Leadership is an ingrained quality. It’s a blend of charisma, bravery and confidence that allows certain people to take charge. Leading well requires more than just innate talent. Natural leadership is not the same thing as effective leadership.
So, how do you develop effective leadership? You work at it.
The right skillset builds your instinctive leadership from a personal characteristic into a powerful element. Such skills engender greater success across all aspects of life—from the workplace to home and into our most meaningful relationships.
Leadership is a skillset as much as a mindset. Effective leaders see, value and listen to those they attempt to lead. In a word, leaders believe that their people matter. When people feel they matter, they stomach discomfort when facing a new idea, task or awareness.
Make a conscious effort to improve your people skills. Take time to engage your people. Ask for input. Value responses. Be willing to let go of ownership in favor of collaboration.
Leaders may have the final word, but they need support for the execution. It isn’t automatic.
When your team isn’t behind you, it may be because they don’t have enough information. It is the leader’s responsibility to explore and obtain that missing information. Resistance is a warning that your direction is either misguided or poorly communicated.
A skilled leader conducts research and adjusts, while an ineffective leader forces a team through resistance.
Effective leadership is consensual. If you steamroll ahead without full consent, even if you do so enthusiastically, your followers may still show reluctance. You may possess more stamina and work ethic, but don’t simply lead through sheer willpower.
Want to be a more effective leader? Incorporate these skills:
When facing a situation, effective leaders actively complete responsibilities rather than sit back. Leaders solve problems and take risks.
This doesn’t mean abandoning all input or bullying through deadlock. It means that when a new direction is required, or additional input is necessary, a leader will offer it or request it. Leaders recognize forward direction and aren’t afraid to keep the pace lively.
Many leaders act “fiery.” Their energy, passion and determination serve them well personally, but this heat can repel others. This is why it’s so important that leaders possess a calming counter-trait (even if peace takes practice).
To keep the fire alive without scorching the foundation, you need to know when to take a moment and cool off.
Mindfulness and presence are essential attributes for leaders. Presence of mind acts as a coolant, encouraging engagement and collaboration. Effective leaders are approachable—even when running hot—and stop to listen to the needs of those around them.
This requires self-reflection. You never want to act frenetic and unhinged.
When the team does not respond to leadership, first look within. When the team engages and opens up to new ideas and direction, leadership is intact.
What are leaders listening for? Perspective. It boils down to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Once you see the world through the eyes of another, they more willingly see it through yours. You’ll lose loyalty if your team lacks a shared perspective. As any revered leader knows, loyalty is a key ingredient.
Show that you value your team’s perspective. Make sure you mean it. Lip service does not engender loyalty.
Associates need to know and consent to the purpose in order to be expected to follow.
What are the goals and why? How will the team act in furtherance of those goals?
The “why” behind your organization’s activities needs to be thoughtfully delineated and transparent—it requires communication. If the leader does so effectively, others are likely to follow. Once a leader achieves consent, he or she removes most of the barriers to leading effectively.
Leadership is one rung on the ladder of interconnection. It may be the top rung, but it has no value on its own. People are more dependable when they feel connected to the people they work with.
Effective leaders foster a sense of oneness. Ineffective leaders tend to alienate. Is your team connected? Are you connected to them?
If there is uncertainty—or the distinct absence of connection—then you need deeper self-reflection. Leaders who look to their people for help, rather than look down at them, are well on their way to forming a unifying connection.
If the connection exists, it’s obvious. If there is chaos or confusion, the leader needs to go back and reexamine their skillset.
Is the leader present, listening, gathering perspective and listening to resistance? Like all skills, leadership requires constant work.
The payoff? With effective leadership, a team catapults forward and achieves unparalleled heights.
Carrie is a therapist and licensed attorney in Connecticut with a specialization in divorce mediation and parenting plans. She also runs CT Relational Therapy, LLC and holds a Master's Degree from Fairfield University.
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