Being a good leader takes more than a desire to succeed. According to the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership and a survey of 300,000 business leaders, certain qualities will inspire others to follow your lead and have confidence in your decisions. These examples of strong leadership skills will help you cultivate specific behaviors and practices that will set you on the path to achieving your personal vision.
Leaders who inspire trust show great integrity. Trust is important if you want people to follow you, whether you’re their manager or simply acting in a team lead role. There are a few practical ways to act with integrity:
- Keep your word. When you say you will do something, do it.
- Act with consistency, no matter who your audience is. If you act the same way with team members and upper management, people can trust you.
- Be transparent whenever possible. Don’t hide your actions or motivations from others.
- Take responsibility for your actions and words, even if you are not proud of them.
Being great at what you do is essential, no matter who or what you are leading. Competence inspires confidence in others. This quality is simple to implement if you work in a field you enjoy; just be good at what you are doing. When you find an opportunity to demonstrate your competence, do so.
Successful leaders often attribute part of their success to prioritizing relationships. This can mean relationships with employees or direct reports, or it can mean relationships with clients, directors, and others in your field. There are several ways you can make relationships a priority in your professional life:
- Really try to understand those you lead. Learn what they value and what they find challenging.
- Develop empathy. Mentally put yourself in the place of others to gain a deeper understanding of their needs.
- Build your listening skills by consciously paying attention to what others are saying.
- Choose to preserve professional relationships over short-term gains on a project.
- Identify where your core values align with those of others, since this can be a powerful bond in any relationship.
If you are focusing on your professional relationships, you’re also aware of others’ goals, values, and desires. The best leaders consciously work to support and motivate people on their teams. This can take on a lot of forms:
- Set aside time to meet with team members and find ways to help them achieve goals.
- Allocate money in your budget for others’ professional development.
- Use positive language when evaluating employees and team members.
- If someone is struggling professionally, offer encouraging words and useful actions to help.
When it comes to effective leadership skills, delegating is important. A good leader also knows he or she cannot do everything alone. No matter how capable you are, there is only one of you. If you have prioritized the professional relationships in your life and motivated people on your team, you will be able to delegate some of your tasks to others.
The key is to choose tasks that don’t require your personal skills or expertise. This will leave you free to solve problems and work on projects that best utilize your skills.
Innovation is a huge driver when it comes to success. If you and your team think like everyone else, you don’t stand out. Creative thinking means a lot of things, both from a personal perspective and a team perspective:
- Challenge yourself to find new solutions to problems facing your team or company. Think about things in different ways.
- Do everything you can to remove roadblocks to the creative thinking of your team.
- Make it easy for others to share their ideas with you.
- Reward ideas in others and in yourself. Celebrate the success of the ideas you and your team members propose.
It takes a great deal of determination to succeed, and you need to feel that you are working for something more than your own personal success. What’s more, people are inspired by leaders who appear to serve the greater good.
As you think about your core values and those of your team members, see if those align with something fundamentally important to society or the world in general. Examples might include public health, education, or a product that improves quality of life.
Having a clear vision and sharing it with others inspires confidence. If you have a personal vision statement about how your career goals align with your cause or core values, you are already part way there. You simply need to communicate your vision to other people. Be clear about what you see for the future and why that vision is important.
The most important achievements often take some kind of sacrifice. Part of being a strong leader is knowing how much you can give and giving everything you can. You can’t always anticipate the sacrifices, but these are some of the things you may need to give up for your goals:
- Time - Putting a lot of time into your career means less time for hobbies, socializing, and other fun things.
- Short-term gains - Sometimes, you need to trade short-term success for the larger goal. For instance, you may let others take credit for some smaller achievements to gain their support and further your larger vision.
- Money - Although you don’t always have to sacrifice money to succeed, you may need to invest your personal savings in a new business or pay to get a valuable degree.
Finally, when you get results, own them. Don’t let others take credit for major achievements unless you have a very good reason to do so. At the same time, take responsibility for failures - both your own and those of your team. Owning your failures means owning your success too, and this type of accountability encourages confidence in others.
If you want to succeed, it’s a good idea to read up on the types of leadership skills that can help. Then, you can work on your communication and relationships, practice integrity, and own your success.