Anyone who has worked for an organization can easily describe what they like and dislike about the leaders they encounter. However, turning those observations into the skills you need to become a good leader yourself can be much more difficult.
For example, you admire your boss because she clearly communicates tasks: you always know what’s expected and when. While you copy her techniques for task management, how do you describe how she also makes you really want to get those tasks done, and done well? Ray Carvey, interviewed in this Forbes magazine article, calls this more advanced skill “developing a leadership mindset”. At Fred Pryor Seminars, our Leadership Conference describes developing leadership excellence beyond simple task management as “making the transition from manager to leader”.
Here are tips for developing those leadership skills that move you from manager to leader.
Identify Your Management Style
Are you an autocratic, democratic or delegative leader? Transformational, transactional or situational leader?
Understanding how you naturally approach your role as a leader offers insight into common weaknesses of each leadership type. An autocratic leader can be highly effective in environments where rapid, definitive decisions are needed. They also can be susceptible to a combative relationship with team members if the right motivation and appreciation techniques aren’t also employed. About.com offers this simple Leadership Style Quiz.
Identify Skills to Improve
Even successful managers find blind spots and areas to improve upon. Develop those skills that most improve your own effectiveness by first identifying those areas that need help.
Harvard Business Review published last year a list of leadership skills most needed by managers across all levels of an organization. The results were based on responses from over 300,000 bosses, peers, and subordinates. These seven competencies topped the list of most important:
- Inspires and motivates others
- Displays high integrity and honesty
- Solves problems and analyzes issues
- Drives for results
- Communicates powerfully and prolifically
- Collaborates and promotes teamwork
- Builds relationships
Perform an honest evaluation of your current strengths and weaknesses to maximize the benefits from extra training or mentoring that you plan to undertake.
Fill the Gaps
Once you identify skill areas that need improvement, create a plan to address them. Training classes and seminars offer you best practices and usually include techniques for perfecting those skills. If time or budget limits your ability to attend classes, here are some alternatives:
- Seek a mentor – Find someone in your organization or a respected friend to mentor you as you strive for more leadership responsibility.
- Read – There are many free online articles that can offer you advice and insight. Respected publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes Magazine, and Psychology Today offer channels devoted to leadership topics. Fred Pryor Seminars also offer sbooks, video courses, webinars and online training in addition to our award-winning seminars.
- Ask your employer – Many businesses are eager to help motivated employees gain skills that improve their performance and make them more valuable. Don’t forget to approach your manager or HR to ask about opportunities for training, continuing education, and career counseling.
Hopefully, you have identified what to work on and how to go about improving those skills. At the end of the day, practice makes perfect. Create a plan for how you intend to put new skills into practice and evaluate your progress. Once you master a new skill, take a moment to celebrate. Then, get started on the next one!