How To Develop Leadership Skills (With Practical Tips)
Updated 30 September 2022
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Leadership skills are essential for career progression. Professionals with strong leadership skills often work in senior leadership roles, and organisations desire leaders who can manage teams to accomplish goals. Knowing how to become a leader by developing your skills can be beneficial if you are looking to get a promotion. In this article, we discuss how to develop leadership skills, explain their importance and share some tips to improve these skills.
How to develop leadership skills
Here is how to develop leadership skills to aid career development:
1. Be disciplined
Leaders require a strong sense of discipline and commitment to manage others as team members are more likely to trust and respect disciplined leaders. Discipline includes being punctual, adhering to deadlines, being organised and time-efficient, delivering on your commitments and having strong morals and ethics. In the workplace, being disciplined can also involve communicating important information timely, following set practices and workflows and working productively.
Start by practising discipline in your personal life. For instance, set a routine, follow healthy habits and cultivate positive traits in your personality. As you become more disciplined in your personal life, you may notice that these characteristics also transfer in your professional life. You can start by making minor changes to your life, like waking up early, exercising daily, keeping your commitments and having a healthy work-life balance.
2. Find a mentor
Search for an industry expert who holds a leadership position in or outside your organisation. This can be someone who inspires you and motivates you. Ask them to be your mentor and guide you in developing your leadership skills. You can observe how they act and react in different situations, how they manage their team, provide feedback and what time management approach they use to organise their workday efficiently. Discuss with them how you can develop accountability and take on more responsibilities to showcase your leadership. Ask for their feedback and update them on the progress you make.
Related: Leadership Roles (With Examples And Functions Of Leadership)
3. Enrol for a leadership or personality development course
Many coaching institutes and trainers offer leadership courses and classes to develop your personality. In an institute, you may have to learn in a group, whereas some trainers may also offer personalised classes. These courses and certifications are usually a few weeks long and focus on improving communication skills, interpersonal relationships, problem-solving abilities and emotional intelligence. Many leading academic institutes also offer dedicated leadership developments programmes focusing on how to become a manager or team leader.
4. Identify your leadership approach and style
Many managers have their own distinct leadership styles. All these different styles can belong to one of the following categories:
Democratic leadership: where the entire team makes decisions collectively
Coaching and mentoring leadership: where the focus is on teaching and training
Visionary leadership: goal and vision-based leadership with people at the centre
Autocratic leadership: where the leader makes all decisions on their own without consultation with others
Transformational leadership: working towards a specific change or transformation
Transactional leadership: where the leadership does not want to make any permanent changes to the current status
Bureaucratic leadership: where the focus is on the process and protocol more than the outcome
Laissez-faire leadership: where team members enjoy complete autonomy and authority
Situational leadership: where the leader might not be acting as a full-time leader and may appear only during a crisis
Learn more about these leadership styles and introspect to determine which one suits you the best. You can also gather feedback from your colleagues and friends to determine your style. If you want to change your style, identify which traits and characteristics require work and effort.
Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles
5. Volunteer for additional responsibilities at work
If you want to demonstrate your willingness to handle leadership roles, you can start volunteering for additional tasks and responsibilities. These can be one-time events, like planning an off-site activity, or a recurring responsibility, like managing an employee support group. By portraying your commitment, you can make a positive impression on other senior leaders who may identify your potential. This can also help you learn how to communicate better, manage your time more efficiently and prioritise urgent tasks. To begin with, you can start by facilitating discussions and meetings for the team.
6. Define your goals and plan of action clearly
When you get a responsibility outside of your daily work, set a clear goal and work towards achieving it. Invest time into planning the execution and supervision of your goals and activities and allocate responsibilities to different team members, if necessary. Work with different team members to ensure that they understand their role, what you expect them to do and the timeframe in which they have to deliver the results. Review your progress periodically and make changes to your approach as required.
Related: 7 Leadership Theories For Career Growth
7. Take accountability
Whether the outcome is a success or failure, try to own up to the result. Often, the outcome may not be what you expect, and inadvertent mistakes may happen. Being able to admit these mistakes to yourself and your team members is essential to becoming a good leader. Use these mistakes as a learning opportunity and do not repeat them again. Many times, senior leaders and managers evaluate employees on the basis of their effort and commitment rather than the end result. If you commit to learning and leading, you can showcase maturity as a leader.
Importance of leadership skills and development
Strong leadership skills can be essential for career development and growth. Individuals who display leadership skills usually get more opportunities to manage teams, earn promotions and lead projects in every industry and profession. Even if you do not want to become a team leader or hold a managerial position, working on your leadership skills can make you more productive, driven and efficient. Here are a few reasons why leadership skills are crucial in today's workplace:
improves your skills, strengths, knowledge and empathy
helps increase your contribution to the team and workplace
develops a sense of accountability and ownership
encourages you to take action and solve problems
creates a favourable impression in front of team members
increases your confidence and ambition
aids you to support team members and performance
inculcates discipline and commitment
Becoming a better leader can also impact your personal life. Being a leader can make you more perceptive, emotionally aware and empathic. Improving how you communicate, interact, solve problems, offer support and manage stress can help you lead a more fulfilling life by enhancing the quality of your personal and professional relationships.
Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions And Examples
Tips to improve your leadership skills
Once you become a leader, you can follow these tips to improve your leadership skills and abilities:
Seek inspiration from the right people
Make sure you follow successful leaders and experts to take inspiration from and learn. This can also help you motivate other members of the team. Surround yourself with committed, driven and disciplined professionals as you strive to improve your skills, accountability and learning. Share your learning and lessons with others, seek feedback and maintain healthy communication with team members to motivate and inspire them.
Related: Top Qualities Of An Outstanding Leader
Acknowledge and reward team members
Successful leaders understand the importance of acknowledging and rewarding their teams. When you are successful or feel that the team has worked really hard, be vocal in praising them. If certain members have been crucial to the team's success, make sure you acknowledge their work and contribution publicly. If possible, offer them financial or non-financial incentives based on their performance.
Trust team members
Good leaders not only ensure timely results but also motivate and empower their team in the process. Invest time to understand all team members individually and find out what motivates them. Allocate tasks based on their strengths and skills and trust them to do the job well. Makes sure you supervise and guide them by offering feedback, but do not micromanage their work and tasks. If you ensure the well-being of your team, they are likely to be respectful, loyal and trusting.
Successful leaders work with their teams to ensure transparency and trust between all members. They remain open, honest and objective in their feedback, share all critical information and give timely updates. Leaders can cultivate a culture of transparency in their teams by communicating openly, taking ownership of mistakes and having regular meetings.
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