“While there are ‘natural born leaders,’ that phrase leads many to believe that when it comes to leadership…either you have it or you don’t. That belief couldn’t be further from the truth.”
—Entrepreneur contributor Michael Noice
Leadership is a skill that you can learn and develop like any other skill. And leadership isn’t only for managers. Employees in non-managerial roles can be as or more influential than those considered to be in “leadership” positions. The following approaches can help you develop leadership skills.
Building Leadership Skills
Understand your personality preferences and those of your team.
“One of the reasons people think becoming a great leader is hard (or is something you’re born with) is because they try to adopt someone else’s leadership style instead of developing theirs,” Noice says. “Knowing your strengths and style is the key to become the leader that only you can be.”
Practice effective communication.
Effective communication helps other people trust and look to you. Practice effective communication by being approachable, giving others your attention, maintaining eye contact, keeping an open mind, maintaining confidentiality of conversations and quickly addressing any misunderstandings, according to Entrepreneur contributor Murray Newlands.
Learn to follow.
“Leaders should learn to recognize the value of team members, learn from them and encourage other team members to learn from them,” Investopedia says. “Learn things that you didn’t know from a person who specializes in that area.”
Following leaders and people you manage helps you learn the skills you need to become a leader. And once you’re a leader, you can perfect your skills by maintaining this approach.
Find a mentor.
Seek the advice of those you trust to give you feedback on your performance. A good mentor will offer ways you can grow as a leader. “Seeking the advice from someone with more experience is not a sign of weakness,” Newlands says.
Discipline will help you demonstrate what it means to be a productive and reliable leader. This can include simple habits like meeting deadlines, keeping appointments and ending meetings on time, as well as responding to challenges and times when others need your help.
Become a leader outside of work.
Explore opportunities to take on leadership roles outside of work. This will develop your leadership skills in an environment that involves less professional risk and exposes you to different approaches.
One of the best ways to do this is by being a charity board member, according to Tiffany Pham, founder and CEO of online news aggregator Mogul, in The Muse. To find these opportunities, she mentions organizations such as All for Good, Create The Good, HandsOn Network and VolunteerMatch.
Build a reputation for being helpful.
“Top performers are widely known and respected by others not because of their frequent contact, charm or likability, but because they help others solve their problems,” author David Maxfield says at Monster. “By doing so, they become invaluable resources.”
Continue to learn and improve yourself.
One of the most important parts of being a good leader is maintaining the desire to become a better leader. There is always more to learn. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and continue to build on them appropriately.
Your Journey in Leadership Development
One of the best ways to develop leadership skills is through education. Learning from professors with years of real-world experience can give you an important perspective into managing and leading others.
Alvernia University’s online bachelor’s degree in business and online MBA provide students with curricula focused on leadership development. Students gain insight into how they can be successful in managerial and leadership positions. These programs are offered fully online.