Why Wait to Acquire the Title of Leader? Develop Your Leadership Skills Today!
It’s never too early in a career to develop leadership skills, and professionals can become a leader before they acquire the title of leader, even a recent college graduate. One of the best ways to acquire leadership skills is to first learn how to lead yourself.
Develop a vision for yourself: The best leaders have a vision of where they would like to go, and a sense of how to get there. They can see the overall picture and develop a strategy for getting there. Develop a career plan, knowing that it will always be changing, based on new opportunities that arise. Hold yourself accountable to those goals, make changes when necessary and celebrate your successes.
Think and not merely do: Never do the mere minimum on the job. If your manager asks you to collect some information for him to make an important decision, after you have collected the information, read it through, think about it, take a stab at analyzing and synthesizing what you have read. Create three scenarios with implications for each decision. Your boss may make a decision very different from the three you offered, but she will appreciate the fact that you showed initiative. The benefit to you is that you are learning how to hone your decision-making skills, which is a critical skill for leaders.
Be proactive: Instead of waiting for your performance review, or for feedback from your boss, solicit feedback on completed assignments. Learn what you could have done differently. Find out ways that you can contribute to the organization’s bottom line, while developing new skills in the process. Because of constraints on people resources, oftentimes there are important tasks that are not getting done because there are no sponsors. Volunteer to spearhead one of those projects without current sponsors.
Learn to manage your time: The most effective leaders are masters at managing their time, and on top of that, they know how to distinguish between seemingly important priorities and the real ones. Learn to manage your time, as well as work on developing a sense of awareness of what the critical priorities are for your role.
Ask questions and hone your listening skills: No one likes a know-it-all, so observe what’s going on around you, ask lots of questions, and listen for nuggets of wisdom and brilliance.
Learn to manage conflict: Conflicts arise in every organization, often due to miscommunication. Learn to manage conflict positively, always keeping what’s best for the organization in mind. Additionally, take the time to regularly talk to the people with whom you work.
Possess self-knowledge: Take the time to get to know yourself – your strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention to the effect and impact that you have on those around you. Be open to feedback about what you are doing well and your shortcomings. Be prepared to make the changes when necessary. Pursue lifelong learning: The most effective leaders learn continuously, and open themselves to new ideas. Look beyond your colleagues and your own industry for ideas and inspiration. Also look at what innovative things other countries are doing in the field.
Leadership skills are acquired over time, through experience, exposure, lifelong learning, training, mentorship and coaching. If you aspire to lead others, start by leading yourself. By practicing some of the tips offered, you are on your way to becoming a true leader.