If you’re in a leadership position, or working towards one, you may find yourself wondering how to become the type of leader that others will be inspired to follow. Executive leader and coach DEBORAH WILSON explains how you can become a great leader by following six simple, yet vital, steps.
Great leaders are not born, they are made. This is especially true for women, who must often work harder than men to get to the top. Once you get there, the challenge becomes how to lead most effectively.
The good news is that becoming a great leader can be as simple as creating a plan and sticking to it.
Here are the six steps you can take to become the leader that others will want to follow:
1. Develop self-awareness Think of the best and worst employers you’ve ever had. Make a list of their positive and negative traits. Do you see yourself in the list of negative traits? How can you work to eliminate those aspects from your character? On the positive side, highlight those characteristics you would like to further develop. Traits like confidence, decisiveness, humility, compassion, and courage are all important for effective leadership.
2. Identify and acquire the additional skills you need Conduct an inventory of your skills that you need to lead effectively. Some of these skills are specific to your role and industry; others are ‘soft skills’ that all leaders need. This includes, for example, team optimisation and conflict resolution. Put effort into acquiring these skills, whether through reading books and articles, working with a coach or mentor, or doing self-development courses.
3. Practice integrity Integrity and honesty are required in leaders for employees to trust them. Make sure that what you say and do on the outside matches up with your inner values so that your employees believe in you and your vision, and what you tell them. When relationships between you and your team are built on trust, respect, and honesty, your leadership will be much more effective.
4. Listen actively We all know of leaders who only listen to what they ‘want’ to hear. People want to follow leaders who genuinely care about those around them. Successful leaders engage in open communication, and that means taking every opportunity to listen and learn. Employees who feel valued and listened-to will give you information and insights that you might not otherwise hear.
5. Lead by example Do you want your employees to, for example, take more responsibility for their work? Then have the courage to admit to your own mistakes, and show how you will take the necessary steps to make things right. Also, think about how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. This includes maintaining a work-life balance. When you stay behind at the office every night of the week, do your employees feel pressured to do the same? There are no business benefits from an overworked leader or crew. Look after your health, and ensure you look after theirs as well.
6. Be courageous Courage is arguably the most important trait for any good leader to possess. All the other good leadership traits, such as honesty, integrity, confidence, and decisiveness, to some extent, rely on courage. Courage is not about the absence of fear, but about having the ability to face it. It helps leaders to handle a variety of situations in an effective way: it provides the backbone you need to take risks, delegate important duties, give bad news, stick to your guns, and admit fault.
Leadership is a skill that can be learned, and making a conscious effort to improve your skills will help you address the challenges that present themselves to you every day. Ultimately, you will decide what kind of leader you will be. The results you’ll see from following these steps will enable you to shine as the leader you want to be, and as a leader people want to follow.