5 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills
We're searching for top company cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Apply Now »
This column is part of a series brought to you by Entrepreneur Coaching. Click here to learn more.
As the 2016 Presidential election begins to come into focus, one of the biggest questions people have is how well can the candidates lead. And why shouldn’t it be? While ideas are good, leadership brings them to reality. Plus, we all love a charismatic leader. Think of Steve Jobs’ leadership and the impact it still has today nearly five years after his death. So what about Bernie Sanders? Hillary Clinton? Ted Cruz? Or the Donald? For many people, the Presidential Race isn’t just about policy. It’s about whether you can trust in a candidate’s leadership.
Now while you might not be contemplating a run for the White House, all of us are leaders whether we realize it or not. And if you’re an entrepreneur, being a great leader is even more critical. Leaders make the tough calls. Leaders establish the vision. Leaders right the ship before anyone realizes it’s off course. Great leadership is essential. If you are looking to become a better leader, consider these 5 truths that I emphasize with my clients.
1. Recognize leadership is a skill.
While there are “natural born leaders,” that phrase leads many to believe that when it comes to leadership…either you have it or you don’t. That belief couldn’t be further from the truth. When you recognize that leadership is a skill and can be developed just like any other skill, things start to change for the better. Now belief alone won’t make you a great leader, but deliberate practice will. Studying, application, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone will all help you become the best leader you can be.
2. Know your leadership style.
Building off point #1, the best way to become a better leader is to understand where you are today. One of the reasons people think becoming a great leader is hard (or is something you’re born with) is because they try to adopt someone else’s leadership style instead of developing theirs. Knowing your strengths and style is the key to become the leader that only you can be. (And that’s the leader your business needs.) In the Entrepreneur Coaching program, we use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® to help clients recognize the leadership style that best fits them. Once a client knows his or her strengths and style, becoming a great leader becomes more natural—more effortless—than before.
3. Create a culture of leadership.
The ideal employee is engaged and passionate. So it stands to reason that you should be visibly engaged and passionate yourself. When people see someone at the top who cares deeply not just about the business, but its mission and its people, they feel they are a part of something special. So it's critical that you be as positive as possible when interacting with employees and anyone else you want to lead. Cultivate a consistently positive manner in your communications with those you seek to lead. The ideal leader is open to communication from others, and is able to listen and encourage contributions from people at all levels. People are more engaged when they feel listened to. And once you have an engaged workforce, you have a workforce of leaders. They will soon realize what you already know: Your title doesn’t make you a leader. Your willingness does.
4. Make time for leadership.
So much of an entrepreneur’s time is taken up with managing the day-to-day or simply surviving that it becomes easy to focus only on what is screaming the loudest. Leadership activities—those where you work on the business instead of in the business—can easily be relegated to the “when I get the time” to-do list. And as we all know, that to-do list only gets attention when continued neglect has turned something into an emergency. So what is the solution? You have to make time for leadership activities. These are dedicated appointments with yourself, where you tackle those strategic items that will establish your long-term vision.
5. Be humble.
Humility is probably the most important key to becoming a great leader. Leaders by their very nature need followers. Those who choose to follow you are putting their trust in you. Trust in your vision. Trust in words. Trust in you. The moment you betray their trust or don’t recognize their trust as a sacred gift, you’ll be on your way out the door. Followers make leaders…and the break them too.
While businesses and circumstances can vary, the one common denominator among successful entrepreneurs is their ability to lead. Consider where you can improve using the 5 keys listed here and you can be a great leader too.