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7 Steps to Upping Your Leadership Game

While many organizations boast of multiple managers, not as many can say they have people who excel at leadership. Why is it so hard to be a good leader? Most people aren’t trained – even in the best schools, a business degree has many technical aspects, but there’s not a lot on the “soft skills” which are the essence of good leadership. If you believe your leadership approach needs a refresher, consider these 7 Steps to upping your leadership game:

  • Balance humility with ego. It’s important for leaders to be confident and show that they know what they are doing and excite their people with their confidence. However, the best leaders balance ego with a healthy dose of humility: They self-reflect, they take corrective feedback even from those who are levels below them, and they seek ways to grow and change.
  • Mentor, but not just “do as I do”. Successful people got where they are because they did many things right and have a certain set of talents and style. Unfortunately, when leading, it’s not realistic to expect everyone else around you to do it the same way you did it. Strong leaders recognize style differences – just because you are an assertive and results-oriented person doesn’t mean the person working for you with a calmer, more thoughtful style can’t be just as effective in their own way. Being able to mentor, and to shift style while doing it, is the mark of a talented leader. It takes effort and focus and it’s a lot more work, but the payoff is much greater.
  • Listening is as important as giving guidance. The adage “seek to understand before you seek to be understood,” which Stephen Covey eloquently shared, fits here. Leaders should want to teach, guide, and train their constituents, but the best leaders listen and learn first, then guide second. Listening takes patience and strength, so a leader can’t be running so quickly that they miss out on the important nuggets they can glean by listening.
  • The best ideas may not be yours. Leaders need to have the vision and the ideas about how to accomplish the vision. The team looks to the leader for encouragement and enthusiasm, but the leader doesn’t have to know it all. A good leader can paint a picture of where the team can go, and then let others in the team create pathways and avenues to be able to get there. A good leader stays open and recognizes that his or her gift can be in leveraging the ideas of others, not in giving away all of the answers all of the time.
  • People want to be led. While good leaders should listen, take others’ ideas into account, and be interested in hearing what their team has to say, the truth is that most employees want a strong leader they can be excited about following. Communicating a clear and effective vision, showing the team where they fit in the overall picture, and helping them to be the best they can be in order to contribute are among the most important and fulfilling aspects of leadership.
  • Trust is earned. While in the past the common wisdom said the person in authority is right and in charge, but the times they are a-changin’. Now, trust is developed over time, and employees are skeptical of those in charge until they can see the leader has their best interests at heart. Recognize that they might not trust you, or want to follow you until you give them a reason to do so. Do what you say you will, and communicate when you make a mistake. Put a priority on earning trust over time.
  • Give credit to the team. Strong leaders don’t need to hog the limelight. They don’t need to be the ones taking the accolades all of the time. In fact, a good leader wants their team to succeed and wants others to get credit for their great ideas and accomplishments. Know that when your team does well, you do too, and enjoy the glow that comes from celebrating the work of others.
  • Being a consistently strong leader takes time, energy and focus. Be willing to invest all three to be the best leader you can possibly be.