Leadership has been defined as the process by which an individual influences a group and directs the group toward a specific goal or mission. Great leaders lead by example, possess strong communication skills and have both the trust and respect of their employees. True leaders inspire people to live the vision, mission and values of their organization while simultaneously empowering people to make decisions and contribute ideas.
Although some people have innate leadership traits, not all great leaders are necessarily born that way. Leadership behaviors can be developed and, in fact, great leaders are committed to continuously learning and enhancing their leadership foundation. In addition to developing their own skills, leaders possess deep company and industry insight and keep abreast of evolving trends to be considered a trusted and respected voice in contributing to an organization’s strategy and direction.
How do you become a great leader? The first thing is to assess who you are right now. What leadership qualities do you currently possess and in which areas do you need improvement? Do you need to enhance your supervisory skills, your communication skills, or perhaps your training and mentoring skill set?
There are several methods you can use to build your leadership skills, many which are right at your fingertips. Key resources include coaches and mentors, programs and classes, books and articles, following well-known leaders on social media, and participating on boards and committees. It will take a combination of building relationships and professional training to create your leadership toolbox.
Coaching and Mentoring
One of your most valuable tools is to enlist a coach or mentor who already possesses superior leadership skills. In his “Top 10 Rules for Success,” Bill Gates talks about the value of having a trusted mentor or confidant that knows you, is aware of your blind spots, and will give you honest feedback on important business decisions.
Many companies have a formal coaching or mentorship program you can participate in; if not, find a coach to help you define and execute your plan for growth as a leader. A coach/mentor can help you gain perspective on how others might view you, and help you strengthen your communications skills as well as your approach to interacting with your team.
Mentors and executive coaches serve as confidants, guides, and tutors in helping you get to the next level or helping you fill gaps in your current leadership practices.
There is an abundance of literature and online materials at your fingertips to help you increase your leadership capabilities. Sources such as the Harvard Business Review and Forbes.com provide many useful articles on leadership and executive management. Also, subscribe to industry-specific publications so you can contribute your insight to business strategy.
In addition, as part of your social media perusal, follow renowned business leaders such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Brad Smith on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to get their perspective on motivating and building peak-performing teams. Podcasts such as TED Talks also offer great discussions on leadership attributes.
Leadership Training Programs
There are many leadership programs available to you. Some of the most well-respected and best-known leadership training programs are offered through Franklin Covey, Dale Carnegie, Impact International, The Center for Creative Leadership, and the American Management Association. Research these programs as well as the dozens of others to identify the program components that best match your development needs.
Board Membership and Committee Participation
Seek out opportunities to participate on boards within your industry or for non-profit causes that you support. You can also participate in company committees that focus on employee improvement initiatives or business process and productivity goals. Such opportunities will provide you with exposure to experienced leaders as well as learning more about organizational management, financial management and the ways in which employee morale and engagement are tied to overall business success.
Showcasing Your Leadership Skills on Your Resume
Providing examples of your leadership contributions on your resume is critical to landing an executive role. Highlighting these achievements will differentiate you from other candidates to help you land your target role. Describe the number and location of teams you lead, as well as the strategies you use to develop your team. For example, how many direct reports received promotions under your mentorship? What do your employees say about you? How did employee satisfaction scores as well as performance metrics increase under your management? What strategies do you use to engage the team and promote collaboration among the team? What are the results of your efforts to promote/foster employee contributions and innovation?
On a final note, keep in mind that being a leader requires the continuous honing of your skill set using independent research, training, and most importantly, calling upon leaders you respect for guidance and support.