Leadership Skills. Some people have ’em and a hell of a lot more people don’t .
What do you believe? Are great leaders are made or born.
I want to share the observations I’ve made over my years of service in high risk professions with respect to what I believe makes a good leader.
Many men and women are born with skills and traits that have the potential to make them into great leaders.
They may be charming, persuasive, driven, creative, inspirational, or dedicated.
Yet they never get there despite all the natural talent. It takes hard work and a desire for personal growth to truly become a leader.
If you want to improve your leadership skills, here are 4 steps you can implement today to begin changing your game and mastering the craft of Leadership.
Sharpen Your Communication Skills
The moans I hear from people in leadership positions is that they don’t understand the millennial generation.
What? That’s your job. Your role as a CEO or leader in your company is to put the right people in the right position to obtain the best result.
Yet, they struggle to communicate with an emerging and critical segment of their work force.
A good leader knows how to communicate clearly. Communicating isn’t just about saying the right words, it’s also about actively listening and using your non-verbal communication skills to get the message across.
To sharpen your communication skills:
Practice avoiding distractions. For a certain amount of time per day, turn off your mobile devices and close your computer, and use that time to communicate with others. Without anything to distract you, you’re free to give those people your full attention!
Sharpen your non-verbal skills. Body language, posture, and eye contact are SO important for effective communication. Learn the skills of non-verbal communication—it will account for 55% of the way people perceive you.
Be clear and concise. Practice getting the message across as clearly as possible with as few words as possible. Don’t be curt, but don’t waste your time buttering people up or dancing around the issue. Get to the point, and make sure everyone can understand what you’re saying.
Listen actively. Spend an entire conversation practicing your active listening skills, using body language, verbal feedback, and thoughtful questions to encourage the other person to talk. Active listening will get a lot better results than even the most skillful lecture!
Use your words. Don’t rely on visual aids to get the message across. Avoid crutch words—”Um”, “like”, and so on. Learn the lingo, and use it right. Practice forming cohesive, complete sentences. Know what you’re going to say before you say it.
Get your timing right. Know when it’s time to move on to a new topic of conversation or discussion. Feel the ebb and flow of your presentation, brainstorming session, or chat. A leader knows when it’s time to steer things in a new, fresh direction to keep people engaged. Directing people in a convergent manner when they become divergent.
Be comfortable ad-libbing. Also known as “speaking extemporaneously”, this method involves writing down the main talking points but not following a written script. Know what you want to talk about, but give yourself the freedom to communicate based on your audience’s reactions.
You know the guy you’ve listened to who can just roll with a topic? Believe me they have practiced working their talks and speeches in the order of 10, 000 hours (that’s about 416 days).
Know your audience. Are you talking to C-level executives, your buddies at the gym, your book club, or a group of third-graders? Know your audience and tailor your communication to them.
Read. Reading boosts your vocabulary and enhances your attention span. Plus, it helps you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, making it easier to connect with a broader spectrum of people.
Communication is the most important skill for a leader to develop. When an operation fails.. it boils down to communication. When workers are unhappy… it’s because of communication.
Practice your communication skills every day—they’ll serve you well in literally EVERY aspect of your professional and personal life.
Become More Self-Aware
We all have our strengths and weaknesses—what are yours? I also refer to this as “own your shit”.
I know that I dislike conflict. When a team member would not be meeting expectations it would light me up. I have awareness into that aspect of my personality and work actively to learn and grow in that respect. So that when it comes time to communicate I am articulating myself in a way that we both learn from.
A leader needs to be self-aware: aware of their desires, needs, habits, faults, flaws, skills, and talents.
You need to know how you truly feel about things, as that will inform your reactions in every situation. Understand your values as a individual. Paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and responses will help you to better understand yourself.
How can you do that?
Write a personal and professional mission. Take the time to sit down and think about the things that drive you, first in your personal life and then in your professional life. Essentially, write out your “mission statement”, the things you want to achieve at home and in your career. This self-introspection will help put things into perspective.
Learn objectivity. It’s easy to recognize what’s going on when you are an independent third party, an outsider observing without emotional attachment to a situation. Practice that in your own life! Step back from whatever situation you’re in and examine it through objective eyes. Analyze your decisions and the steps that led you there.
Keep a journal. Journaling helps you to unleash your stream of consciousness in a productive way. Later, after you finish writing, go back and read over what you’ve written. Over time, you’ll begin to recognize certain patterns of thinking or feeling. Use your journal entries to better understand yourself.
Meditate. Meditation sharpens your brain and improves cognitive function, but it will also help to increase your awareness. During your meditation time, focus on a single question: “Why am I doing X this way?” “What am I trying to achieve today?” “What is holding me back?” and so on. The mindfulness practice will help to develop self-awareness.
Get feedback. To better understand yourself, find out what others think or see. Your friends, family, and even coworkers may have a perception of you vastly different than the way you perceive yourself. Learn from what they see, and use that feedback to help you improve.
Becoming more self-aware will make you a more effective leader in the long run!
Practice Proactive Thinking
Problems arise and force us to deal with them, but a reactive leader is far less effective than a proactive one. Reactive leaders tend to be driven by emotion and react in extremes.
It’s impossible to predict every problem that will arise in the future, so don’t bother trying! But you can get in a proactive mindset so you’ll be prepared for those problems. To do that:
Be organized. The more organized you are, the more prepared you’ll be to respond to the situations or problems that inevitably crop up. Just like you always know where the fire extinguisher is, know who is responsible for responding to a problem or what the protocol is for dealing with a situation.
Practice thinking of problems. Not in a negative way, but in a way that will help you to anticipate any potential issues that may arise. Even if you never say the problems aloud or put actual steps in place to handle them, just the fact that you’ve given it some thought will make you better prepared to deal with them.
Work toward a goal. The more specific the goal, the better! When you are working TOWARD something, it’s easier to keep your eye on the prize. Plus, you know where you’re going, so it’s easier to make last-minute course adjustments as needed.
Deal with it now. Always deal with a problem the minute it crops up. Procrastination just gives the problem time to grow or worsen. The minute you find a problem, sit down to formulate a plan, then put that plan into action.
Get help and let your teammates do their jobs. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it. No one will ever be able to do it all, so don’t bother trying. If you need help, ask.
Listen I could tell you how to perform an explosive forced entry and what phase line yellow and phase line green mean in that kind of operation, but I cant build the charge and I can’t place it on the door. That’s a breacher’s job.
Nobody likes a micro manager or someone in a leadership position who’s ego is always bringing a contrary opinion with the intention of seeming smart.
Welcome and Learn From Failure
I Say Again – Own Your Shit!
As a leader if an operation fails… that failure
No one is immune to failure. Everyone makes mistakes, even the greatest generals in history. But a good leader will not only learn from their mistakes, but welcome them as a way to grow.
When you fail or make a mistake:
Evaluate your planning. What led you to take the steps you did or to reach that particular conclusion initially? Think back on your planning process and see if there were any areas that could have been improved. Failure is often the result of insufficient planning, so improve your planning process for the next time around.
Scrutinize your preparation. Once you had the plan in place, what steps did you take to execute that plan? Did you skip a vital step or fail to give one step sufficient importance? Would spending more time on certain steps have prepared you to deal with whatever caused your plan to fail? Think about all the little details and moving parts that went into bringing your plan to life, and see if you can find out where things went wrong.
Analyze your execution. The plan may have been initially conceived one way, but how did it turn out? Was it executed properly, or did your great plan fall short because of poor execution? Was it your motivation that failed, work ethic, communication, creativity, or external factors? Find where in the execution things went wrong so you can take steps to correct for the next plan.
Look at the variables. There are only so many things you can control, and those are the variables you need to focus on. You may have done the research, the hard work, put together a team, drafted a great plan, and followed through all the steps, but somewhere along the line things went wrong. Look at each variable to see which was the gear that threw the engine out of sync.
These four skills will go a long way toward transforming you into the capable, confident, proactive, communicative leader that you want to be. Ultimately, they will be the greatest contributor to your success in any profession or career!