There’s more to being a leader than just showing up and expecting to use your position to intimidate people into completing whatever project has been set before them. To help you on your path to becoming a more effective leader, we’ve gathered together a comprehensive list of the qualities that make a good leader, as well as the top 5 best leadership training activities.
Qualities of a Leader
What makes a good leader? Is it something in his or her genetic makeup that makes it easier for them to lead people? Are they the product of years of training? Continue reading to discover the top qualities that you need to foster and improve your leadership qualities.
Honesty – Honesty should be at the top of every list, no matter what position you’re looking to obtain. If you want your team members to trust and respect you, it is essential that you are honest with them. If you get into the habit of lying about little things and someone finds out, it will undermine your authority as a leader. If your team members don’t trust you, they’re not going put their hearts into your projects.
Communication – You need to be able to get your point across clearly and concisely. In the same vein, you also need to be able to talk to your team members, and be willing to listen! Good communication in both directions is essential to a stable and effective team, and you, as the leader, need to be the one to foster that communication. Ask questions of your team members and really listen to their responses.
Education – While this will not necessarily prevent you from becoming a leader, the old phrase “Knowledge is Power holds considerable weight in this case. If you are working within a company, make sure you are current on any policies and procedures that might affect your work. If you’re planning to start a project in the near future concerning a topic or product that you’re not familiar with, collect as much research as possible before you begin.
Flexibility – You need to learn to bend considerably before you break. Things will not always go the way you plan or expect them to, and sometimes this change in routine can cause considerable stress for you and your teammates. Don’t panic and in absolutely no circumstances should you take out that stress on your teammates. Instead, be flexible and turn a bad situation into a beneficial one.
Delegation – This can be one of the hardest leadership exercises to practice, especially for someone who is used to doing everything themselves. If you have ever said “If you want something done right, do it yourself”, then this skill might be difficult for you to learn. Assign responsibilities and projects to your team members and take a step back. You need to be available if any questions or problems arise, but for the most part, you need to trust your team to complete the projects to your satisfaction and to do so independently.
Organization – No one is going to respect you as a leader if they walk into your office and can’t find you behind all the clutter on your desk. The same thing applies if you show up to a presentation and can’t find your notes because your bag is a mess, or you forget your suit when you head to a conference. Not only will being organized make your life simpler, but it will also make you appear more confident and in control.
Confidence – If you don’t have confidence in yourself and your team, you will never inspire them to be confident in themselves. While each individual belongs to a team, they need to be sure of themselves and be confident in their abilities to succeed at any task that is set before them. What sort of example are you setting for them if you cannot even be confident in your own abilities?
Inspirational – One of the most important skills you will learn as a leader is how to inspire others. You may have a team member that is a fantastic artist and would make a stunning graphic designer with a little bit of practice. Your job is to inspire him or her to become an amazing artist that you know they can be. Not only will it help you to gain the trust and confidence of your team member, but you will also gain an individual with a valuable skill for your team.
Humor – Never lose your sense of humor. If you get every little bad thing get to you, you’ll go grey before you reach your 30th birthday. No matter what bad things happen, with a little ingenuity and a good sense of humor, you can always turn it to your advantage. Servers crashed? Break out some beach balls and play volleyball in the break room while you wait for tech support to arrive. Roof fall in? Time to work from home. Pajama day! There’s no situation that can’t be improved with a smile and a good solid sense of humor.
Commitment – Your team can’t think that you’re too good to get in there and get your hands dirty once in a while. If you want to really inspire people to work with you, make sure they know that you are more than willing to work with them. Don’t be the boss sitting on the pedestal with the whip driving people to work. Be the leader that’s down on the ground helping them work and directing them from equal footing.
This is just a small sampling of the leadership skills you will need to obtain to become an effective leader. If you don’t already have these skills, it will take hard work and perseverance to obtain them. It is not, however, impossible.
Top Leadership Training Activities and Exercises
To help you learn the skills that are essential to becoming an effective and efficient leader, we’ve collected the top 5 leadership training activities available to date. Some of these can be completed alone, while others should be completed with the help and participation of others.
These activities are separated into 4 categories: Establishing, Organizing, Facilitating, and Exploring. Each of these categories contains a variety of exercises and events that you should consider attempting to maximize your leadership capabilities.
Most of the activities in this category involve reflection and introspection. Take some time to look back and see how far you have come in your leadership training. For this category, the best exercise to explore is the Reality Check exercise.
Effectively, what this exercise is designed to do is to make you look at your leadership as it currently stands, and to determine what needs improvement and what is already working well for you. You will be handed (or need to print, if you’re doing this exercise independently) a chart to fill out. It will probably look something like this:
|Behavior||How much time do you spend on each behavior daily?||How much time should you be spending on each behavior?|
|Introspection or Reflection|
(This is just a sample chart. If there are any other behaviors or skills that you would like to add to the assessment, feel free!)
Look over the chart and reflect on your leadership training and skills thus far. Ignore the third column for now. How much time do you spend on each of these behaviors? Is there anything that you’re doing too much of what you think you should modify? Is there anything that you’re doing too little of?
Now, look at the third column. How much time, under perfect circumstances, should you spend on these behaviors?
This exercise is a great way to help you look back over your abilities and determine where you need to improve. It can easily be done individually or in a group, though the impact is greater when you are able to compare your calculations with that of other aspiring leaders.
The next category of top leadership training exercises involves establishing. You are, quite literally, the cornerstone of your team and you will be expected to establish things like project guidelines, policies, and obtain fundraisers, grants, or sponsorships where applicable.
This exercise is something that will, unfortunately, only work well in a classroom because it requires making a presentation at the end of the exercise to be most effective.
Individually, create an outline for a project of your choice. (Instructors: If this is too broad, you could consider assigning projects to individuals or groups) This could be anything from building a website to constructing a building. This outline should include the following things
- Projected Start and End Date
- How many team members will be required to complete the project
- What, if any, specializations will be required, i.e. carpentry, electrical, programming, etc.
- A detailed, step by step outline of the things that will be required to complete the project.
- If your project involves construction, for example, make sure you include all the permits that must be obtained
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what your project is going to entail. Now the real assignment begins.
Write a detailed budget for your project. Include information like whether you’re going to be seeking private investors or applying for grants or sponsorships. If you do any of these, be sure you include your grant application or scholarship form.
Once you’ve completed your budget and project, it’s time to present it to the class. From there, your classmates will get to offer feedback and ultimately, to vote on whether or not your project should be approved.
This exercise is designed to foster attention to detail, confidence, and your ability to inspire others. You need to make your classmates want to support this project.
Organization is one of the key skills that are needed for effective leadership as listed above. You will need to be able to organize everything from team projects to company retreats. Even if your skills are not tested, you should be able to do all of that and more.
This exercise works best in small groups, though larger groups foster a sense of competition.
The exercise: Plan a company retreat.
A company retreat is a great way to foster team-building and bring a team closer together. The idea is to get you away from the hustle and bustle of the office, while still keeping the team in the forefront of everyone’s mind. These are perfect for trust exercises, brainstorming sessions, and new collaborations that may never have been found if you stayed in the office.
For this exercise, you need to plan your ideal company retreat. Choose a location, and determine the following:
- How many team members can attend the retreat at any given time?
- How much will the retreat cost per member?
- What will the schedule look like? How many events and team building exercises will you be scheduling per day?
- How will meals be handled?
- Will there be a no-electronics or no-outside-contact policy?
- What is the ultimate goal of this retreat?
Once you’ve completed your project, present it to the class. Again, you will be expected to inspire your classmates, as well as showing off your organizational skills. This will enable you to receive feedback on your idea, as well as helping you work on your listening skills. Be ready to answer any questions that may arise.
(Instructors: Want to give this project an extra kick? Offer an incentive: Students get to vote, and the retreat plan with the most votes becomes an actual event!)
This is an exercise that can be done in a business or classroom setting. Make and implement a plan to facilitate a fun and informative team building exercise within your classroom, office or building. This will require all of your skills as a leader and many skills that you may not have realized yet.
Step 1: Pick An Exercise. Everyone is familiar with the Trust Fall and other commonly used trust exercises. While this can be a good standby, try to find something more unique, or more likely to get people to participate.
Step 2: Pick a Time. If you’re doing this in a business setting, then this will need to be cleared with other team leaders, but in a classroom setting, it’s easy to just assign time slots based on the length of time needed for each exercise.
Step 3: Time to implement! This will require all of your communication skills as well as your ability to inspire people, especially if you’re doing an exercise that could potentially end in injury if done improperly, like the Trust Fall. No one wants to have a concussion on their hands!
Step 4: Feedback. This is essential. Talk to your team members and the other participants in your exercise. Get feedback on your facilitating skills and on the event in general. Make sure you use this feedback to help improve any future events that you may be planning.
You will not be able to create an effective team without trust. Your team members need to be able to trust you, and they need to be able to trust each other. With that in mind, you should have at least one good and unique team building and trust exercise that you can fall back on when things get rocky. The “Helium Stick” activity can be a great activity for any group.
All you need for this activity is an aluminum tent pole. Line your team members up in two parallel lines so they are standing and facing one another. Instruct them to hold their hands out at waist height with only their two index fingers extended.
Place the aluminum pole on top of their outstretched index fingers. This is where it gets fun. Your team must lower the pole to the ground without anyone losing contact with it. If someone loses their section of the tent pole, the entire team has to start over.
Communication is key for this activity. Everyone needs to move slowly, steadily, and at the same time.
This is one activity that, as a leader, you should be a part of. Find someone else to act as a facilitator. This can help to cement your position as a team leader as well as fostering trust, communication, and collaboration between you and your team members.
Keep in mind that this is not, by any means, a definitive list of all the things you will need to know to become an effective leader. Don’t take this as leadership gospel. Instead, use these suggestions as a foundation to build upon.