No matter the industry or role you work in, the majority of people are called upon to lead at some point in their careers. Effective leadership skills are an incredibly desirable trait that employers value in their workforce and search for in potential employees, so everyone can benefit from honing these skills.
You may be hoping to take on a leadership role in the future and want to know how best to improve the skills that will help you succeed, or you may just be looking for the best methods for developing leadership skills as part of professional development. This article lists many of the most useful skills associated with successful leadership and then explains nine of the best methods to improve and develop these.
Before we go into some of the best ways to develop strong leadership skills, here’s a list of some of the most important soft skills that are associated with leadership in the workplace.
Leadership skills are important in all kinds of situations because they allow for someone to take charge, motivate others and ensure that things get done. In the workplace, being a good leader is essential in roles that involve managing others so that you can do your job well, but also benefits those in less senior positions who have to take charge of situations or instruct and guide other employees.
Having good leadership skills is also important because many of these individual skills come with their own benefits that are incredibly useful in all kinds of workplaces. You can draw on each of your leadership skills when the situation demands it, such as having clear communication or being decisive when a direction needs to be chosen for a project, and then combine all of these skills when a situation requires leadership.
Improving your leadership abilities takes more than just expanding your skillset. If you really want to develop the above skills and start improving your capabilities as a leader, the following nine methods will help you to productively develop your skills.
Being a good leader is all about being genuinely interested and passionate about the project you are in charge of. Enthusiasm will make it much easier to motivate those you work with and encourage you to go above and beyond, so one of the best ways to develop your leadership skills is to pursue projects that you are passionate about.
When you genuinely care about the outcome of a task or have a particular interest in a subject or area of work, you will be more equipped to take on a leadership role because of your expertise and affinity. The people you work with will enjoy the project more and work harder when their leader is energised and exceeds expectations to get the job done, so it’s a perfect opportunity to practise leading and demonstrate your competence.
If you feel that you have the foundations of strong leadership skills but lack the opportunities or knowledge of how to build on these, working with a mentor can be incredibly valuable. This may be someone in a more senior position at your place of work or someone who works elsewhere in your industry and has more experience or particular insight.
A mentor can help you to identify the leadership skills that still need work, and offer advice on the best ways to develop them. They also may be able to find ways to give you more opportunities to practise your leadership skills or at least talk to and work with others who can teach you more about being a good leader, as well as acting as a role model themselves.
One of the most useful skills that a leader can have is the ability to calmly and efficiently solve conflicts. This could be between themselves and another team member or employee, or it could be between members of the group they are in charge of.
You can hone your conflict resolution skills by facilitating discussions between other people you work with to get experience, as well as ensuring that you speak up and offer solutions when you face problems at work. This will also help to establish you as someone who is good at finding solutions to problems and avoiding prolonged arguments or tension, which means you’re more likely to be chosen for leadership roles in the future.
A lot of soft skills like the ones we listed above are valuable assets to have for leadership in the workplace, but these can all be quite difficult to develop unless you’re getting direct experience from being in a leadership position. If you want to better prepare yourself for leadership and demonstrate that you want to take on more responsibility, enhancing your relevant hard skills is a great approach.
Hard skills such as familiarity with certain computer programs, languages or software, confidence in specific approaches to writing, specialist marketing knowledge and technical expertise will all make you a more valuable and capable member of a company. If you want to dedicate time to becoming a better leader, a productive way to do this is to build out your industry knowledge to establish yourself as an expert who can guide others.
One of the key traits of a good leader is someone who really understands where their strengths lie and where they will benefit from additional help and support. If you want to develop your leadership skills in business, spend time identifying where you are already doing well and where you still need work when it comes to leadership abilities, so that you can be confident in your talents and transparent about areas that need improvement.
Having a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses also means that you know which skills still need work, which gives you a clear starting point when it comes to personal development.
One of the best ways to learn strong leadership skills is by getting a good idea of what kind of leader you enjoy working with. If you can identify the successful traits of a leader in someone else, it is easier to understand how to replicate these yourself.
Instead of only seeking out opportunities to lead and shunning anything else, get lots of experience working for a variety of people who will likely have different styles of leadership, and try your best to be a good team player so you make a good impression. Use this experience to get clear ideas of effective leadership techniques, and also to build good relationships with successful leaders who can give you advice and guidance.
Empathy is a fantastic skill to develop as a leader, as it will ensure that the people in your team feel more supported and understood, which in turn will mean that they work harder and more efficiently. A lot of leadership skills are best developed through practical workplace experience, but empathy is one that you can work on in all aspects of your life and apply to all kinds of interactions.
Practising empathy involves taking time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand where they are coming from and what emotions might be triggering their opinion or reaction. It also involves listening without any bias or intention of trying to share your opinion so that the other person feels fully understood and acknowledged.
Empathy may not seem like an obvious effective leadership skill, but being good with people will make a huge difference in how successfully you lead them.
Leading on from that point about empathy, supporting your peers is another key way to develop your skills as a leader. Not only will this help you to be better at working with others and creating a more harmonious working environment, but it will also better establish you amongst your colleagues and make it more likely that you are chosen for leadership roles in the future.
Supporting your peers can also mean that you receive help and support in your journey towards being a better leader as well. If you help others when they face professional challenges, they will be more likely to offer that same help back to you when you ask.
Finally, if you want to develop your leadership skills then there are plenty of training courses out there that will help you to do just that. Online training providers such as Virtual College are a great way to work on improving your professional skills in a format that works for you, with all kinds of options suitable for all professionals and levels of experience.
If you’d like to find out more about the training courses we offer in topics such as leadership, you can browse our selection here.
Obtaining leadership skills is a relatively easy task; it’s improving them that takes a lot of work and dedication. Many people will already have several useful leadership skills gained through experience or natural ability, and if you want to obtain more then decide which areas you need to work on, then decide on the best way to get the experience or training you need to obtain these skills.
Demonstrating leadership skills involves putting yourself in situations where you can take charge, whether this is of a group of people, an idea or a project. If you seek out opportunities where you feel confident in what you are doing and know that others would benefit from your guidance, it is easy to seize opportunities where you can demonstrate the skills of a leader.
Leadership and management skills have a lot of overlap, but the two approaches themselves do have a few significant differences. Leadership skills focus on having the ability to motivate and inspire people to follow you, whereas management skills are more about being able to organise others and ensure that work gets completed.
Having the skills for strong leadership in the workplace will be a huge benefit throughout your career, helping you access more opportunities to demonstrate your talents and make a positive impact on your place of work. A key part of being able to improve your leadership skills comes from having the chance to practice them, but you can also work on developing these in other ways so that you’re well prepared for when you’re given the chance to take on a leadership role.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can improve your skills as a leader, we offer a CPD certified online course ‘An Introduction to Leadership’ that is ideal for anyone wanting to expand their professional skill set.