How to Become the Leader You’ve Always Wanted To Be
Developing your leadership skills in today’s work might not be straight-forward but it’s an endeavor even if the C-Level is not of your goals.
As a learning and development professional, you might be creating content or programs designed to develop employees into leaders. But, what about your leadership skills?
Sure, you might not want to sit in the executive seat, or you’re not ready for it yet, so do you need leadership skills now? Absolutely.
Leadership skills like building trust, listening to others, being dependable, and having a future vision can be used at any level within an organization to create success for you and your team.
How exactly do you build these skills? Here are three sure-fire ways that’ll have you flexing your leadership muscles in no time.
Know Your Strengths
Lots of leadership development programs try to help you build your areas of weakness because the idea is that a leader should be good at everything. There’s another school of thought that says you should focus on what you do best and hire people to shore up your weaknesses. In a Gallup study, employees feel more confident, self-aware and productive when focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. This tends to lead to higher employee engagement, increased performance, and significantly lower attrition rates.(1)
Your strengths are great resources for increasing your energy and making you feel dynamic in your job role. When you’re doing something you’re good at, it’s not uncommon to lose track of time. The result of putting your strengths into what you are doing is joy, energy, and feeling alive.
Leverage Key Experiences
Learn to identify key experiences: events in your career or life that result in learning, growth, and/or increased capacity to effectively lead but let’s define that further.
A variety of experiences are essential to achieving broad and balanced leadership development but, it’s breakthrough experiences or crucible moments that truly create leaders. These sometimes transformational experiences reset how leaders view their work and their lives. The following experiences stand out:
- working on stretch assignments and out-of-expertise projects
- turning around a failing business or product
- navigating a new culture, new country or a previously uncharted customer segment or technology
- expanding technical capability significantly—specifically skills that enhance agility and digital readiness
- leading a cross-functional team on a mission-critical organizational project
- experiencing failure and learning from it
- actively building a network of supporters that led to significant gains for the organization (2)
Unfortunately, most companies don’t have a clear set of expectations for their leader—other than to “lead the company to profitability.” As you get into leadership roles, you’ll often find that there are competing priorities and expectations become a little foggy. So, how do you understand the expectations your company or team have of you as a leader?
Gallup researchers conducted a study involving more than 550 job roles and 360 unique job competencies. It showed that good leaders achieve success, despite varied roles, organizations, and industries, by focusing on the behaviors within these seven expectations of leaders: build relationships, develop people, lead change, inspire others, think critically, communicate clearly, and create accountability.
Even if you don’t have the goal of becoming a C-level executive, developing leadership skills is always a worthwhile pursuit that will benefit your career, those who work with you, and the company you work for.