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How to improve leadership skills and demonstrate leadership

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 – and we’re here to show you how. 

We’ll dive into leadership elements like communication, delegation, motivation, and how improving your leadership skills will be useful in the long run. Read on to find out why these skills make you an effective manager and help you achieve your goals faster, among other things.

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What are leadership skills?

So, what exactly are leadership skills? These are the abilities and qualities that inspire, motivate and guide others. Leadership skills are valuable for anyone in a leadership role, whether that’s in the workplace, school or even in your community.

A wide range of skills can make someone a good leader – from delegating tasks and projects to simply being a good communicator. Let’s discuss some key leadership skills you should know about below.

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Six examples of leadership skills

Depending on who you ask, you may get different responses to the question ‘What is Leadership?’. Many people will first 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 to get better at setting priorities, making decisions and allocating resources. A leader has to look at the wider impact and make decisions that will have a positive effect 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 the right 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 microcredential by the University of Glasgow.

2. Delegating tasks

In any leadership role, it’s important to delegate tasks effectively as it 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, spreading out the workload and developing 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 someone is struggling with a task, it can stress them out which may lead to the task not getting finished and could potentially deplete your team’s morale.

Learn more about the link between workplace stress and productivity in our Workplace Wellbeing course. When done well, delegating tasks can be a powerful tool for any leader.

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. Get professional, accredited training with our Change Management microcredential by University of Glasgow.

Change management 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.

The best 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 perfecting 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 before developing a plan to achieve them. 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 involves the ability to develop systems and procedures that keep things running smoothly. 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. Practise active listening by paying attention to what others are saying and making an effort to understand their point of view. 

You can also take the time to prepare what you want to say in advance, which will help you to be clear and concise when you speak. By improving your communication skills, you will be a more effective leader.

Master communication and soft skills in our Business Etiquette course from Central Queensland University.

The difference between leadership and management skills

Leadership and management skills are often used interchangeably. While there are overlaps, there are key differences between the two. 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. It’s important to 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, but they 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, leading to higher levels of productivity and morale. 

Effective leaders are good at problem-solving and decision-making, avoiding crises. Check out our Leadership Decision Making course to improve your decision making skills. 

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

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 leader with strong leadership skills creates a more productive and positive work environment, which leads to better outcomes for the company in the long run.

Why not learn more about leadership and unpack leadership challenges for women in our Women in Leadership Microcredential?

Contemporary problems facing leaders

Unlike other roles, leaders are faced with the daunting task of managing their own time on top of 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. 

The pandemic forced many organisations to rethink the way they operate, with many companies 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. Check out our collaborative working in a remote team course to learn how best to work remotely. 

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

A word on leadership and imposter syndrome

Sometimes people get a job that requires them to lead a small group but feel like they may not have the right leadership skills. Just like not having the right knowledge to do a job well, this is all tied to imposter syndrome.

If you aren’t familiar, imposter syndrome is when someone doesn’t feel like they belong in their job role because they feel they don’t have the right level of experience or skills. It is ultimately the personal perception of being out of your depth and it happens to lots of us at some point in our career. 

For more information on imposter syndrome and how to manage those negative feelings, consider this imposter syndrome course from the University of Southern Queensland. 

Six ways to improve your leadership skills

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. However, it’s worth understanding these so you can grow your potential.

To get started, make a list of both your strengths and your weaknesses, but be as specific as possible. It might be a good idea to ask for feedback from others to paint a more accurate picture, as it’s not easy to be objective when evaluating yourself.

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 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 – you can study at your own pace and complete the courses on your own schedule.

Depending on your goals, you may want 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

It’s no secret that technical skills are becoming increasingly important. It’s essential, therefore, that leaders 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, as you’ll learn the most from their examples. Make sure to choose a mentor who is honest and will give you constructive feedback. 

Your mentor could be a professor who inspires you, a boss who is always challenging you to do better, or even a local business owner you’re friendly with. 

It’s also important to choose someone who you feel comfortable with since you’ll spend a lot of time together to build a trusting relationship. Once you’ve found a mentor, meet with them regularly, and 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 both the short-term and long-term. Then, you can start to develop a detailed 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. Your goals should align with the skills and abilities of your team, and the overall strategy of your organisation.

Once you’ve decided on your goals or strategy, it’s important to communicate that to your team. By sharing your vision, you can inspire and motivate them to work towards a common goal. Clear communication makes sure everyone is on the same page, working towards the same objectives. 

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 your 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 yourself and your team, take the People Management Skills course by CIPD.

How do you demonstrate leadership skills

If you’re jostling for a place on the management table at work, those who decide who gets the next promotion will be watching your leadership skills to see if you have what it takes.

But how can you show you have leadership skills without being in a leadership position? After all, you don’t want to be barking orders at colleagues who work in the same job as you.

Well, the truth is, you don’t have to. Leaders may have to give instructions to team members, but that is only a small part of their job. You can focus on displaying the other key leadership skills that will help others, such as:

  • Offering to help a colleague who is having problems
  • Being supportive and encouraging
  • Praising fellow workers for good work
  • Giving credit to others
  • Showing empathy for people with difficult tasks
  • Communicating effectively
  • Working to improve team morale in difficult times

You don’t have to start swanning around the office solving disputes and taking on a managerial type persona. Ultimately, many of these items just mean that you’re being a helpful and proactive colleague. 

Then, when that interview does come around, you will have plenty of examples of your leadership skills to use. Some of which the people interviewing you will have seen you do first-hand.

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.

Want to learn more? Browse our wide selection of leadership courses to build skills for becoming a great leader. 

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