4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Management Skills and Become a Real Leader
A post from our Leadership blog
Written by Jordan James
Leaders, and the skills of management, are sometimes undervalued. While lower-level work usually has a physical result (such as making or selling a product), a leader's work is less visible. But that doesn't mean leaders are not vital to every company's success – because they certainly are.
Imagine putting together a team of the world's most talented engineers – and not giving them a leader. One of two things would happen. Either one engineer would emerge as leader, and manage the team. Or the group would be in disarray, and very little would get done. The leader is indispensable.
Now imagine your own team without a manager. Even if your staff are extremely diligent self-starters, they'd still be in trouble. Who would set the goals? Who would bring everyone together to achieve those goals? Who would support their development, resolve issues, and inspire greatness?
Only a leader can do those things - and to do them well, he or she needs excellent management skills. And these skills are visible: in the team's success.
You don't have to be a "born leader"
But what if you don't have great management skills yet? What if you aren't a "born leader"?
The good news is, there's no such thing as a born leader. Babies aren't jumping out of the womb and landing CEO positions. Management skills are learnt over time, through reading and experience and being open to new ideas.
The other good news is, you aren't alone in wanting to improve your management skills. Because even the world's most successful business leaders, from City of London to Silicon Valley, are constantly working to improve themselves. That's what makes them great leaders!
If you want to join them, you can start right now. Because here are 4 simple ways to improve your management skills and become a real leader.
1) Become a listener
Common sense tells us that a leader must act. A leader should always be busy doing something to further the cause. A leader takes charge, and tells us others what to do.
These things might be true, but they're only part of the picture. Because great leaders must also spend a lot of their time listening. There are two very powerful reasons why, and I'm sure they'll convert you into a listening leader right now.
Here's the first. What your main goal as a leader? To get the best out of your team. And what motivates employees, more than anything else, to work harder? According to research at the biggest US corporations, it's feeling valued.
When, as a leader, you truly listen to your people, they feel important. More significantly, they know you recognise their importance. People love that feeling, and they're spurred to win even more recognition.
Here's the second. Leaders can't be on the ground all the time. You can set your team's direction and review their work, but you can't go deep into every aspect of the work. So how can you be the all-round expert you need to be to lead effectively? There's only one way – by listening to your team as much as possible.
Make your staff feel valued, and make the most of their front-line knowledge. Listen, and be a real leader. It's easy, and it's incredibly effective.
2) Focus on self-control
Following Brexit, analysts wrote that uncertainty is one of the most damaging things in business. It wasn't just Britain leaving the EU that de-valued the UK industry and currency. It was not knowing what would happen next, which made investors lose confidence in the economy.
So it goes with leadership. In any work crisis, many of your staff are likely to panic, lose confidence in their work, or complain loudly. And it will be you they complain to.
What must differentiate you from your team is the ability to rise above that drama. Because your staff will need you, as their leader, to restore their confidence.
How do you do this? It's simple. You just need to stay calm and believe in the direction you've set for your team. For example:
When a staff member is negative about your team's current work, or raises unhelpful doubts, stand firm in your decisions. This sends a message to everyone that you're on the right path.
When the outcome of a tough project is uncertain, staying calm gives confidence to your team.
Being generally calm, confident, and self-controlled inspires respect in your team.
Focus on increasing your self-control, and you'll find yourself becoming a stronger leader and manager.
3) Know your strengths and build on them
This next simple skill is about being positive – but it's much more practical than just "having a positive mental attitude."
Great leaders have a knack for building strong, high-performing teams. Many top entrepreneurs – such as Elon Musk, who started his multi-billion-dollar empire with almost nothing – have achieved this with very little money.
It can't just be about hiring top people on big salaries, then. So how do you do it?
The answer is surprisingly straightforward. Top leaders simply focus on whatever strengths they have at their disposal, and build their plans around them.
Try it. Take stock of the resources you have at your disposal: your staff, your equipment, your partnerships, and so on. Then list out the biggest strengths in each resource.
You'll find this process very eye-opening. And you'll definitely gain a new appreciation for just how strong your organization is.
When you focus on your strengths, weaknesses also become less of an issue. You can lead with greater positivity and success.
4) Lead by example
Finally, if you want to influence your team to perform at its very best, one skill is more essential than any other: you must lead by example.
To lead a team, you need to earn their respect. Staff will only work hard for you if they believe you are willing to work just as hard. They will only accept the rules you set if you follow them too.
Staff aren't looking for fault in their leaders, however – they're looking for inspiration. As a leader, it's accepted that you are the most important person in the team. Your actions are watched closely by your subordinates. When you demonstrate skill, patience, and leadership, your staff take this as a cue to act the same way.
It's easy, too. Instead of worrying about how to influence or manipulate your staff into performing how you want them to, you can just set the example for them to follow. And they'll believe in you, like never before.
Simple, huh? With these four new management skills, you can lead with more confidence than ever before. And you don't need to be a born leader to use them.
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