There is a common misconception that leaders are born, not made. But this is far from true. Leadership is a skill, and like other skills it can be learned, if you are willing to do the work.
You can absolutely learn leadership skills. Many people think that leaders are born, not made. I firmly disagree with this. But we should first define leadership, shouldn’t we? If you speak with 20 different experts, you may get 20 different interpretations. My definition: Leadership is the ability to help others become a better version of themselves. A leader knows that we all have two selves–who we are, and who we ought to become. A leader helps people become a better version of themselves by generating trust from the people around them, explains business coach Jon Tasch.
But to learn leadership skills you have to be in the right mindset. You have to have a growth rather than fixed mindset. If you think high school or college were your glory days, you may not have a growth mindset, explains Don Tebbe, author of Chief Executive Transitions: How to hire and support a nonprofit CEO and The Nonprofit CEO Succession Roadmap: Your Guide for the Journey to Lifes Next Chapter.
You also have to know what being a good leader is. Leaders develop trust by going beyond the what and tapping into the who. A leader is genuinely curious about other people, says Tasch. And she knows the difference between genuine curiosity and being nosy. Everyone wants to be known, and especially from people in a leadership position. By making people feel valued and appreciated, you can set yourself apart from 90 percent of other managers.
Leadership Skill Building Tips
–Take off your workplace mask. A leader makes himself vulnerable. Of course we expect leaders to be competent, make the hard decisions by weighing options, and be confident. But if a leader has the courage to say she isn’t perfect, tell us about a time they’ve failed, or even tell us a little bit about themselves in a less than flattering light, they humanize themselves. There is risk in vulnerability, but the payoff can be huge, says Tasch.
–Read and learn. Pick up some books on leaderships skills, and read about great business leaders. Also, take a class. Yes, a class. They’re out there, but you may have to do some work to find them. More easily found are classes in communication, marketing, strategy and decision-making. All of these will help you grow your leadership skills, suggests Mark McMillon of McMillion Leadership Associates.
–Seek guidance. Hire a coach. There are many but look for someone who has actually worked/served as a leader. Those who have never led are going to have some holes in their advice, offers McMillion.
–Have the eyes of a leader. Put on your leadership glasses. When you think about leadership all the time, you will start to perceive the world differently. You’ll see your boss at work in a different light and begin to understand him/her better as well as see how they might do things differently, notes McMillion.
–Dont rule by fear. A leader understands that in order for people to maximize their performance, they must feel emotionally safe. A leader knows that a high-stress environment inevitably leads to problems and subpar results, says Tasch.
–Give verbal incentives. A leader understands that praise is the greatest tool in his leadership arsenal. She knows that one our greatest desires is to be appreciated. To be told that what we’re doing matters. A leader is always on the lookout for something to praise in one of their people- and they let them know why it matters by putting it in context. These shots of dopamine act as a catalyst for even greater future performance, Tasch points out.
–Lastly, lead! Seek out positions of responsibility and volunteer for them. Whether it’s a church group, parish council, PTA, or a supervisory position at work–get yourself into a leadership position, says McMillion. Learn by doing, but you must think about leading and study to determine what works for you and what doesn’t.