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How to Improve Your Leadership Skills in 3 Steps

How to Improve Your Leadership Skills in 3 Steps

 
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Read our top tips on how to improve your leadership skills in three easy steps and how you can assess your current and previous performance.
 
Article author: Jordan James
      Written by Jordan James
       (6-minute read)
All leaders and managers should continually improve in order to progress in their career. If you aren't growing in your capabilities, and you aren't stretching yourself, then you're stagnating ... or maybe even going backwards. But if you really want to advance your leadership skills, you'll need to do more than just read a couple of books and attend the occasional seminar.



To truly improve as a leader, you need to take a holistic approach to your growth. That means honestly assessing where you are at, mapping out a path to get where you want to go, and later on, reviewing your progress and redefining your goals. It's a cyclical three-step process that should sit at the heart of your continuous professional development.

So in this article, we outline our top tips on how to improve your leadership skills in three steps.

1. Assess current and previous leadership performance

In any personal growth process, before you dive into action, you need to take the time to clearly understand exactly what it is you want to change. That means assessing your previous performance on leadership tasks and identifying your strengths, weaknesses and blind spots.

Start by looking at past situations where you led people or teams and felt you should have done better. Try to take an objective, third-person viewpoint here. And don't defend what you did!  If you were watching the scenario play out on stage, what would be your evaluation?

This can be a tough task. You really need to assess the merits of your thoughts and actions: whether you made strong, balanced, decisive decisions, and whether you were able to adapt to the demands of the evolving situation.

By looking at these factors, you can home in on your areas for personal improvement in leadership situations.
And here are some questions it would be good to ask yourself:

Team leadership

  • Did you man-manage the team well?
  • Did you inspire them to go "above and beyond"?
  • Did you pay attention to team dynamics, and nudge them towards harmonious performance, and away from dysfunction?

Decision-making

  • Did you take note of the opinions of all the key people in the process?
  • Did you weigh up options, and balance your decision based on risk-reward ratios?
  • Did you make decisions quickly enough?

Adaptability

  • Did you recognize changing team circumstances and respond to them?
  • Did you recognize changing circumstances around you and respond to them?
  • Did you adapt your leadership style if you felt a different approach would be better?
Score yourself out of ten on each, and come up with a leadership score on these three dimensions. Of course, feel free to come up with your own dimensions and questions if you think they're more relevant to your own situation.  The key is to break leadership down into the criteria that matter for your business, and then, honestly, assess yourself.

Find your blind spots

Self-assessment is valuable, but we all have weaknesses that we can't always see. We may simply not be aware of them, or perhaps we downplay their importance – either way, it's useful to get outside feedback on your leadership abilities.

So consider putting together a survey for your team members, and ask your own manager to give you whatever constructive feedback they can think of. This is called a 360° review, and is likely to reveal at least one or two surprising gems.  It's almost guaranteed to add more than self-assessment alone ... even if you're the most emotionally intelligent person in the loop!



2. Change habits, reshape attitudes, build competencies

Armed with the information from your assessments, you can now start to make some changes.

You'll likely have identified one or more automatic habits that aren't serving you well as a leader. They may not be the result of any particular entrenched psychological issue – but rather, they're simply ineffective automatic responses that you've absorbed, and not really questioned, over the years.

Perhaps you've learned that you have a have a habit of cutting people off in team meetings a little too early, or the way you word some messages in emails rubs people up the wrong way.

Awareness of these sub-optimal habits is the key to change. But remember to implement habit-change sequentially – that is, focus on only one or two habits to change at a time. It takes weeks to make a habit automatic, but once it's "in place", you can often just forget about it.

Changing the stubborn stuff

Some habits, though, are harder to shift.  They're usually attached to disempowering attitudes or lenses through which you interpret situations. They can often be in situations that involve conflict or rejection.

For example: let's say you find yourself withdrawing from a team when conflict arises. Shifting this kind of habit successfully takes more than just willpower - it involves re-framing the way you actually see the situation.

In the above example, the empowering frame would be something like this: conflict situations are much easier to fix early, in other words before they develop into full-blown team breakdowns. By deliberately internalizing this new "lens", you can reprogram the way you respond to similar situations in future.

Another way to attack stubborn personal issues is with new behavioral cues. For example if you have had trouble shaping a discussion amongst a group of coworkers, you could rehearse throwing just one statement or opinion out there at the start of the meeting.

Mentally rehearse the action a few times, and associate it with positive visualizations of successful outcomes. Sometimes, just implementing one "snowball" behavior like this can lead to a dramatic turnaround in the way you perform in general.

Cues, cognitive re framing and visualization are three tools that can really supercharge your leadership development.

You should know that you need to be reading great books on leadership, and taking the latest training – but combine these with the techniques above for core personal improvement, and you'll be surprised at how quickly you progress!

3. Review and redefine your goals as you progress

After a period of time - maybe in three to six months - it's time to review your progress. Revisit the questions you answered in the first stage. Look back at leadership situations that have cropped up since you began the process.

How are you now doing in situations where you previously wanted to improve?  You'll probably find that surface-level habit changes were relatively easy to implement, but you may still be struggling with deeper issues. That's fine. Change takes time, and it's non-linear. You'll plateau for a while, and then suddenly make breakthroughs. Simply by maintaining awareness of your "trigger" situations, and keeping a clear vision of what a good result looks like, you'll get there before too long.



Then take a look at any new situations that have arisen where you think you could improve as a leader. You may find that as you go deeper with your process of self-awareness and habit change, you start to come across new leadership dynamics you weren't even aware of at the start.
This is a good thing, and reflects your personal growth.

Keep track of what comes up, and apply yourself to fixing the most "dysfunctional" aspects first.

As you go through the process, you'll build familiarity with yourself and the way you respond in different situations. Your emotional intelligence will improve, and your ability as a leader will grow exponentially.

Commit to your self-development and your team leadership skills will grow at a rapid pace. Additionally, that commitment will shine through to your team members – and they'll reward you with greater buy-in and motivation to achieve your goals.

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