Leadership used to mean a position or a role in a hierarchy. Over time, the perception and definition of leadership have changed. You no longer need to be in a leadership role to be a leader. It goes the other way around too, just because you’re in a leadership role- doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a leader. Many skills can be applied to your daily lives to increase your chance of succeeding with your personal and professional goals. After all, you can be in a leadership role but have no experience as a leader. Or, you can be in a non-leadership position, but inspire those around because of your natural leadership traits. So, we’ll cover 5 steps that you can take to master leadership.
The primary purpose of a leader is to ensure the smooth functioning of a group. The first step to mastering leadership is to understand what leadership skills are. Here are the critical skills a leader should have.
Step 1: Know What It Takes
Below you’ll find a few things that make a leader a leader, and what makes them stand out from the crowd.
Leaders Think Strategically
One of the skills expected of leaders is the ability to think, plan, and act strategically. This skill allows you to identify opportunities that will bring value to your life and challenge the status quo and move toward success.
Leaders Inspire and Motivate
An inspirational leader helps you bring out the best in yourself. When you work for a great leader, you’ll find that you’re enthusiastic about your work, encouraged, energized, motivated, and engaged with what you do. A motivating leader can push others to do more by identifying their strengths and bringing out the best in them.
Leadership Means: To Think Critically and Solve Problems
Too often, in business, we are reactive. We are focusing on the symptoms rather than the cause. When a leader is faced with a problem, he/she utilizes critical thinking to analyze the challenge to find the solution. A leader will identify the real underlying problem by asking the right questions and provide ideas for solutions.
Leaders Demonstrate Transparency, Integrity and Honesty
It’s an unwritten rule that to be successful in life; you should be honest. It’s impossible to succeed without developing a solid reputation for honesty and integrity. The interpersonal relationships we build in life are based on trust. As a leader, the ability to gain people’s trust is a crucial factor for success. To achieve that trust, a leader must be honest and inspire others to behave in the same way.
Leaders Recognize Others
Great leaders are not afraid to recognize the skills of others and support others in their development. A leader truly believes that the group they are responsible for will only benefit when they can learn and grow.
Leaders Drive Results
Leaders know how to drive results, set clear goals, and know how to translate that goal into specific actions. They understand how each person of their team is involved in this goal and find ways to create passion in others to everyone can take the steps needed to achieve that goal.
Leaders Communicate In A Powerful and Effective Way
It’s one thing to know where you’re going; it’s another to be able to communicate it in a clear way that others can understand. A leader’s communication should be clear, open, and in alignment with their actions. The biggest communication tool a leader has is their behavior. What you see is what you get.
The Ability To Build Relationships
It’s believed that most leaders have achieved that position because of the relationships they’ve built. You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Knowing how to build relationships is vital if you want to be a strong leader. Not many people will follow a person they can’t relate to personally or professionally.
Step 2: Assess Your Leadership Skills
Now that you’re aware of the primary skills that a leader should have, the second step to mastering leadership is to assess each of those skills in yourself. Since leadership is not a skill most of us are born with, discovering where you might fall short can help you continually dedicate time to improving yourself. Here are 14 questions that will help you define your leadership abilities:
- Can you identify your three main strengths?
- Can you identify your three main areas of concern?
- Do your actions reflect your words and values?
- Do you listen carefully to the ideas of those who disagree with you?
- Are you bold enough to ask for feedback on your behaviors and use the information you gather to get to know yourself better?
- When others do something wrong, do you take the time to help them see what they need to change and how they can solve problems?
- Do you have the ability to assess the state of your
- environment and shape it to be better?
- Have a strategy or way to communicate a vision or goal?
- Are you able to mobilize people?
- Do you have a propensity to encourage rather than criticize?
- Can you take risks?
- Do you have a sense of innovation and creativity?
- Have the propensity to make fast decisions?
- Are you inspiring and admired by your employees?
Take the time to answer these questions. Your answers will give you an idea of the skills you have today and how much work you need to dedicate to your development as a leader.
Step 3: Mastering Leadership Means Being Self-Aware
The third step to mastering leadership is to be self-aware. This means developing the ability to observe yourself, know what you’re thinking and feeling in a particular moment, and act responsibly. This is the fundamental foundation on which all your other skills and qualities can be built. Here is a simple activity that can help you become more self-aware:
- Regularly during the day, take short breaks between tasks. Stop everything you’re doing for 30 seconds or a minute and concentrate just on your breathing.
- When you focus and become mindful of your breathing, for a brief moment, you forget what you were doing, what’s coming next, and are just in the moment. Focus on the air coming in and out of your lungs. Visualize it if it helps. If you feel your mind drifting to other items or thoughts, recognize it, and slowly return to focusing on your breathing. Try it now.
By doing this, you’re allowing yourself to know and analyze what you’re thinking and feeling. Self-awareness is the ability to do this all the time, especially in the stressful situations that you’ll face as a leader.
Step 4: Mastering Leadership Means Practicing Courage
The fourth step in mastering leadership is to be courageous. We all need a strong leader that knows how to make difficult decisions. How to protect those they lead and stay the course in difficult times. A good leader doesn’t give up at the first obstacle encountered. They accept failures as tests and learning opportunities on the path to that goal. In the face of adversity, what people are looking for is a leader that shows even more determination to the group’s cause. Here are a few ways to be courageous when things get challenging:
- Admit That You Are Afraid
- Accept Your Fear
- Observe Your Fears
- Be Vulnerable
- Find an Inspiration
- Be Resilient
- Nothing Is Perfect.
- Try Something Difficult
- Train Yourself to Be Conscious
- Create a Plan
Now that you know and understand the personality traits you’ll need, it’s time to move into action.
Step 5: Move Into Action
The fifth step in mastering leadership is knowing how to take action. One of the tools that many leaders and coaches use to achieve goals and motivate others is the GROW model. This can be used to reach a personal goal or a professional objective. Whatever problem you might have, the four phases of the GROW model will allow you to draw on the four earlier traits to achieve it.
The GROW model is simply an acronym of each of the four steps, which are Goal, Reality, Options, and Will. Let’s walk through each of the steps.
Here we’ll start by identifying your goal or objective. Be clear, concise, and always focus on the target. Here are some questions that can help.
- What do you want to accomplish in life?
- How will you know that you’ve reached that goal?
- How does life look when you’ve accomplished that goal?
The goal should be specific enough to give you a direction. This direction can change once you’ve begun taking action, but it shouldn’t be a significant change unless there is an important lesson to learn.
In the reality phase, you’ll begin by describing your current situation and how it is limiting you or empowering you to reach your goal. List the weaknesses and strengths you have that will contribute to achieving this objective. Here are some questions that can give you insight into your current situation:
- What are there barriers to my goal?
- What resources do I have that can help me with achieving it?
- Do I harbor limiting beliefs that can stop or slow me from achieving this?
This phase will help you understand your current situation and what led you to it. You should try to approach this from a cognitive but emotional perspective because, in this phase, you’ll discover that the majority of the problems that you have, or things that you don’t have, are a result of your actions or inaction.
This step is essential. It’s crucial to consider all the options, including the most far-fetched ones. This will help you “think outside the box” and try more creative and innovative ways to reach that goal that you’ve set. You’ll want to consider every possibility of finding what you want. Once you have this, you can take a rational approach to eliminate the ones that might be unrealistic or inappropriate. For example, the magic pill that leads to weight loss. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- If you had a magic wand or unlimited resources, what option would you choose to achieve that objective?
- If you could start over, what would you do differently?
Treat this as a brainstorming session and give yourself the freedom to think of new ways to achieve that objective. Whether it’s something personal or professional, performing this exercise allows you to consider all the options on the table and will support your decision to take specific actions because you’ve ruled out the others that might not work.
The last phase is about commitment and action. This is where you decide exactly what you’re doing to do.
- What is the first step or action?
- How will you hold yourself accountable for that first step?
- How will you know that you’ve completed the first step?
Each step that you’ll take along the way will require a strong commitment to action that can produce change. Sometimes, this action may be to do nothing, change away something is currently being done, or stop doing something. What’s important is that this action is in sync with the goal you have.
As you can see, the GROW model can be adapted to any situation you need to lead and take decisive action. It’s the perfect tool for planning for success.
The Bottom Line
Leadership is one of those skills that never gets old and is always looked up to. While leadership can mean many things, you’ll acquire the skills, knowledge, and tools to help you on your journey to lead your life by following the five steps above. If you’d like to gain the confidence to take decisive action, I’d like to invite you to view an episode from our Planning For Success series called Taking Action. In this video presentation, we’ll cover the many things that hold people back from taking decisive action. We’ll help you find your motivation and link goals to specific actions that can be made, helping you become a better leader.