It doesn’t matter if you are a manager, a business owner or a network marketer, knowing how to be a great leader is the key to success. There’s an age old question about whether leaders are born or made. It’s the whole nature versus nurture thing. My take on it is that it’s the wrong question to ask. Sure, there are some people who are said to have “magnetic personalities”, the kind of people that others want to be around and will willingly follow. But the vast majority of successful leaders have mastered the techniques of leadership, and techniques can be learned. Here are the top 10 leadership skills for business success.
The Top 10 Leadership Skills for Business Success
1. Internalization – As a leader you need to internalize the organization’s goals and missions. In order to do that, you’ll need a mission statement that clearly spells the company’s objectives. It’s only when you have a clear understanding of your companies goals and objectives that you can then begin to take them on as your own (internalize them). Internalizing the goals is the first step in your journey to success.
2. Communication – The ability to clearly communicate to your team is essential for leadership. Your goals may be very clear in your own head, but you need to be able to clearly communicate them to others in order to achieve them. Communication is a skill that can be learned, so even if your not so good at it now, there are techniques you can use to get better.
3. Motivation – Motivation is simply the reason or reasons that someone acts in a particular way. Motivation shapes our behavior. There are two basic types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Both can be broken down into both positive and negative. So we get positive intrinsic motivation when doing things like playing an instrument, doing DYI projects or engaging in a hobby. None of these activities have an external reward, the reason we do them is for the internal sense of satisfaction we get. Negative intrinsic motivation is most often rooted in fear. If you are afraid of flying then you may change your behavior and drive instead, thus avoiding that fear. Positive extrinsic motivation comes from outside oneself and it encourages behavior by promise of a reward. For example, you go to work to receive a paycheck. The behavior is going to work and the reward is a paycheck. Negative extrinsic motivation shapes behavior by the avoidance of a negative outcome. An example would be to have a sales quota. The behavior is to sell a certain number of units in order to avoid the consequence of losing your job.
4. Inspiration – Great leaders not only know how to motivate teams, they know how to inspire them. Inspiration comes from deep within oneself, tapping into our positive reward centers (both intrinsic and extrinsic). When someone is inspired, they take the success or failure of a task personally. By inspiring your team, they will internalize the company’s goals and strive to accomplish them. So how do you go about inspiring your team? First go back to #1 on this list. You need to internalize the goals you want to accomplish. Your team takes their cue from you. So when they see your enthusiasm, that’s contagious. But, you also need #2 on this list, communicate. Having enthusiasm isn’t enough, you need to communicate it to your team everyday. Remember, they’re not going to get excited about a project if the boss isn’t.
5. Delegate – Number five on our list of the top 10 leadership skills is delegation. You don’t want to, and you can’t to do everything yourself. You have a team for a reason, ideally different team members have different skills and expertise. Being able to evaluate each team member’s skill set and then put it to use in in the service of your goal is the mark of a great leader. This is all part of using the company’s assets (in this case human assets) in the most productive way possible. When done properly, delegation should eliminate the need for micromanagement. As micromanaging employees takes away their ownership of the task, and it’s hard to be inspired and take pride in a task when you are being micromanaged.
6. Listening – Believe it or not, this is an important part of communication. As a general rule, you should listen much more than you talk. Remember, information is your friend. The more you listen the more information you’ll gather and the better decisions you’ll make. It also a very important skill for employee morale. When employees feel heard, they report a higher job satisfaction and that translates into higher performance and better productivity.
7. Feedback – It’s important to give feedback to your employees as it’s the only way they can objectively know how they are doing in your eyes. Giving feedback can be tricky, you want to provide it, both positive and negative in an empathetic way without micromanaging or coming across as punitive. It’s also important that as a leader, you can accept feedback about your performance. Employees are always looking to you and following your example.
8. Responsibility – A good leader takes responsibility for the failures of the team. The old saying “The buck stops here” is never more true than for a leader. This can be a hard concept for some people to accept. After all, as a leader you’re not doing everything yourself, you are delegating tasks to your team members. So if one of them fails, how is that your fault? Well, ultimately it is your fault. Part of your job as a good leader is to monitor and communicate with your employees. If an employee’s performance is subpar, then the leader has failed to monitor the employee, provide proper feedback to the employee or provide the support the employee needed to succeed. So before you look for blame anywhere else, try to see where you failed in one of those areas.
9. Trustworthiness – There is no such thing as a good leader who isn’t trustworthy. Your team relies on you to be dependable, so keep your word, conduct yourself with integrity and stand up for your team. There are always going to be issues that arise between your team members and upper management or clients. It’s tempting to just capitulate to your bosses or clients, after all, the customer’s always right (wrong). But this can erode confidence in employees. Try to strike a compromise that is satisfactory to both sides and even if you can’t, at least let your team see you trying. This will go a long way towards inspiring trust, loyalty and confidence in your team.
10. Lead by example – The last in our list of the top 10 leadership skills is to lead by example. The phrase “lead by example” is ubiquitous. It’s probably one of the most used phrases in any discussion on leadership. And for good reason, it’s the difference between a manager and a leader. In short, a manager tells people what to do and a leader shows people what to do. I use to have retail stores, and I had a rule for myself that I would never ask an employee to do something that I wasn’t willing to do. So it became important for me that my employees saw me mopping floors and scrubbing toilets. So what was the message I was sending? How about that I had internalized the value of the business and was modeling the behavior that I expected from them. I couldn’t expect my employees to have a higher level of commitment to my business than I did.
How to Use The Top 10 Leadership Skills to Become a Leader
I think everyone has at some point in their lives been a member of a team that wasn’t run very well. We saw poor leadership skills and the results it could bring. We may have even thought to ourselves that we could have done a better job leading the team. So why don’t you? Becoming a leader is a great way to advance your career and become more marketable in an industry. Here are some tips to making the transition from team member to team leader.
Go above and beyond. Nothing catches management’s attention more than an employee that goes above and beyond their job description. Start thinking long term about ways to enhance your career that would benefit both your department and the company. You may not think so, but bosses do notice the extra time and effort that goes beyond the normal routine. So don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and take on more responsibility.
Volunteer for the jobs nobody wants to do. How many people raise their hand when asked if they can work on a weekend? Most people see it as a disruption of their routine. Potential leaders see it as an opportunity to stand out from the masses, and management see it as a loyal and committed employee.
Further your education, whether it’s finishing up that degree, taking industry or skill specific training and even online leadership courses. Having that education can give you a leg up on the competition.
How to Use Them if You’re a Business Owner or Manager
Managers, business owners and network marketers all have to manage groups of people, and unless you are one of the very few natural born leaders, this can quickly lead to disaster as small problems can quickly snowball and escalate into major ones. So the first thing you need to do is try to be as honest as you can when assessing your leadership skills. Humans are notoriously bad at self assessments. Just ask any room full of people if they consider themselves to be an above average driver. You’ll see about 80% of the hands go up! So try to take a step back and look at a recent problem or conflict as objectively as possible.
In fact, I would even suggest that you ignore the other people’s role in the problem or conflict. You shouldn’t be concerned with assigning blame for the problem as much as isolating and identifying your role in it. You’ll soon discover that your role is tied into one or more of the ten leadership skills discussed above. For example, you may find that the employee performed the task wrong because you weren’t specific enough in the directions you gave (communication). And that leads to another leadership failure because you weren’t monitoring them and giving them feedback in the process. The idea here is that if you can identify and acknowledge your role in the situation before going to the employee, the resolution will feel more like a collaboration and less like blaming or scapegoating. Remember, the leader is the one ultimately responsible for the teams failures.
By continually focusing exclusively on your role in these issues, you will eventually see a pattern emerge. This pattern will expose the weaknesses in your leadership skill set. It maybe that you have a good understanding of the goals for a task or a project but you aren’t communicating them effectively to your team. You may find that your team often loses enthusiasm shortly into a project. Have you internalized the project? Are you showing your team that you are enthusiastic (leading by example)? Are you sticking up and going to bat for your team (trustworthiness)? It could be any one or (probably) a combination of the top 10 leadership skills that is the problem. But the key is to be self-aware enough to recognize and isolate the problem and then be humble enough to take the action necessary to correct the problem.
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