15 Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills and Become an Effective Leader

When thinking of strong leaders and their qualities, I’m sure we all have individuals who come to the forefront of our minds.

Leadership comes in a wide variety of abilities and talents, but not all great leaders are born with those innate qualities.

It takes years of developing skills and knowing how to work well with others. Continue reading to discover 15 ways that you can improve your leadership skills.

1. Recognize Who You Want to Be as a Leader

We all have figures we look to in terms of their leadership skills. We see the ways in which they interact, how they achieve their goals, and most importantly how they can inspire others to help them along their path.

A great way to start your journey to becoming a better leader is to recognize who you want to be as a leader. Once you’re able to envision the future you want to work towards, it provides the foundation for knowing how to embark on your endeavor.

If you’re struggling to figure out who you want to be, ask yourself why you want to be a leader. Identify what drives your passion, makes you want to influence others, or what goal are you working towards. Once you’ve determined who you want to be and your why, make a roadmap for how in terms of personal growth and development. 

2. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Being able to step back and analyze your abilities is a key step in knowing how you can improve your leadership skills and become the leader you envision yourself as. It may seem easy at first to say we know what areas we need to improve in, but seeing the bigger picture will take some effort.

Be honest with yourself, take a moment to recognize your personal development that has brought you where you are today, and acknowledge that we all have areas that we can improve upon.

Think back to scenarios where you interacted with other leaders and the elements that made it a positive or negative experience.

Then, compare those to how you conduct yourself as a leader. You may realize ways in which you already are a strong leader and where shortcomings may be present.

3. See the Bigger Picture

Being able to step back and analyze things goes well beyond recognizing your own leadership strengths and weaknesses. This ability also comes into play when knowing what actions need to be taken to achieve a certain outcome.

Effective leadership stems from being able to anticipate needs that will arise using critical thinking, awareness, and insight. Not only are effective leaders capable of mapping out the necessary actions, but they must also be able to adapt to changing situations as the need arises.

Whatever your goal or objective, remember that flexibility is key in ensuring that you are able to lead a team effectively. In this sense, the more knowledge you possess relating to a certain topic or process, the more effectively you can set yourself up for success.

4. Take Initiative and Be Reliable

In order to understand how to execute a certain task and anticipate how needs may change, it is imperative that you understand the steps to accomplish this. I am a firm believer in the concept of working your way up to ensure that you truly understand the inner workings of the organization or team you are leading.

If you are fortunate enough to be hired for a leadership role from the get-go, be sure to take the time to really understand the roles and responsibilities of the people you are leading.

No matter where you currently find yourself on the totem pole, taking on as many assignments as you can reasonably handle goes a long way toward being an effective leader.

Displaying that you are reliable and committed to the efforts of the group will show others that you truly value what the team has set out to accomplish.

5. Delegate and Empower Others

While being able to accomplish a multitude of tasks is important, so is knowing how to delegate those responsibilities to others. I once had a boss who felt the need to do almost everything himself unless he had absolutely too much to do.

Developing your leadership skills means recognizing talents in the people assisting you and putting them to the best use. Knowing what can be delegated to others can have so many benefits, including empowering those you are working with while allowing them to develop a wider array of talents.

Within this principle, however, be cognizant of micromanaging tendencies you may inadvertently show. While it may be easier to coddle employees from a management standpoint, it does not allow them to work to their highest ability level and grow into their positions.

Motivate your employees to accomplish the tasks that need their attention, encourage them to grow as both workers and individuals, and support collaborations between individuals as a team-building exercise when appropriate. Having faith in those working alongside you will help them to respect you as a leader.

6. Clearly Communicate what Your Expectations Are

While going through the task of delegating to others, use clarity to express your needs so that the job gets done correctly and as efficiently as possible. Even the most talented and competent employees may not approach tasks with the most effective methods if the initial directions are unclear.

Again, this is where foresight and seeing the bigger picture are crucial in being an effective leader. By being able to recognize what needs to be accomplished and the best method to work towards a certain goal, you can effectively guide those working alongside you to get the desired results.

The more descriptive you can be in regarding the necessary outcome, the higher the standards that can be met and the more effective everyone’s use of time will be. Also, be sure to keep your goals and expectations realistic based on the team you are working with and their abilities.

Challenges help people grow, but too many challenges alongside a lack of direction can cause a decrease in morale and well-being.

7. Develop Emotional Intelligence, Situational Awareness, and Conflict Resolution Abilities

In addition to supporting your coworkers and employees by setting clear, achievable goals, know that there are other factors at play in everyone’s lives. This is where emotional intelligence and situational awareness become invaluable.

In my experience, there are two types of leaders; those who give orders from a purely directive standpoint and those who understand how to really work with people. Learning how to be an effective leader means dealing with a multitude of factors that go beyond accomplishing what needs to be done.

Situational awareness, conflict management/resolution, and being empathic all allow you to lead a team to success in a more personable manner. When individuals feel they are seen, it will help the whole team to function more cohesively.

If this is an area you feel you need to develop more, try thinking back to effective leaders you’ve worked with in the past and use techniques they used. You can also check out my previous article “15 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence” for guidance in this area.

8. Communicate Effectively

By being an effective communicator, you can ensure that the people you are leading understand what the objectives are, that they can come to you with concerns, and develop a strong relationship with you as a leader.

It is incredibly important that you be honest and open with those you are working with while remembering to not be overly critical. In doing so, you with forge a stronger connection with those you are working with, thereby increasing their desire to meet the needs of the organization.

Not only does effective communication mean being able to give clear directions, but also being a good listener.

Take the time to really listen to those you are directing and take their concerns into account. Oftentimes, individuals with a different perspective than our own have insights into a situation that we ourselves may not be able to perceive.

9. Be Able to Give and Receive Feedback

Alongside the principle of effective communication is the ability to give and receive feedback. As an effective leader, it is crucial that you are able to share with individuals the ways in which they are meeting expectations, as well as ways in which their performance can improve.

Remember to use positive reinforcement and constructive feedback. Simply telling them they’re not performing in a way that meets expectations will do little more than cause frustration for everyone involved.

Approach the situation from a growth mindset and share techniques or methods that will help them perform in a more satisfactory way. At the same time, be open to receiving feedback from others.

Perhaps you thought you were acting in a way that was beneficial to all or taking an appropriate course of action, when in fact others were feeling the opposite.

Allowing others to provide feedback and really listening to what is presented will show you are a strong leader who takes the concerns of others seriously.

10. Be a Good Teacher, As Well As a Good Student

When you find yourself in a situation where it is necessary to give or receive feedback, remember that staying positive is much more effective than using a negative approach. If you find an individual struggling with a certain task, take time to ensure that they clearly understand what is needed of them.

By teaching rather than directing, it will show that you care about their development as a strong employee and want them to succeed. And when you yourself find that you have areas in which you need to learn from others, be open to new information.

Accept the fact that you may not always know the answer or best course of action, and recognize that that’s the beautiful part about working with skilled individuals in the same area of expertise. Being receptive to feedback ensures that strong lines of communication stay intact.

We all go through life learning from those around us. Remember that effective leaders are continually developing their knowledge and skills.

11. Accept that You May Need to Follow from Time to Time

When it is essential for you as a leader to listen to the people you are leading, it is important to learn how to follow as well. Exceptional leaders are not those who always have the answer or assume they know what’s best.

Letting others share their opinions and insights will make the entire team stronger. After all, if you could truly accomplish everything by yourself, there would be no one else to lead. Stay humble and recognize the talents others have that you yourself may not possess, and know that that’s okay!

The important thing is that you were gifted with the ability to know how to put the pieces together and lead everyone to accomplish a given task or mission.

12. Acknowledge that “The Buck” Stops with You

If you do find yourself in a situation where you did not make the best decision or perhaps even the wrong one, show that you are a strong leader by being able to admit you were wrong. If you think individuals find leaders who never own up to their mistakes to be awe-inspiring, think again.

It takes courage to stand tall and acknowledge that you messed up, and most people will look up to you for that. Again, this is where foresight and seeing the bigger picture are so important for the sake of avoiding these types of situations. However, we’re all human, and mistakes do happen from time to time.

The important thing is to not dwell on your mistakes any longer than is necessary. Also, as a leader, it may fall on you when those you are leading have made mistakes that you didn’t catch soon enough.

Take the time to assess the cause of a given outcome or result and use that to guide others more effectively in the future. Analyze the situation, determine the best course of action to recover, and move on.

13. Be Confident when Making Tough Decisions

Being a good leader is not always easy. Besides being responsible for your actions as well as those of others, you will need to be brave and make tough decisions as the occasions arise.

Go into those moments with confidence and be decisive in your actions. Expressing fear or the sense of being unsure will potentially cause others to doubt your leadership abilities.

If you need help getting through tough moments, you can always refer to my article “How to Look Confident Even When You’re Not” for guidance. 

14. Look to Other Leaders for Inspiration or Find a Mentor

For everyone aspiring to be a great leader, there is someone whom you can look up to and emulate. In today’s world, we have an abundance of resources at our fingertips. Look to the leaders of our past for tips and inspiration when you want to improve your leadership skills.

When possible, find a mentor you can connect with to help guide you on your path. In a lot of instances, they can provide you with their experiences relating to various situations. Reaching out to others may help you to grow as a leader faster than trying to accomplish this completely on your own.

15. Consider Taking Courses to Develop Leadership Skills Further

Another way to improve your leadership skills is by seeking out professional training. Go into these lessons with an open mind and willingness to learn.

Perhaps it will allow you to realize a leadership style that works for you that you had not yet considered. Learning is a never-ending process of self-discovery.

I truly believe that the best leaders are those who acknowledge that there is always more to learn about being a strong, effective leader.

Final Thoughts

As you continue to develop your leadership skills, know that you are not alone. Many people want to be the best leaders they can be for the sake of personal growth, helping others, and achieving their goals.

The important thing is to take it one day at a time and learn all you can from those you are working with. I hope these tips prove useful to you as you continue on your journey of becoming the best leader you can be.

Image credits: Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

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