It’s true that some are born with personality traits and skills that lend themselves well to leadership roles. It’s not true, however, that the only good leaders are natural-born leaders. As Vince Lombardi once said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
The skills that set good leaders apart from the pack can be learned and honed by anyone ready to put the work into developing them. Even “natural leaders,” after all, need to cultivate their potential. If you’re looking to sharpen your leadership skill set, focus on these 6 skills:
Sure, charismatic speakers might also be dynamic leaders, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Good leaders have the ability to clearly convey expectations and ideas. However, there’s more to effective communications than giving direction. Great communicators (and by extension, great leaders) are skilled at more than delivering a message. They are also great active listeners who ask meaningful, open-ended questions that invite discussion. (Find tips to boost your communications skills here: Communication Skills Every Leader Must Master.)
Unless you’re running a sole proprietorship, your business is not a one-woman show. Good leaders know that busyness is not a sign of success any more than delegating is a sign of weakness. There’s more to delegating than simply handing off a task, however. Leaders must be able to identify the tasks they can hand off, and identify who on your team is the right person to take it on. They also draw on those cultivated communications skills to clearly outline expectations and requirements. (Find tips to boost your delegation skills here: Give Me a Hand: 7 Steps to Successful Delegation.)
This one is more important than you may realize. Successful teams are those rooted in the belief that they will succeed (or they’ll learn something to help them succeed on the next try if they stumble). They are teams that support one another and rally. They are productive and collaborative. Most importantly, they have a leader who cultivates that team attitude by modeling it herself. Your attitude matters. It sets the tone. (Find tips to cultivate a positive attitude here: Leaders, Your Attitude is Contagious. Make It a Good One.)
Good leaders are self-aware, transparent, and, well, they’re real. Authenticity matters. Great leaders blend their self-awareness and confidence with flexible willingness to experiment and grow. Authentic leadership is a mindset of continual growth. It’s recognizing and owning your weaknesses with a willingness to work on improvement. It’s being aware of your strengths with a desire to mentor others as they work to cultivate the same. (Find tips on developing an authentic leadership style here: Why Your Best Leadership Strategy is Authenticity.)
Your job may not require you to pull together a graphic or write witty prose, but it will certainly require a measure of creativity. Problem solving, innovating, marketing, selling, and most other facets of your business require a bit of creativity.
Successful leaders know how to get the creative juices flowing in themselves and their team. Cultivating a culture that welcomes experimentation and doesn’t fear failure (it’s a learning opportunity, after all!) is the foundation of success. Before you can nurture that in your business, however, you’ve got to learn how to embrace your own creativity. (Find tips to nurture your creative side here: 4 Surefire Ways to Unleash Your Creative Side.)
Great leaders know that they never really know enough. From new skills to new technologies, they have a thirst for learning. Whether that takes the form of formal classes or just embracing an afternoon with YouTube videos or a stack of good books to teach yourself a few new tricks, a hunger for learning is a must.