Welcome to Important Leadership Skills!
When you first think of leadership, many of us think of a president making a speech in front of the White House, a CEO developing a strategy to help the company grow, or a teacher teaching his/her students how to write an essay. However, leadership is much more than reciting a speech, thinking of a solution, or teaching kids. It is about helping others learn, setting them in the right direction, inspiring them, building trust, setting a good example, and much more.
Leadership is not just for bosses, presidents, and teachers. It is for every individual who wants to help and make a difference in something, no matter how small or big. Whenever you help someone, you are using leadership. When you make a decision for the betterment of others, you use leadership. Leadership is used in anything and everything that makes a positive impact. It can be used for something just as simple as greeting your neighbor to something as complicated as making a decision that affects the whole country.
Difference between managers and leaders
Before I get into the important leadership skills, it is important to notice the difference between leaders and bosses. Many of us have a mindset that sets our brain to think that bosses are leaders. Yes, that is true; however, only if they have the qualities and skills of a leader. There are many differences between bosses and leaders; Bosses drive employees, leaders coach employees. They demand respect, leaders earn and deserve respect. Bosses tell people what to do, leaders show how to do it. Bosses criticize, leaders give advice. And on and on.“Managers light a fire under people; leaders light a fire in people.” – Kathy Austin
“Managers are people who do things right; leaders are people who do the right thing.” – Warren Bennis
“Managers help people see themselves as they are; Leaders help people to see themselves better than they are.” – Jim Rohn
However, with the important leadership skills written about in this blog, not only a boss, but anyone can become a leader. Leadership is not about showing the destination, it is also about showing the right way to get to the destination. Without the way, there is no destination. But without any leadership skills, there is no way. The skills which leaders use to show the way are very crucial to the final destination. So, read on to find out more about the important leadership skills anyone can use to achieve in work, and more importantly, life.
1. Effective Communication
Effective communication is something we do every day. Without communication, how do we tell others what we want, how we feel, our thoughts, our emotions, etc.? Without communication, we would be lost because our minds would be full of wandering thoughts. Effective communication is all about presenting ourselves, understanding others well enough, and directly stating what we want to say. The benefits of effective communication – in and out of work- include more trust, fewer problems, more clarity and direction, better relationships, an increase in engagement, more productivity, and more team building. (climb.pcc.edu) Leaders are able to inspire others by understanding them well enough to persuade them to keep going forward.
Integrity is one of the most integral part of business and life. Without integrity, leaders cannot do their job because others won’t follow them and believe in them. According to execed.economist, David M. Long, an assistant professor of Organizational Behavior at the Mason School of Business, stated that “Followers determine how trustworthy a leader is based on their ability, their benevolence and their integrity. Followers are willing to be vulnerable in a good way to leaders they trust and are more inclined to be satisfied with and committed to them.” He also mentions that “A leader who has integrity and competence is a very valuable asset to organizations, and over time tends to be more effective than a leader who lacks these two traits.”
A leader is not a leader without integrity, just a boss.
3. Strategic Thinking
Strategy is used in almost everything we do, from something as simple as driving into the highway to planning the future of a business. Leaders are highly strategic thinkers, as they plan into the future and know exactly what to expect. Leaders are all about strategy, they know what is going to happen and when. The reason leaders have so many followers is because they don’t lead them to somewhere random; they lead them onto a path that he/she makes himself/herself. Leaders know what path to take, so their followers trust them when they are heading that way. Check out this website on why strategic thinkers are found to be the most highly effective leaders.
Influence is what leaders to get followers to follow them. If leadership is about inspiring and motivating people to achieve their goals, the most effective way to do that is to influence them. If someone believes that he/she is not capable of not doing something, a leader will influence them so that they are confident enough to feel like they can accomplish anything. There are many different techniques leaders use to influence others. The four types of influence include rational approaches, social approaches, emotional approaches, and dark side influence tactics. Rational approaches include logical persuading, legitimizing, exchanging, and stating. Social approaches include socializing, appealing to relationships, consulting, and alliance building. Emotional approaches include appealing to values and modeling. The dark side approaches include avoiding, manipulating, intimidating, and threatening. Obviously, leaders won’t use the last technique as that is negative and unethical. Read more at the elements of power.
Before I start explaining why empathy is important in leadership, it is important to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. As concise as I can be, sympathy is showing care or concern to someone close, and empathy is understanding someone else’s issues on a deeper note. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding what they are going through. To read more about the difference between sympathy and empathy, check out psychology today.
Empathy is important in leadership because it helps leaders understand the needs of their followers. With this, the leaders can figure out the reason behind poor performance and find a solution to help them improve, leaders can develop better relationships with their followers, and lastly, the followers will not be blamed for their mistakes and will feel safe knowing that their leader has their back. (Tanveer Naseer)
If leaders aren’t empathetic, they will take their followers places where they aren’t comfortable going. They will do things their followers don’t want to do. With this, their followers will feel unsafe and stop following that “leader.” This is why it is important for leaders to be empathetic toward their followers and understand their concerns.
Resilience is an important skill that not only leaders should acquire, but everyone else. It is the strength needed to overcome obstacles. It is the ability to face hardships instead of turning your back to it. And, it is the ability to recover from a problem and go back to living life fully. Instead of giving up, you should be resilient and keep going, no matter how hard the task is.
There will always be problems arising in professional and personal life. What matters is how you deal with those problems. Leaders take those problems as opportunities to improve. Leaders use resilience to keep going, to not stop. There will always be people that get discouraged and feel like giving up, but leaders motivate them and inspire them to keep going. When followers get dispirited, it is the leader’s resilience that motivates the follower to keep going.
Imagine you are a babysitter and you went to someone’s house for an hour to babysit a child. As the parents leave, they tell you that you are accountable for any mess or mistakes. As you are babysitting, the child accidentally knocks over a glass of juice, rips a package of sugar, and throws his dinner on the floor. Suddenly, the child’s parents come back home. Do you blame the child for the mess or yourself? If you blame the child for the mess, you would most likely not get paid. However, if you held yourself accountable for the mess and decided to clean it all up, you would get the pay you deserve.
Accountability is all about holding yourself responsible for accidents or mistakes. If you blame others for your own mistakes, you will not be trusted by anyone. However, if you step forward and admit your blunder, you can prove yourself to others and fix the blunder. The benefits of accountability include more trust, better performance, more ownership and confidence.
Leaders have many skills, but one of the most important ones include being decisive. Life is full of making decisions, whether easy or hard. If you have had a boss who was always confused, couldn’t make up his mind, and always asking others for their opinion, you know how frustrating it is to follow him. Unlike many people, leaders are able to make quick decisions based on logical thinking and reasoning.
The reason it is so important for leaders to be decisive is because they wouldn’t be able to lead if they couldn’t make quick decisions. There are always different routes that lead to the same destination, but it is very crucial to choose the right path. Decisive leaders do what they say, are confident, quick to decide, trusted, bold, and great learners. (Lolly Daskal)
Check out the art to becoming a decisive leader!
9. Team Building
Success in a group does not all depend on a leader- it also depends on the team, the followers. The leader is the one to help and guide them, but the rest is up to the team.
Team building is an important skill leaders must have to motivate their followers. If the team was disorganized and undisciplined, the leader would not be doing a good job. In order to build a better team, the leader must be skillful at team building. The benefits of team building include more motivation, better communication, better problem-solving skills, more socializing between team members, and more strategic ways to use the strengths of every team member. (team bonding)
10. Lead by Example
When we watch movies that revolve around office life, the boss’s character is usually demanding and strict. All they do is order people to complete tasks, without showing how. (*Michael Scott*) Leaders, on the other hand, use actions more than words. Just telling someone to do something is not enough for them to actually comprehend the task. For this reason, leaders must know how to lead by example.
As said by John C. Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” When leading by example, the followers know that the leader is also getting their hands dirty and not just watching them do work. The followers gain more respect and trust for the leader, and the leader is setting a great example. (CFI)
As said before, leadership skills are not only important for work success, but also success in life. As you grow older, the use of leadership skills will increase, and with those skills, the chance of success will also increase. Check out this website on why leadership skills are important in different fields. (school, business, management, life)
However, just knowing about the leadership skills and their importance is not enough to inspire us to acquire them. For that, I recommend watching this video on how to establish yourself as a leader- 9 leadership tactics.
Of course, everybody has different opinions on leadership and what it means to them. There are tons of examples of important leadership skills, but the most common and effective ones include the ones listed here:
- Effective Communication
- Strategic Thinking
- Team Building
- Lead by Example
These leadership skills all make a leader the leader they are. These skills are like a puzzle- they work together and fit in together to form a bigger piece- the leader. I highly recommend reading this book: Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader.
No matter how many leadership skills there are, it is important for you to understand them and at least try to integrate them both in your work life and personal life. But, once you become a master of these leadership skills, remember what leaders are actually for. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch
Good luck on your journey to becoming a leader!
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