn’t always about hearing, however, and a lot of communication isn’t formulated by words, but body language and eye contact. Practising picking up on non-verbal syntax in conversations with your colleagues and management can help prime you for future leadership.

Develop situational awareness

A good leader is someone that can comprehend the bigger picture, understanding the impacts of every action, and anticipating problems before they occur. When handling complex projects with tight deadlines, the ability to foresee any potential issues and obstacles that may arise in the future is a valuable asset for any leader, providing the opportunity to properly plan against and mitigate future risk impact.

Set definitive goals and learn how to plan ahead

Proper planning is a core competency for every leader, but before you can chart out a roadmap to get there, you have to know your destination. When undertaking any project, it is essential to understand how to properly manage and utilise yours, and your team’s, time and plan accordingly. Dividing up the workload into manageable goals, under a core project objective, can help to align your team under a universal mission, and drastically streamline their processes - allowing you more time to lead, and less to have to manage.

One of the best ways to learn how to effectively plan your time and deconstruct larger projects into smaller, achievable, objectives is to study project management methodologies, such as Prince2 or Agile. Project management qualifications like these can help you to understand the management processes that bring both small and large-scale projects to success, as well as actionable tactics to apply to any workplace.

Practice discipline

Discipline is a necessary skill for anyone in a leading position, as it is ultimately you that is going to be making the tough calls, defining the deadlines and enforcing the procedures and processes you set from the outset. But, discipline doesn’t just mean how you can keep others to a structure, but how well you can adequately police and define your own time and behaviour.

If you are naturally disorganised or find the requisites of being hyper organised hard to manage, start small and start at home. Implementing and sticking to good habits in your life outside work, such as carving out time for daily exercise, or waking up at a certain time every day, can help build up a capacity for self-discipline that will only benefit you in a leadership role.

Learn from your failures

Failure is an integral part of life, and although it may seem antithetical, the key to success is not to avoid failure but how you handle it. Everyone has made a mistake or two in their lives, but the best leaders know that within each mistake is a lesson to be learned, and treat each mistake as a platform from which to grow. Similarly, as a leader, it is important to understand where your weaknesses lie and communicate these to your team, so in areas where you lack, you can appoint a member of your team that will thrive in that role.

Learn how to build the best team

Just as imperative to understand and communicate where your weaknesses lie, is to understand where the weaknesses and strengths are for each member of your team. When putting together a team, a strong leader acknowledges who can do what well, and attributes the right roles to the right people. Moreover, a good leader is similarly aware of a team’s personality dynamics, regardless of talent, two people with clashing personalities aren’t going to perform well in a task that requires teamwork.

About the author

David Baker has worked within the training industry for many years with Prince 2 Training. Working on courses such as PRINCE2, ITIL, PMP, Agile, Scrum, Lean Six Sigma. Prince 2 Training deliver world-class accredited training solutions to thousands of organisations and individuals throughout the world.

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