Imagine a world where almost every person is naturally inspired to go to work, they love their job and have a sense of fulfillment in what they do. There is no “Thank God It’s Friday” notion, nor “I hate Monday”; everyone wakes up with great inspiration to seize the day, and work together to bring outstanding results. This is not some impossible, crazy notion. In fact, great leaders in successful organizations are creating workplace cultures where every team member trusts each other deeply and work together for achieving the common goals of an organization.
On the other side, there are organization leaders that lack real leadership skills. Regardless of the incentives they offer, team members are driven towards cynicism, paranoia, and insecurities leading them to failure and a hostile working environment.
Great leaders set up new visions and inspire others to follow them towards a set vision. They understand people and their capabilities and push their limits. During trying times, they are able to think creatively, make effective decisions and solve problems.
Leaders are not limited to the corporate sector but in all areas of our life: family, society, sports, religion and everywhere you go. We all have to take leadership roles to manage various situations in our life. So, how good are your leadership skills?
Leadership skills are something that can be learned, developed, and improved with time. To borrow from James Kouzes and Barry Posner, in his book The Leadership Challenge:
“Leadership skills are observable, learnable set of practices. Leadership skills are not something mystical and ethereal that cannot be understood by ordinary people. Given the opportunity for feedback and practice, those with the desire and persistence to lead can substantially improve their ability to do so.’’
Most people believe that great leaders are born, not made. If you believe that leadership skills are the result of genetics and a charismatic personality, you are less likely to become a leader. Like any other skill, leadership skills can be developed through deliberate practice, hard work, and getting outside of your comfort zone. To develop leadership skills, you need a deep understanding of who you are and what you want to do. In other words, you need to identify your passions, interests, and skills and make them valuable for other people.
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR) research on successful leaders, there are six leadership skills that every aspiring leader should practice upon:
Create an exciting and challenging vision for your team (or division/unit/organization).
Shape a clear strategy (about what actions to take and what not to) out of a vision.
Manage team effectively (recruit, develop, and reward) to execute on the strategy.
Pay attention on getting measurable results.
Encourage innovation and learning in the workplace to strengthen the team and grow new leaders.
Leading by example- developing self-awareness, work on improving yourself and manage life’s boundaries.
Note that a leadership role is not a position or a title, it’s more about a mindset and you need to work in order to develop it.
If you are an aspiring leader or working professional taking a leadership role in an organization, the best way to develop leadership skills is through continual practice and learning from your own and others’ experience. No matter what career you are in, you will find opportunities to practice leadership skills anywhere.
For instance, if you are a student, you can develop your leadership skills by acting on every opportunity you get in your college. Whether it is organizing a futsal tournament, coaching your basketball team, getting involved with college clubs, or giving a presentation in the classroom; the only way to develop leadership skills is getting your hands dirty. Furthermore, reflect on your successes and failures, accept feedback from colleagues and mentors and learn from every experience.
Research shows that self-reflection on your practice leads to improved performance. They found that workers who spend 15 minutes each day writing reflections on what they did well, what they did wrong, and their lessons learned were able to enhance their performance by 20%.
Furthermore, you don’t have to wait for the right time to take a leadership role. The truth is there is no right time, you have to seek and find learning opportunities for yourself. Join a community group, religious group, sports club, form a musical band, a non-profit organization, go for a volunteer; the options are many more if you are really hungry to practice your leadership skills.
Here is a real-life example of Ursula Burns, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Xerox, who climbed to the top executive position, but started her career from an unpaid intern. She allowed herself to learn leadership skills, work hard consistently and enabled herself to transform from a humble beginning. The moral of the story is if you raise your hands for every opportunity, and execute on it- it can lead to amazing things.
Eventually, as you progress, you will be able to get the results. Through your leadership skills and your team members' support, you will be able to make things happen. As you succeed, you will make a major impact on your organization and other people's lives.
South Asian Institute of Management (SAIM College) is a reputed education provider of management education in Nepal. We acknowledge that academic education is not sufficient to compete globally for our students. That’s why we encourage students on enhancing the all-round development of students, equip them with soft skills that are most sought in the global job market. At SAIM College, we are dedicated to developing managers and entrepreneurs with leadership skills and a global mindset through our outstanding BBA and MBA Global business programme.