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How to improve leadership skills

Learn to develop your leadership skills in this article, where we explore examples and tips on how to become a great leader.

How To Improve Leadership Skills

Leadership skills are essential for anyone who wants to be successful in business or their career. The good news is that effective leadership is a skill that you can learn. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to improve leadership skills. 

We’ll cover topics such as communication, delegation, and motivation, and discuss how improving your leadership skills will be useful in the long run. It will make you an effective manager and help you achieve your goals faster, among other things.

What are leadership skills?

Leadership skills are the abilities and qualities that inspire, motivate and guide others. These skills are valuable for anyone in a leadership role, whether in the workplace, at school or in your community.

Many different skills can make someone a good leader, from delegating tasks and projects to being a good communicator. We discuss some key leadership skills you should know about below.

Six examples of leadership skills

You may ask, “What is leadership?”, but the answer will often depend on who you ask. Many people will think of qualities such as confidence, decisiveness and charisma, but there is much more to being a leader than just these traits. Here are some common leadership qualities:

1. Strategic thinking

You can develop your strategic thinking skills in order to be better at setting priorities, making decisions and allocating resources. A leader has to look at the big picture and make decisions that will have a positive impact on a company’s long-term success.

Leaders must think creatively, see how issues are formed and consider all possible outcomes of their decisions. They need to have a strong understanding of their organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, quickly identifying opportunities and threats.

This means gathering data and conducting a regular SWOT analysis. Data-driven leadership is an important part of strategic thinking because it allows leaders to make good decisions based on evidence, rather than gut instinct. 

It also allows leaders to adapt their strategies as new data emerges. Learn more about Data-Driven Leadership Skills in this course by the University of Glasgow.

2. Delegating tasks

In any leadership role, it’s important to delegate tasks effectively. This makes the best use of time and resources. Delegating tasks means assigning responsibility for a specific task or project to another person or group.

This can free up a leader’s time to focus on other projects. It can also spread out the workload and develop others’ skills. When delegating tasks, it is important to be clear about what is expected. Make sure to provide adequate resources and set a reasonable timeframe.

It’s also important to check in with the team to make sure they’re on track and have the support they need. This means checking in with people individually as well as in teams. This way, you can gauge whether the task is too difficult. 

If they need more resources or time, it’s easy and beneficial to adjust accordingly. If a team or person is struggling with a task, it can contribute to stress in the workplace. This can lead to the task not getting finished or done well and could potentially deplete your team’s morale.

When done well, delegating tasks can be a powerful tool for any leader. Learn more about leading people both individually and as a team with the Leading People and Teams course by the University of Michigan.

3. Change management

Leaders are responsible for managing change within their organisations. Change management means planning, implementing and monitoring changes to meet organisational goals.

It involves several steps: assessing the need for change, developing a plan, delegating tasks and deciding on timelines.

This is where agile leadership is essential. Agile leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on adaptability, flexibility and speed. It’s based on the principles of agile software development, emphasising collaboration, continual learning and customer feedback.

In an agile organisation, leaders must rapidly respond to changes in the marketplace by making quick decisions. You can improve your understanding by taking the Agile Leadership and Management course by The Open University and Agile Business Consortium.

4. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal communication is essential to leadership. These are the skills that leaders use to interact with and influence others. This includes both verbal and nonverbal communication and building relationships.

Effective leaders know how to use these skills to motivate, inspire and persuade others. This can be done by understanding organisational behaviour, which is the study of how people behave in organisations. These skills are essential for any leader who wants to create a positive work environment and inspire employees to work towards a common goal. 

Discover more about organisational behaviours and interpersonal skills on our Organisational Behaviour and Leadership Skills course by Sentinel9.

While some people are naturally gifted with strong interpersonal skills, you can learn and develop them over time. If you want to be an effective leader, focus on honing your interpersonal skills first.

5. Management skills

This is the ability to plan, organise, direct and control resources and personnel to achieve specific goals. A successful manager is someone who uses all of these skills to achieve the desired results.

One of the most important management skills is the ability to plan. This involves setting goals and objectives and then developing a plan to achieve them. It requires an understanding of the resources available and the abilities of those who will work on the project. Once the plan is in place, it is important to monitor progress and make necessary adjustments along the way.

Organisational skills are another crucial element of successful management. This includes the ability to develop systems and procedures that keep things running smoothly. You also need to be able to delegate tasks and responsibilities effectively. Good organisational skills are essential for keeping track of all the moving parts and ensuring that everyone is on track.

To find out more about key management skills, read our blog post with lots of great tips on how to be a good manager.

6. Communication skills

Good leaders are effective communicators, getting their points across clearly and concisely. They understand the importance of body language and tone of voice. They also know how to listen.

Communication skills are essential in every aspect of leadership. Motivating team members and building relationships with stakeholders rely on good communication, and leaders who can master the art of communication are more likely to be successful.

There are many different ways to improve your communication skills. Practice active listening by paying attention to what others are saying and making an effort to understand their point of view. Take the time to prepare what you want to say in advance. This will help you to be clear and concise when you speak. By improving your communication skills, you will be a more effective leader.

To learn more about the skills you need to be a good leader, take the Essential Skills for Team Leaders course by City & Guilds Group and ILM.

The difference between leadership and management skills

Leadership and management skills are often used interchangeably. There are key differences between the two, though. Leadership skills focus on inspiring and motivating others to achieve a common goal. This means setting a clear vision, communicating it and mobilising people to work towards it.

Management skills focus on planning, organising and coordinating resources. Good management is necessary to meet goals efficiently and effectively.

Both leadership and management skills are vital for any organisation to function well. You must understand the differences between the two to maximise your impact as a leader.

Why is it good to have effective leadership skills?

There are many reasons why effective leadership skills are essential. They make sure an organisation can achieve its goals, and also help individuals reach their full potential – both professionally and in their personal life.

Without strong leadership, it can be difficult to get everyone working towards the same objectives. Good leaders motivate their teams and help them overcome challenges. This can lead to higher levels of productivity and morale. Effective leaders are good at problem-solving and decision-making, avoiding crises.

It’s important to note that leadership skills are also essential life skills that can be useful in many different situations in your personal life. This includes things like being able to resolve conflicts, manage stress and workflow, make decisions, communicate clearly and set goals. 

This means that developing your leadership skills can improve the quality of your life in many different ways – from improving your personal relationships to leading a more fulfilling life.

Why are leadership skills important in the workplace?

In any work environment, it’s important to have a leader that takes charge and provides direction when needed. A good leader is someone who can inspire others, provide support and guidance, and make decisions that are in the best interest of the team.

Strong leadership skills create a more productive and positive work environment. This leads to better outcomes for the company in the long run.

In today’s competitive business world, having strong leaders is more important than ever. Check out our blog post on how to develop and demonstrate your leadership skills to set yourself apart from the crowd. You can learn even more in our What is Leadership? course by Deakin University.

Contemporary problems facing leaders

Leaders are faced with the daunting task of managing their own time and resources while managing other people. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, this can be more challenging than ever before.

Leaders have to contend with contemporary problems ranging from the globalisation of the economy to the increased use of technology. 

With economic globalisation, businesses are operating in a bigger marketplace. This means increased competition and the need for organisations to adapt to local and international market changes. This means international leadership skills have become essential. To learn about becoming a successful international leader, you can take the International Leadership Skills for the Workplace course by Coventry University.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organisations to re-think the way they operate. This meant moving to hybrid working models. Many employees are split between working from home and in the office, so keeping remote teams connected and engaged can be a challenge. There is a higher risk of burnout for employees who juggle work with other commitments.

Political instability can also create challenges for businesses. Instability can lead to trade agreement uncertainty. This makes it difficult for organisations to plan for the future and creates challenges around funding and investment. By understanding these challenges, leaders can position their organisations to succeed.

Finally, leaders today are faced with a wide range of challenges to keep up with the evolution of management practices and meet the demands of an ever-changing business landscape. By continuously developing your leadership skills, you’ll be ready to handle any challenges that come your way.

The benefits of becoming a better leader

As a good leader, you will build strong relationships. When you know how to motivate and inspire others, they will be more likely to trust and respect you. This can lead to more productive and effective teamwork.

As a leader, you’ll also develop critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills. These are essential in both your personal and professional life.

Six ways to improve your leadership skills

There are many ways to improve your leadership skills, so here are a few suggestions to get you on the path to becoming a better leader.

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

This isn’t always easy. We often have blind spots for our own strengths and weaknesses. It’s worth understanding these so you can grow your potential.

To get started, sit down with a pen and paper. Make a list of both your strengths and your weaknesses. Be as specific as possible and don’t worry if your list is long or short.

As it’s not easy to be objective when evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, it might be a good idea to ask for feedback from others to paint a more accurate picture.

Consider keeping a journal to track your successes and failures over time. By taking stock regularly, you’ll develop a better understanding of yourself and learn how to make the most of your talents.

2. Take management and leadership courses

One of the best ways to improve your leadership skills is to take online courses that can provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to be an effective leader. Taking courses will also help you network with other professionals.

Whether you take courses online or in person, choose a program that is reputable and accredited. There are many management and leadership courses available, and with Futurelearn, you can be sure you’re getting a quality education from reputable educators. 

Plus, with our courses, you have the opportunity to earn certificates that can help you to advance your career in a flexible way – this means that you can study at your own pace and complete the courses on your own schedule.

It might be a good idea to look for courses that have an international focus. The Introduction to International Business Management course by the University of Kent is an excellent way to get started. 

3. Brush up on your hard skills

Technical skills are becoming increasingly important. It’s essential, therefore, for leaders to have a strong grasp of the skills relevant to their industry.

Financial analysis, project management and contract management are all examples of important hard skills, though this can depend dramatically depending on the field you work in. If you’re not sure which hard skills are relevant to your industry, ask your boss or a mentor for guidance.

4. Find a mentor

A mentor can provide you with guidance, support and advice when you need it most. They can also help you develop a better understanding of yourself and your goals.

When choosing a mentor, look for someone who is experienced and respected as a leader. You will learn the most from their example. Make sure to choose a mentor who is honest and will give you constructive feedback. Your mentor could be a professor who inspires you, your boss who is always challenging you to do better or a local business owner you’re friendly with. The important thing is to choose someone who you admire and respect as a leader.

It’s also important to choose someone who you feel comfortable with. You will spend a lot of time together to build a trusting relationship. Once you have found a mentor, meet with them regularly — be prepared to listen and learn.

5. Determine your goals

As a leader, it’s important to have a clear vision for your team. Without this, it can be difficult to make decisions and provide direction. To determine your goals, start by thinking about what you want to achieve in the short-term and long-term. Then you can start to develop a more specific plan by setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. 

It’s also important to keep your team in mind when setting goals. Make sure that your goals are realistic and achievable. They should also align with the skills and abilities of your team, and the overall strategy of your organisation.

Once you have determined your goals, it’s important to communicate them to your team. By sharing your vision, you can inspire and motivate your team to work towards a common goal. Clear communication makes sure everyone is on the same page, working towards the same objectives. Don’t forget to hold yourself and your team accountable.

6. Admit when you fail and move on

Everyone makes mistakes. As a leader, it’s important to admit when you’ve failed and learn from it. This shows your team that you’re human and willing to learn from your mistakes. If you’re willing to accept responsibility, it builds trust and credibility with your team.

Use failures as opportunities to improve. By reflecting on your mistakes, you’ll identify areas for improvement and adapt your strategy. Sharing your learnings with your team creates a culture of learning and growth.

To learn more about how to improve as a leader and turn your mistakes into positive learnings for you and your team, take the People Management Skills course by CIPD.

Final thoughts

Leadership is a complex topic. From setting goals to admitting failure, there are many ways to improve your leadership skills. It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. It’s a self-development process that takes introspection, time, and commitment.

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