very week brings new challenges, and to those in positions of leadership it can be especially confusing trying to adapt to the ever changing circumstances. While some are learning how to bake bread or roller skate, others are spending their time wondering how they can become better leaders.
Those in management roles--such as project managers, negotiators, and resource professionals--can also benefit from time spent learning about leadership. Learning how to be a leader, not a manager, is a necessary step for those looking to advance in their careers, improve work quality, or develop stronger teams.
Leadership is complex--some view leadership as an opportunity to exert power while others see it as a guiding role. Thankfully, there are several indispensable traits that any leader, regardless of personal style, needs to adopt in order to be a more effective leader. While managerial skills are also useful, the leadership traits emphasized below can radically alter the efficiency and energy of a workforce.
Learning how to be a better leader is an investment in your future. When you learn to lead people, those you work with become followers. Those in managerial positions don’t have followers--instead, they have workers. The difference between a follower and a worker is the amount of effort and care they put into their work.
Many of us have dealt with people in positions of authority with whom we disagreed. As a team member, you want those in charge to be people you can look up to and trust in. You want to be respected and for your opinion and work to matter. Good leaders understand this and know how to cater to the needs of their team members in order to inspire their confidence and drive them to be their best selves.
Learn about the five traits you need to focus on to become a better leader:
- Ability to Influence/Inspire
The Traits of a Good Leader and How You Can Develop Them
The Five Traits to Focus On In Your Quest to Becoming a Better Leader
When you understand the people working for you, you gain a better understanding of the guidance and type of leader they need in order to maximize work potential. Communication skills play a key role in boosting interpersonal interactions.
Strong communication is how leaders spread their vision, establish goals, and work to resolve any conflicts. When conflict arises (which it will) a leader needs to know how to maneuver the situation and learn from it.
Communication helps you develop a mutual trust between yourself and your team members. You need to trust in their ability and willingness to complete tasks and grow as a worker, and they need to trust in your ability to guide and assist them. Without interpersonal communication there will always be a barrier between you and the team. They won’t know you and you won’t know them--and so know one will entirely trust in the ability of the team as a whole to work effectively without constant management.
To develop strong communication skills, make over-communication the goal. Always respond to your team members, follow up with clients and non-team members, and be the first to introduce yourself. Honesty and openness go a long way, and asking for feedback will help you identify and address communication errors.
Leadership involves more interpersonal skills; management is work-centric, equating workers to interchangeable machine parts.
Managers keep the machine running smoothly--leaders ensure that advancements are made. By appreciating the abilities of individuals, leaders also learn to recognize each person’s limits. Once you know their limits and work habits, you reduce the need to constantly check in and
Leaders have a better understanding of those who work for them. Although they occupy a position of power, there is a sense of equality that stems from recognition of the importance of each person on the team.
Managing without taking the time to learn about each individual may negatively impact the quality of work being produced. Without appreciating the individuality and unique capabilities of your workers, you can’t recognize the limits of each person--or recognize when an individual is capable of creativity and innovation.
Appreciating those you work with also enables you to learn from them. Good leaders know that they’re not the only ones with useful skills and knowledge--they know their team members have important skills and lessons to teach them and are open to learning from them.
Express your appreciation for your team members through actions as well as words. Acknowledge and thank individuals for their specific contributions and talents. Don’t be afraid to express your appreciation in a more concrete way, perhaps by ordering lunch or hosting team building workshops.
When learning how to become a better leader, one of the most difficult traits to learn is self-awareness. Self-awareness requires you to accept your own shortcomings and the need to communicate these with others. Becoming a better leader means focusing on the ways in which you can improve and frequently checking in with yourself to determine the ways in which you can improve as a person in order to evolve as a leader.
Self-awareness has consistently ranked as one of the most important traits a leader must develop. For many, it’s the most important trait, the one that must come before anything else. You, as the leader, are the one constant across all domains of a business or team--your self-awareness impacts every part of your mission.
Good leaders learn how to address personal failings in a healthy, productive way. Instead of believing that their personality and leadership style is fixed and unchangeable, good leaders know how and when to use new tactics to improve other aspects of their leadership.
When a good leader makes a mistake, they recognize the need to apologize and assume responsibility for their behavior. No one is perfect. Every leader makes mistakes. It’s about how they address them and grow from their mistakes that a good leader learns how to become better.
Self-awareness comes from within, but in order to begin the process of becoming self-aware it’s sometimes necessary to look to the world at large. Think back to the last conflict you had with someone. What was the underlying issue? What does this interaction say about you? Was it resolved easily?
Ability to Influence/Inspire
Leaders influence people--people don’t just view them as a source of authority, but come to them independently for advice. When setting long-term goals, leaders leave room for changes in the process that stem from new insights and inspiration.
Respect and admiration, both of which come from interpersonal communication and competence as a leader, make for a team in which each member is inspired to do their best work. The ideal leader is therefore one who people look up to and admire.
A big component of inspiring and influencing those you lead is the ability to lead by example. A leader with a vision of where the team should be and what they can achieve acknowledges their own role and adopts the necessary leadership traits in order to set a positive example. You aren’t just delegating work as a leader. You’re setting a standard and inspiring those around you to meet it.
You don’t need to imitate other famous leaders in order to be influential. Rather than trying to adopt a persona, search for ways you can develop your knowledge and skills within your field and constantly strive for the next level.
One of the hallmark traits of a manager is the prioritization of quotas and assessments. While it’s important for leaders to assess where the team is on the path to completing a task, there’s a difference between the way a manager and a leader’s capacity to adopt new ways of improving efficiency. Managers rely on enforcement of standardized procedures--a leader acknowledges the need for change in order to meet growing demands. They prioritize value and quality of work instead of counting hours or product.
Prioritization of specific goals is important, and it can be difficult and draining to constantly feel like you have to step in and check up on how much progress is being made. By connecting each task to specific team goals, you can help make sure that the steps you’re prioritizing really matter in the long run.
Leaders also know that the team is only as strong as the weakest member. Looking for specific ways to help each member improve is one way a leader can prioritize long-term improvement and move past the concept of the team as a machine of interchangeable parts.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, leaders accept that their team members will not always perform perfectly and will have individual flaws they need to work to overcome.
Managers tend to think in the short-term--each member is only as important as the work they’re producing at any given time. A leader recognizes the potential and prioritizes establishing strong interpersonal relationships and development of skills that will lead to a more efficient team.
Prioritizing long-term success and growth requires open-mindedness. You have to acknowledge that your end goal is not to create a mechanical process that replicates past success--leaving room for creativity will help you evolve as a team and discover new ways to reach your goals.
Strong Leaders Know When and How to Manage
Becoming a Better Leader Is A Constant Work in Progress
A good leader is above all else effective. They have a vision and inspire a team to reach it. They are willing and able to improvise and adapt their behaviors and techniques to better suit the specific team they work with.
Looking to the famous leaders of the past, we often see examples of people who have had lasting impacts on the world. Leadership for you may look like leading classmates in a group project or leading a group of parents setting up a bake sale. The skills listed above are skills that each and every leader needs. Every leadership role is important, and every leader should strive to become a better leader no matter what kind of leadership role they’re in.
There are practical and necessary reasons why you might assume the traits of a manager as opposed to a leader. In cases where a strong direction must be established, good managers are capable of breaking down the steps and assigning roles in order to efficiently complete tasks.
There are plenty of jobs that demand you to assume the traits of a manager while balancing them with the qualities of a leader. Successful entrepreneurs and business owners are leaders with the ability to manage by applying leadership techniques.
Confidence in yourself and your ability to become a better leader is key. Recognizing that leadership is attainable and that there are clear, simple steps you can take in order to reach your goal can help improve your confidence in yourself.
Becoming a better leader is a constant work in progress. Some days it may seem like it’s easier to be a manager than a leader--but in the long-term, becoming a leader is a possibility for everyone willing to work to develop the necessary skills.