What's your key area for improvement?
Who do you consider to be a good leader? Maybe it's a politician, a famous businessperson, or a religious figure. Or maybe it's someone you know personally – like your boss, a teacher, or a friend.
You can find people in leadership roles almost everywhere you look. However, simply having the responsibilities of a leader doesn't necessarily make a person an effective leader. This is a shame because, with a little study, humility and hard work, all of us can learn how to lead effectively.
So, how can you bring your leadership skills to tip-top condition?
You can start by analyzing your performance in specific areas of leadership. Complete the quiz below to help you identify where you already lead effectively, and where your skills need further development. In the analysis sections underneath, we'll direct you to the resources you need for exceptional leadership.
|18-34||You need to work hard on your leadership skills. The good news is that if you use more of these skills at work, at home, and in the community, you'll be a real asset to the people around you. You can do it – and now is a great time to start! (Read below to start.)|
|35-52||You're doing OK as a leader, but you have the potential to do much better. While you've built the foundation of effective leadership, this is your opportunity to improve your skills, and become the best you can be. Examine the areas where you lost points below, and determine what you can do to develop skills in these areas.|
|53-90||Excellent! You're well on your way to becoming a good leader. However, you can never be too good at leadership or too experienced – so look at the areas below where you didn't score maximum points, and figure out what you can do to improve your performance.|
There are many leadership skills and competencies that, when combined and applied, go toward making you an effective leader. You have the ability to develop each of these skills within yourself. Read on for specific ideas on how you can improve your leadership skills!
Successful leaders tend to have certain traits. Two keys areas of personal growth and development are fundamental to leadership success: self-confidence, and a positive attitude.
Self-confident people are usually inspiring, and people like to be around individuals who believe in themselves and what they're doing. Likewise, if you're a positive and optimistic person who tries to make the best of any situation, you'll find it much easier to motivate people to do their best.
Self-Confidence (Questions 2, 8)
Self-confidence is built by mastering significant skills and situations, and by knowing that you can add real value by the work you do. One of the best ways to improve your confidence is to become aware of all of the things you've already achieved.
Our article on Building Self-Confidence explains what you can do to understand yourself better and build your self-confidence. From there, you'll begin to make the most of your strengths and improve your weaknesses. Mind Tools Club members can explore this further with our Bite-Sized Training session on Personal SWOT Analysis.
Positive Attitude and Outlook (Questions 10, 17)
A positive mindset is also associated with strong leadership. However, being positive is much more than presenting a happy face to the world: you need to develop a strong sense of balance, and recognize that setbacks and problems happen – it's how you deal with those problems that makes the difference.
Positive people approach situations realistically, prepared to make the changes necessary to overcome a problem. Negative people, on the other hand, often give in to the stress and pressure of the situation. This can lead to fear, worry, distress, anger and failure.
Stress management techniques, including getting enough Rest, Relaxation and Sleep as well as physical exercise, are great ways of getting rid of negative thoughts and feelings. Understanding your thinking patterns, and learning to identify and eliminate negative thinking are key. You can learn how to do this in our article on Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking and Positive Thinking, and Mind Tools Club Premium members can find out how to become more optimistic in our Book Insight on Learned Optimism.
(Questions 5, 15)
The concept of emotional intelligence used to be referred to as "soft skills," "character", or even "communication skills". The more recent idea of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) offers a more precise understanding of a specific kind of human talent. EQ is the ability to recognize feelings – your own and those of others – and manage those emotions to create strong relationships.
Learning to develop Empathy is essential for emotional intelligence, as is communicating effectively, and practicing Empathic Listening. These all help you really understand the other person's perspective.
Transformational leadership is a leadership style where leaders create an inspiring vision of the future, motivate their followers to achieve it, manage implementation successfully, and develop the members of their teams to be even more effective in the future. We explore these dimensions below.
Providing a Compelling Vision of the Future (Questions 6, 14)
This is your ability to create a Vision of the Future, and to present this vision in a way that's compelling and inspiring to the people you lead.
The first part of being able to do this is having a thorough knowledge of the area you're operating in. See our Bite-Sized Training session on Building Expert Power to find out how to develop this.
From there, good use of strategic analysis techniques can help you gain the key insights you need into the environment you're operating in, and into the needs of your clients. See the Strategy Menu for more than 50 powerful techniques that give you these insights.
With these tools, you can identify the challenges you face and identify the options available to you. Good use of Prioritization Skills and Decision-Making Techniques will help you identify your best strategic options, and validate your chosen way forward.
Finally, to sell your vision, you need the ability to create a compelling and interesting story. Our article on Powers of Persuasion can help you open closed minds, so that people consider your ideas fairly. Another great way of inspiring people is to use vivid stories to explain your vision: Premium members can find out more about this in our Expert Interview with Annette Simmons, titled Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins.
Motivating People to Deliver the Vision (Questions 9, 12)
This is closely related to creating and selling a vision. You must be able to convince others to accept the objectives you've set. Emphasize teamwork, and recognize that when people work together, they can achieve great things. To provide effective leadership by linking performance and team goals, use Management by Objectives (MBO) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Ultimately, goal acceptance is about finding ways to motivate people. To better understand your ability to motivate, complete our quiz How Good Are Your Motivation Skills?, and explore our articles on Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors, and Sirota's Three Factor Theory.
Being a Good Role Model
(Questions 4, 11)
Good leaders lead by example. They "do what they say," and "say what they do." These types of leaders are trustworthy, and show integrity. They get involved in the daily work where needed, and they stay in touch with what's happening throughout the organization. Great leaders don't just sit in their offices and give orders; they demonstrate the actions and values that they expect from the team.
As with building vision above, a key part of being a good role model is leading from the front by developing expert power. A leader can't rely on position alone: by keeping current, and staying relevant within the organization, you'll inspire people because you're worthy of your power and authority, not just because you're the boss.
Managing Performance Effectively (Questions 3, 13)
Effective leaders manage performance by setting their expectations clearly and concisely. When everyone knows what's expected, it's much easier to get high performance. There's little uncertainty, therefore you can deal with performance issues quickly. And if things have already started to slide, our article on Re-Engaging Team Members offers some excellent tips for turning a negative situation back to a positive one.
As you create rules, help the team understand Why the Rules Are There. Involve them in the rule-making process, and make sure your expectations align with the resources and support available. Apply rules fairly and consistently.
Providing Support and Stimulation (Questions 1, 7, 16, 18)
The last two dimensions of transformational leadership require you to commit to developing your people. To be highly motivated at work, people usually need more than a list of tasks to be completed each day. They need challenges and interesting work. They need to develop their skills, and feel supported in their efforts to do a good job.
Think about your approach to Task Allocation, and look for opportunities to match people with jobs and responsibilities that will help them grow and develop. Use Heron's Six Categories of Intervention to help you decide when and how to help team members for maximum effectiveness. Perform Training Needs Assessments on a regular basis to determine what your team needs to be successful. Remember that emotional support is also important. The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid is a great tool for thinking about the right balance between concern for people, and productivity.
To be successful in your career, regardless of your title or position, focus on developing your leadership skills.
Effective leaders can add value simply by being present on teams. They are inspirational and motivating. They know the right things to say to people to help them understand what's needed, and they can convince people to support a cause.
When you have talented and effective leaders in your organization, you're well on your way to success. Develop these leadership skills in yourself and in your team members – and you'll see the performance and productivity of your entire team improve.
With the Mind Tools Club, you get much, much more than you do here for free.
And we'll give you the 4 workbooks above when you join!
Learn on the move with the free Mind Tools iPhone, iPad and Android Apps. Short bursts of business training ideal for busy people.