Since grade school, we’ve been taught to follow the leader. In many cases, it is easier to fall in line and just follow behind, but that mentality will not get you a promotion or help you to create a successful career. Learning to implement effective leadership skills is essential, but how is that possible when we’ve only been taught to follow?
Effective team leadership is based on a number of key skills, which we will define for you below. These leadership skills are especially important to learn if you are planning on moving into any kind of management position because leadership and management go hand in hand. Read on to discover what leadership skills are and how you can use them to advance your career and establish yourself in the world of business.
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What Are Leadership Skills?
The dictionary defines leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the state or position of being a leader.
If you ask 10 different business owners to define leadership skills, you’ll get 10 different definitions. Most employers use leadership skills as an indication of your potential within the company. Are you destined to spend your career as a minimum wage drudge, or do you have the potential to become a major player within the company?
There are many different schools of thought as to what fosters effective leadership skills. Is it something that is only found in a few select individuals with natural talent or is it something that can be taught? Are natural leaders always more effective than their instructed counterparts? And what defines a natural leader anyway? Let’s start with the last question first.
What defines a natural leader? Natural leaders often manifest during their school career, before they ever get out into the working world. These individuals are the ones that everyone goes to for direction, no matter what the topic. They naturally have the leadership skills and characteristics that other people work hard throughout their entire lives to obtain.
Are natural leaders more effective? That depends entirely upon who you ask. There was a study done in April of 2013 that suggests that powerful natural leaders, including famous names like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, were born with their abilities rather than made. Other studies suggest that these greats are not born with these preternatural leadership abilities. Instead, these individuals are influenced toward leadership at a young age, before their behaviors are fully set.
So the question becomes, what skills do you need to develop if you wish to become an effective leader?
Leadership and Management
Leadership skills, above everything else, are the key to creating (or becoming) a good manager. Don’t be intimidated by the number of skills on this list. We’ll include a few tips to help you adapt each skill into your repertoire so you can turn them into leadership strengths.
The whole point of developing these skills it to lead other people. If you cannot delegate projects or responsibilities to others on your team, then you might as well be working alone.
- The easiest way to learn how to delegate is just to do it. Assign a project or a responsibility to one of your team members, and simply let it go. Don’t hover, and don’t insist on being an integral part of every step of the process.
This includes empathy for your team members, your clients, and most of all for yourself. Learn to read your team and use this ability to determine where problems are likely to develop, so you can head them off before they become real issues.
- Talk to your employees or team members. Most people don’t feel comfortable enough with their team leader to really open up when there are issues at work or personal problems bothering them at home. Be the boss, but have an open door policy where your team can come to talk to you about any problems they might be having.
One of the most important skills that you can ever learn when it comes to becoming an effective leader is how to inspire people. Without that inspiration, your team won’t want to proceed, and even if you can get them to continue with their work, it will be half-hearted at best.
- Listen to some TED talks or visit a few seminars on inspirational and motivational speaking. Listen carefully to how they speak, and the words that they choose. Their job is to inspire hundreds or thousands of people; you only have to inspire a handful of your teammates.
Never lose your sense of humor. This is essential to maintaining morale even in the event of a disaster. The roof could fall in, your server could crash, or the printer could suddenly start spraying toner all over the office.
- No matter what happens, or how bad things might seem, approach every situation with a positive outlook and a smile. The roof fell in? Hey, we get to work from home until it’s fixed! Its pajama day EVERY DAY!
This goes right along with keeping your sense of humor. Don’t let anything that happens knock you down, at least not permanently. There is nothing that can’t be fixed with a little humor and some hard work.
It is difficult to create an effective team out of members who have been assigned to your project. Instead, wherever possible, build your team out of individuals who share the same motivation and drive that you do.
There is a great infographic that illustrates the difference between a boss and a leader. A boss depends on his or her authority to generate results, where a leader depends on the goodwill of his or her teammates. To create that goodwill, a leader has to lead by example and set a precedent for success.
- Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Your team will be more than willing to help you succeed if you show them that you’re going to be right there beside them every step of the way.
Your path to success isn’t always going to be straight and clear. There are going to be obstacles, hills, curves and other things that will make it difficult or even seemingly impossible to reach your goals or finish your projects. This is where creativity will become essential.
- Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, or so the old saying goes, especially when your team is looking to you for guidance.
This can be explained in two words: trust yourself. The longer you practice these effective leadership skills, the more confident you will become in your own ability to make quick or spur of the moment decisions. Trust your gut, trust your instincts, and don’t second guess yourself.
We’ve been taught since we could understand speech that honesty is always the best policy and that is especially important when you’re a team leader. Always be honest with your team. Offer honest feedback in a constructive manner and if you are facing setbacks or failures, don’t lie about them.
This is just a small sampling of the leadership skills that are essential to creating a good team leader.
Leadership Team Development
Now that you have a basic idea of the skills needed to create an effective leader, it’s time to approach the next step in the process: where can these skills be learned? What tools are available to help teach leadership strengths and accelerate the process of leadership team development? A quick Google search easily brings back hundreds of thousands of responses. With so many choices, how can you possibly find out which is the best option?
We’ve gathered together some of the better options, as well as information about where they can be found.
Practical Leadership from MIT Open Courseware
MIT (Yes, that is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) offers a full free course on practical leadership that can be accessed from a home computer. This course is taught by an accredited MIT lecturer and while it does not offer any certifications once the course is completed, the skills that are taught in the course have immediate and far-reaching applications.
The students who enroll in the open source course receive consistent feedback on their progress from their instructor and their peers throughout the course.
Personal Leadership Templates
These will be discussed more in depth in a later article, but in a nutshell, these templates are designed so that you can create a development plan for an individual. Set goals, create reasons for development and progress, and identify issues that need to be addressed, all in one intuitive and easy to understand template.
These can be used for every member of your team and are not restricted to management. Don’t rely on once a year evaluations to motivate your team members to improve. Set up a personal development plan for each and every member of your team and watch how fast they grow into intelligent, powerful, team-minded individuals.
Dale Carnegie Leadership Training for Managers
Dale Carnegie, author of the world famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” offers a variety of leadership training seminars for managers. According to the site, this 7 part seminar series could be beneficial for anyone who:
- Interacts with customers
- Is responsible for leading a team
- Is an employee who serves on a team
- Is a manager who wishes to enhance his or her leadership skills
These seminars are broken up into 7 modules and can are either scheduled once a week for 7 consecutive weeks or done over the course of a three day weekend. Unlike the MIT coursework, this seminar is not free, and attendees do need to travel to the seminar location. Average price for all 7 modules is $1,600 per person. While that may seem like quite an investment, it is a drop in the bucket when compared to the increased earning and leadership potential that these individuals will experience.
Fred Pryor Management and Leadership Seminars
These seminars are held on an enormous variety of individuals topics, such as making the transitions from staff to management, essential skills for the first time manager, and leadership and team building techniques, just to name a few. They are available in the form of live seminars, audio conferences, and webinars, as well as books and CD-ROMs that can be accessed at your leisure.
These seminars are paid for individually, and usually, they cost around $200 per person. They are available all over the United States.
These effective leadership skills are essential to the creation of a productive team. Don’t make the mistake of relying on a natural leader’s inborn ability, because you may find them falling short at the most inopportune moment. Instead, encourage your team leaders, born and made alike, to constantly strive to improve their leadership strengths, strategies, and management tactics.