You have heard that age-long debate about whether leaders are born or made. Perhaps the main reason such debates pop into our conversations is because they are predicated upon one profound truth; we live in a world of duality.
Yes! Although there are five primary colours and thousands of variations in between, we still chose to single out black and white for contrast. We have “left and right,” “fast and slow,” “in and out,” “hot and cold,” light and darkness,” the list goes on.
For this reason, our world is fraught with false dichotomies. We tend to apply the duality principle even where it does not fit; leadership.
Whether or not leaders are born is a story for another article. But what you can be sure of is, there is no perfect clause stating “leaders are born.” Now don’t get it twisted, some people are natural leaders. However, that does not mean that those collections of behaviour traits that makes someone a leader cannot be learned or developed.
Anyone who makes the effort and time to develop the skill sets required to practice true leadership can become a leader. Even if no fibre of your DNA has “born reader” scribbled on it.
In this article, you will learn 3 ways to develop your leadership skills.
Are you ready?
1. Understand and Deploy Your Strengths
In a previous article, we demonstrated that leadership has little to do with positions and everything to do with service to others. Keeping that in mind, it means that you don’t need to be in some designated office to display leadership.
You can look inwards from where you are and identify those attributes that make you unique. When you do, your next job is to hone and deploy them for the good of others. Not to kid you though, developing leadership skills require time and effort, and it starts with examining your strengths and weaknesses.
Good knowledge of your inborn gifts and abilities means you can put them to good use. While understanding your weaknesses helps you know what areas to improve or as the case may be, leverage the strengths of others.
Focusing on your strengths is what makes you grow. Admitting and working on your weaknesses is what keep you learning. Ask yourself, “What are my leadership skills?” Also, identify what your weaknesses are and know those you can improve and those you cannot.
Well, being a leader also means being honest with yourself and knowing what part of you came as a design flaw and cannot be improved. It makes it easier to leverage the strengths of others in that area.
You might display soft leadership skills such as empathy, deep listening, patience and negotiation and persuasion while your team member demonstrates strengths in decision-making, risk-taking, problem-solving and others. Whatever your inborn strengths are, developing leadership skills that syncs with those aptitudes is your Fastlane to the top.
2. Improve Your Ability to Communicate
This may sound repetitive but read on for a minute. Even if you excel in the hard aspects of leadership we mentioned earlier, you will likely hit a brick wall if you are not a good communicator.
Whether it’s in the board room or on the podium, one powerful item in the toolbox of the most exceptional leaders in history is their ability to communicate their ideas with charisma and clarity. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Barrack Obama and—as much as we hate to admit—Adolf Hitler all had this super tool in their leadership toolbox.
Starting now, you should learn to communicate with people around you in a way that nothing gets misunderstood or misinterpreted. No matter where you are on the ladder, you can improve your communication skills. Are you guru at writing reports, but you s*ck at speaking up during meetings? Are you a great conversationalist but dread speaking to a crowd five? It’s time to rev things up.
Good communication skills multiply your perceived value by 1000%. No matter how earth-shattering your ideas are, if you cannot communicate them well, they won’t weight more than a feather. Now to our last point…
3. Work on Your Attitude
There’s a popular quote by John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Nothing could be truer. Leadership is about inspiration. How do you inspire others if you are not inspired yourself?
If your attitude reeks of victimhood, there’s no way you can compel others to take positive action. If anything, you will simply spread what you are made of. If you are the kind who complain about the tiniest detail and always see the worst-case scenario at the end of every plan, then you have no seat at the table.
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If others cannot look up to you for inspiration when things go awry, then you cannot claim to be a leader. You may be one by position but not by example. Perhaps no one told you that working on your mindset is the most important part of becoming a leader. Well, you’re reading it now. Developing your leadership skills will require a lot of work on your attitude to life, setbacks, victories, criticism, pressure and so on.
Tying it all up…
While titles give structure to your leadership obligations, they don’t necessarily make you a leader. True leadership starts with your ability to identify, hone and deploy your strongest potentials; improving your ability to communicate with others for the sake of understanding; and developing a winning attitude that puts you in a position to give others direction in uncertain times.