Great leadership isn’t a given. Leadership is often learned by making mistakes, working your way up the ranks, and even more so, by observing leaders around you that excel and even the ones who do not.
You can be a leader regardless of the position you hold. Whether you aspire to be a manager, a leader, or simply an exemplary employee that can lead others through example, these are the skills you should begin practicing:
The skill of listening is seemingly obvious, but we typically take it for granted. We tend to assume that because we can hear, we must be listening. The act of genuinely listening, however, is hearing what is being said without thinking about your response/rebuttal.
Take time to hear the meaning behind the words, looking beyond the words for cues. So much is said without words – active listening gets you reading body language and putting it together with the words to better understand what is being said.
Give yourself grace. Knowing, admitting, and being comfortable with the fact that you are capable of making mistakes and do not have all of the answers is the first step. When you show yourself compassion, you are better equipped to handle feedback from your peers/team when things may not be going as expected.
Self-compassion gives you the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, which is important when giving feedback. It allows you to help your employees become more comfortable with the feedback while helping to foster their professional development.
For many people, empathy is not something that comes naturally. Fortunately, it is a skill that can be practiced or nurtured. When you are empathetic, you can better understand what others are going through. When you are fostering your empathetic nature, and an employee tells you that they are feeling overwhelmed with work, you will be able to look at it from both professional and personal perspectives. You will be able to assess their workload while understanding how it is affecting them, helping find a healthy balance.
The act of vulnerability is probably the most difficult skill for anyone to embrace; however, it is the best way to build strong relationships. As a leader, when you open up first, others tend to follow suit, feeling more inclined to open up in return.
Practicing vulnerability does not mean that you need to lay all of your cards on the table, sharing your deepest darkest fears. Instead, think of it as sharing your company concerns, admitting that you do not have all of the answers, asking your team for help in problem solving – letting your team know that their contribution matters fosters healthier communication and teamwork.
Honesty is the backbone of all of these skills. It is pretty much impossible to put these skills into practice without first being honest. When you are honest, you are helping to build trust within your team, paving the way for your team to gain confidence and comfort to be equally as honest in their communication.
“Knowledge isn’t power until it’s applied.” -Dale Carnegie