February 6, 2019
How to improve your leadership skills: some practical tips
Great organisations have great leaders
Think about any organisation you admire – whether you’ve worked for that organisation, with them or followed them from outside – they will all have something in common. Great leaders who set a clear and compelling vision and inspire those around them to help deliver that vision.
In researching this blog, I looked at search engine data, and some of the most commonly searched for business phrases are ‘how to improve your leadership skills’, ‘how to improve leadership effectiveness’ and ‘how to be a good manager’. So there’s obviously great interest in this topic!
Here are 10 top tips to help you improve your leadership skills.
1. It’s all about TRUST
The most effective leaders are trusted. They inspire trust in those around them by clearly articulating their vision of the future and empowering others to help them deliver. They act with integrity and are authentic. Whatever role you are in, you can inspire trust by delivering what you say you will and being authentic. This will give you the foundation to become a great leader, no matter what your personality or leadership style. You can read more about the importance of trust on the Leadership Review site.
2. Involve those around you in shaping your shared priorities
It is human nature to feel most invested when we have had the chance to contribute to a plan or piece of work. It develops a sense of shared ownership and self-accountability. Involve your teammates and stakeholders in shaping work and shared priorities. Not only will it help you develop your leadership skills, it will help gain consensus and a shared sense of purpose.
3. Effective listening
Effective listening helps you understand concerns and encourages feedback. Make time for those around you and actively listen with positive intent. Great leaders listen and act on feedback, creating trust and demonstrating that feedback is genuinely valued.They also seek feedback on what they do well and build on that. They also seek feedback on what they could do better and address that feedback. Seeking feedback can feel uncomfortable, but it’s also a great way to improve leadership skills.
4. Communicate with clarity and conviction – often!
Regular communication isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – it’s the foundation on which any successful team is built. Effective leaders keep team meetings and 1:1s in the diary. They have clear agendas and they share what they know, updating on progress and seeking support to resolve challenges. Wherever you are in an organisation, you can improve your leadership skills by setting, sharing and regularly clarifying your goals and your journey towards attaining them.
Once you’ve achieved your goal, set the next one…and the next. Great leaders are visionary and always look to the next milestone and success. Read more on the importance of communication in leadership, plus pick up some top tips, at the Center for Creative Leadership.
5. Show your passion and be positive
Humans care more for something we’re passionate about. Being a great leader is about showing this passion, remaining positive and lighting this flame in others. Leaders need to be passionate, consistent and positive in all interactions. Even if you’ve got out of bed the wrong side or have had the commute to end commutes, if you want to continue to improve your leadership skills, be passionate and be positive! You’ll quickly find your positivity attracts and breeds positivity.
6. Be true to yourself
We all have our own personal values and motivations. It makes us who we are. The best leaders are true to themselves and act with integrity. We can all see and sense integrity in others. Conversely, it’s blatantly obvious when these qualities aren’t in place. Great leaders are consistent and authentic in good times and bad and always act with integrity. You can read Forbes’ take on the importance of authentic leadership here.
7. Walk the walk
This is simply about doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. Great leaders don’t just say what they’re going to do – they demonstrate how to do it every day. If people see that you can do it, they will aspire to do it too.
8. Motivate those around you to greatness
The most effective teams are those with a shared vision and a blend of skills and experience. Where diversity is encouraged; views listened to and respected; and talent encouraged and celebrated. Most of history’s greatest leaders will share anecdotes of how those around them gave them the opportunities to be successful and helped them in their journey to become a great leader. Nurture those around you and encourage them on their leadership journey. Check out this recent blog from DPG Director Michael Millward for more.
9. Commit to lifelong learning
Great leaders don’t settle. They’re constantly looking for the next opportunity and are always looking to build their own skills. This includes learning about other leadership styles and what motivates those around you. Apply your leadership skillsthrough being cognisant to what drives others and think about how you can get the best from them.
10. Fail fast and learn from mistakes
We all fail and we all make mistakes. Great leaders ‘fail fast’ – identifying where things are not working, acknowledging it, learning from it and quickly moving on. They also share this within their organisation, building shared organisational knowledge and increasing chances of future organisational success.
Helping you improve your leadership skills
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I hope you’ll find our top 10 tips for improving your leadership skills helpful. Hopefully you’ll have seen things that you can start working on immediately.
Wishing you all the very best as you continue your leadership journey.