Taking On the Mantle of LeadershipJennifer Barrier
Leadership skills are paramount to being successful in business. Leadership qualities come natural to some, to others it is an acquired skill, honed to near perfection through the test of time and trial. Whether you are the founder of a company, a CEO, an assistant manager, or an entry level employee, to enhance your position or advance your career, there will come a time when you will be given the responsibility that extends beyond your comfort zone and your inherent abilities. With responsibility will come many opportunities to exercise the leadership skills that will distinguish your competencies for the rest of your career.
Hesitation and Learning Leadership
Naturally, there are people with the propensity to shy away from this reality, reluctant to assume the responsibility because of uncertainty or the consequences if they fail. They may think they do not possess the qualities or abilities needed to take on responsibility and effectively lead. This feeling is natural (I can’t tell you how many times I have felt this way). I have come to learn that effective leadership skills are not necessarily exclusive to people with a natural talent for it. The ability to exercise successful leadership and act accordingly in a situation is not something that is out of your grasp. In this post, I will be presenting some of my thoughts on leadership and how to identify and develop leadership skills. Fortunately, leadership skills are universally applicable regardless of the field you are in or your station in life. You will find that they extend beyond your professional life, serving to enhance your personal life as well.
What is leadership? That’s the first question to answer in a post like this. As such, I define leadership as coordinating people of different backgrounds and skills, allowing them to maximize the potential of their talents as needed, and providing them the available resources to accomplish some kind of objective. Let’s break this down to understand the different parts.
A great leader possesses the ability to assess a particular situation, then formulate and execute a strategy to complete an objective. They also ensure they set an example for the team they are leading. They do not ask the people on their team to take on a task of great difficulty that they have not already done or would not be willing to do themselves. However, leaders are keenly aware of when and how to effectively collaborate with their team.
“People of different backgrounds and skills…”
Regardless of the situation or the task at hand, leaders will have teams of people that come from diverse backgrounds and abilities. There are varying personality traits and dynamics like introverts and extroverts, people of different races, belief systems, and so on. There are also different levels of skills each person possesses for the task at hand. Some may have years of training or education, while others may be inexperienced and untested with a limited skillset. As a leader, it’s crucial that you know your team, while recognizing each team member’s individual skills and strengths, along with their weaknesses. It’s also good to identify the dynamics and animations that help to create the cohesion that binds them together, serving to foster an “esprit de corps” that collectively delivers positive and impactful results.
“Allowing them to maximize the potential of their talents as needed…”
Each member of the team you lead has their own skills that they bring to the table. Another thing to be aware of is recognizing the potential your team members possess. The potential of people to accomplish goals and exercise their talents is greater than they may realize. As a leader, encouraging them to express their innermost thoughts and ideas helps them to discover more about themselves and their abilities and skills.
“Providing them the available resources to accomplish some kind of objective.”
A great leader does everything in their power to set their team up to succeed. There is no way to provide everything for them, but doing everything in your power as a leader to provide your team with the resources they need increases the possibility of success.
Developing Leadership Skills
Developing the skills to become a great leader does not happen overnight. It takes time to analyze, access and then acknowledge (believe me, I am still learning a great deal about people that blows my mind!). Remember, the key to developing strong leadership skills: never stop learning how to lead. There are many sources to learn leadership skills from, but an effective way to accomplish leadership development is to do it on 2 different levels. The first is on a personal development level and the second is on the level of professional development.
Personal Leadership Development
Personal development takes place when you work to develop yourself as a leader. Leading others cannot happen if you do not work on improving your current skill set. Developing your own skills and realizing your potential allows you to develop experience for future situations you may face. Developing skills can come from reading books on leadership or going through educational programs online or learning in person. However, one way that I believe is most effective at personally developing leadership skills and imparting leadership lessons effectively is through mentorship.
Finding a mentor that has exercised leadership in the kind of field or fields you want to become proficient in can provide guidance in many ways. Their past experience can provide insight and guidance to help solve challenges you currently face. Their advice can also help you decrease gaps in your current experience or knowledge. Decreasing these gaps with the help of your mentors provides you the opportunity to resolve challenges relatively faster and with greater confidence. Time saved from not having to struggle with old challenges frees up time for you to test yourself with new challenges. New challenges, developing new skills, and stepping outside of your comfort zone builds and strengthens personal development. Challenging yourself in new situations induces your capacity and fortitude to become accustomed to new and challenging situations that are less likely to catch you by surprise. These are all ways that can help you grow and develop as a leader on a personal level. But, this is only half of the equation. To fully develop as a leader, we need to develop the second half of the equation. This is leadership on the professional level.
Professional Leadership Development
Developing leadership skills on a professional level means applying what you have personally learned in your professional setting. This is the most effective way to fully develop leadership skills: through the practice of leadership. Take what you have learned on your own about leadership and apply those ideas and lessons in your place of work and other places in your life where you have authority or responsibility over others (e.g. clubs, volunteer organizations, or other groups you belong to). The idea is to use these new skills to motivate, organize, and improve the dynamics of how your team functions. Getting closer to the definition of leadership developed earlier in this post (or even surpassing previous standards) is one step toward becoming a great leader and growing your skills. Remember to allow your team to exercise their creativity and their talents; monitoring their work too closely or micromanaging their work, especially if they are performing well, is something leaders are to avoid.
The End Result of Leadership
While leading the team to complete the task at hand results in success, a great leader knows that there is still a greater end. As stated before, you never stop learning how to lead. There is always more to learn, and there is always need for leaders. The ultimate result of leadership is not only to coordinate a team, manage team dynamics, and maximize team potential. A great leader is able to build up their team and inspire members of that team to become leaders themselves. Leaders not only want to see those team members and those that come after them become just as great at leadership as they were. They want those future leaders to surpass them and set the standard even higher.
Myself and other panelists at a 2016 Tea Time Event. We shared our stories about pursuing dreams and leadership success with high school students at East Career & Technical Academy in Las Vegas, NV.
Leadership, as its final result, is continuing to build people up and help them to grow and excel. It is hard work and it takes time to become proficient at it, but I hope this advice helped to break down some of the steps to eventually reach leadership success. If you haven’t taken that step to develop some leadership skills, just remember: great leaders had to start somewhere…and they have never mastered leadership. They are always learning – each and every day. So, what have you learned today?
Have a great week.