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How to Develop Leadership Skills: A Complete Guide

Leadership skills are essential to keep improving in your career. Read on to learn how to develop leadership skills in the workplace.
How to Develop Leadership Skills: A Complete Guide

Developing leadership skills is something that every person who wants to succeed has to work at constantly. Sadly, it’s also something that only a few select people are born with, and most of us have to work hard at it.

What’s even worse, if you don’t know how to develop leadership skills, it could cost you a lot during your career. The most likely scenario is that you won’t get respect from your peers, not to mention superiors. This could ultimately make you lose valuable opportunities, jobs, promotions, etc.

But, worry not! You can develop these skills, so this never happens to you.

If you want to learn more about leadership skills development — you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll go in-depth, and talk about all of the important skills you need to have as a leader (current or aspiring) and how to develop them.

1. Why Developing Leadership Skills Is Important

Learning how to develop leadership skills can improve your current and future status, no matter what part of the corporate journey you’re on.

You could be, for example, gunning for a managerial position, or a better job at a different company. On the other hand, maybe you’ve already earned a promotion, but you just can’t get your employer to recognize that. Or maybe, you want to ensure that you are an integral part of your company, and secure your position for good.

Whatever the case may be, it will be imperative for you to learn how to develop leadership skills — if you want to step up the ladder. So, without further ado, let’s talk about how to develop leadership skills in the workplace in a way that benefits you directly.

2. The Three Pillars of Leadership

In order to become the best leader you can be, you have to gain mastery of all three aspects of leadership, which are, as follows:

Lead yourself

First things first, you can’t expect other people to follow your lead if you don’t do it yourself. This means understanding, and admitting to your strengths and weaknesses, and utilizing them to the best of your abilities in order to meet your goals.

When you get stuck or are out of your depth, admit to it, and find people that can fill your gaps. Finally, remember to reevaluate your past decisions and actions, to see what you could have done better.

Lead your team

In order to lead your team, you will first have to assess their skills, capabilities, and shortcomings. But that’s only the beginning. True leaders also have to keep their employees engaged and motivated at all times. Wondering how to develop leadership skills in employees, here are the top four tips:

  • Give them constant feedback, as well as semi-annual evaluations.
  • Be there for your employees, support and catch them when they fall, and correct them when you need to.
  • Remember, your responsibility is to prevent people from plateauing and getting complacent in their roles. Create pipelines that will allow people to rise to higher positions when the time comes. This way, you’ll be able to motivate your team to always do their best work.
  • Be ready to have honest conversations, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable they are.

Lead the business as a whole

As a leader, in addition to leading your team members, your main responsibility is to produce results for your company. After all, that’s what they rely on you for the most.

In order to do this, you have to be able to understand how and when to take calculated risks. This comes from experience, as well as studying market trends in your field.

Additionally, you need to play into your team member’s strengths and utilize them as best you can. Ultimately, you have to be able to recognize when something isn’t working and be ready to change strategy, management, and roles in order to get things back on track.

3. Find Your Leadership Style

There are a lot of different leadership styles out there, and part of how to develop leadership skills is discovering which one works best for you.

The most popular choices are as follows:

  • Autocratic
  • Bureaucratic
  • Coaching
  • Democratic
  • Servant
  • Laissez-faire
  • Pacesetter
  • Visionary
  • Transactional
  • Transformational

You can try to model yourself after one, or even a few of them, but the question is — which one? There is no right or wrong answer here, just the one that suits your personality and abilities best.

For example, if you’re strategic, optimistic, and don’t mind taking risks, the visionary leadership style may be the one for you. On the other hand, if you’re efficient, prone to delegating, and want to promote an autonomous environment — Laissez-faire could be the best fit.

Whatever the case, we recommend picking a leadership style (or even a couple of them) and sticking to it. By being consistent, you’ll learn how to develop leadership skills more efficiently, and your team and superiors will be able to rely on you more.

That being said, try not to get too stuck in your ways or become rigid with “the rules”. Life is unpredictable, and you constantly have to adapt to the new challenges it throws at you. Moreover, there will come a time when you may have to switch teams or even companies, and learning to adjust will do wonders for your career trajectory.

4. Always Keep Learning How to Develop Leadership Skills

As we have already established, if you aren’t a leader by nature, you have to work hard at it. And that’s why this is perhaps the most important piece of advice we can give you — never stop learning and working on your leadership.

There are two great ways you can do this daily, to ensure your steady growth as a leader.

Learn from other leaders: During your path in leadership skills development, it will be imperative for you to find someone to emulate and someone that can always inspire you. Watch good leaders give seminars, read their books, and listen to their interviews. By investing as little as 30 minutes of your time a day, you will be able to learn leadership passively.

Then, once you’ve gained a better grasp on the leadership style that suits you and narrowed the pool of the leaders you want to emulate, start implementing their advice in your daily life.

PS: Skill stagnation is one of the top work mistakes to avoid. Another reason to keep learning, even after you’re established in your leadership role.

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The most important thing to remember is that you should never stop learning how to develop leadership skills, as there will always be something new for you to discover about leadership.

5. Don’t Wait for Opportunities To Find You

The will to take on more responsibilities is the true mark of every leader. A leader doesn’t wait for anything to fall into their lap — they go after it.

So, you ought to actively seek out opportunities to learn how to develop leadership skills by asking your supervisor for new responsibilities in your current role. You can also show initiative by coming up with new ways to optimize the current workflow. Additionally, you could offer to organize meetings or lead some projects.

Wear as many hats as you can, and allow your leadership style to evolve from situation to situation. This way, you’ll be able to learn how to grow as a leader depending on the project, team members, and other factors.

First, start small, and work your way up to more important aspects of the business and responsibilities.

6. Develop Leadership Skills in Your Everyday Life

So far, we have mostly talked about leadership within the realm of a professional setting, but it’s something you can (and should) implement in your daily life as well. The ability to lead heavily relies on soft skills (also called ‘people skills’), and that’s something you can work on in your personal interactions.

Soft skills are thought of as something that you naturally have or don’t, but the truth is you can improve them greatly if you work at them. This may be particularly beneficial for people who fear “stepping out of line” at work, or deal with imposter syndrome.

In order to develop leadership skills, try to be a problem-solver, planner, listener, and inspirational speaker to those around you. Whether it’s with a family member or a barista at your local cafe, every interaction comes with the opportunity for you to grow as a leader.

You can do this by practicing active listening and trying to adapt to new situations and people as quickly as you can. Additionally, try to pick up the subtle clues from other people, and their behavior, and always practice self-reflection after an interaction to see what you could have done better.

Finally, and most importantly make it a priority to take charge of situations. Whether it’s during a verbal exchange, by planning trips, or by giving advice and motivating those around you.

Soon enough, you’ll start to learn from each situation and individual, while growing into your leadership style. Then, you can easily translate the things you’ve learned into your workspace and start assuming new roles and responsibilities.

7. Practice Conflict Resolution

Remember, leadership isn’t a popularity contest, it’s about setting clear guidelines and making sure everyone honors them. So, learning how to handle difficult situations (and people) is one of the most important leadership development skills you can have.

In order to be able to resolve conflict successfully, you ought to:

  • Manage stress levels. Don’t let yourself, or others, get too heated. By staying calm, you’ll be able to accurately interpret both verbal and non-verbal cues. Thus, you’ll be able to find the best resolution.
  • Listen to all sides of a story, before taking a side and reaching a conclusion.
  • Be straightforward, never run away from conflict, and try to help your team when you can. Your team will rely on you to handle grievances, as well as workflow issues that arise in the midst of a project, and you have to be honest with them about what’s going on.

8. Know How & When to Delegate

Like Theodore Roosevelt said: “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

So, once you’re happy with who you have working on your team, you have to let them do their jobs. Nobody likes a micromanager, and this isn’t a trait of a successful, or confident leader.

It’s natural that at times, you may feel like it’s important or just easier for you to completely take the reins. However, this will lead to your team resenting you, and you will miss out on opportunities to grow as a leader.

Instead, you need to give your team the time, space, and skills necessary for them to complete their tasks successfully. This means being there to acknowledge their strengths and success and talk to them about their weaknesses and failures.

Additionally, you will need to be clear when establishing the responsibilities, roles, and deadlines for projects and ensuring they meet them.

9. Be a Follower Too

As we mentioned, in order for you to develop leadership skills, you should follow the advice of other wise leaders.

However, this doesn’t mean only listening to or following the greats. On the contrary, you have to be open to receiving criticism, ideas, suggestions, and overall feedback from everyone around you. Of course, it’s up to you to discern whose advice to follow, and how to incorporate it into your own life and leadership style.

The main point of being a follower is opening yourself up to inspiration from others because it will allow your own ideas to flow. Additionally, you can use other people’s past failures and successes to learn from.

Be the Leader You Always Wished You Had

Remember when you were just starting out in the workforce? More likely than not, you were inexperienced, lost, and in need of a good leader — who never showed up.

This is who you can, and should be to your employees and your company. Good leaders are always essential, making these skills integral to your career development.

Also, keep in mind that leadership work is self-work, and developing your skills will serve you in all aspects of your life, your entire life. Constantly be hungry for knowledge, seek out new challenges, and strive to do better every day.

Practicing how to improve leadership skills with Big Interview will allow you to grow as a leader, and take charge in your career and workplace. Whether you need more confidence, better resources, or someone to practice conflict resolution with — we’re here for you.

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

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