A few weeks ago, we told you about the skills small business owners need to succeed, such as the ability to manage a budget cold or to build confidence despite fears and insecurities. However, just because you founded a business or work within an organization, doesn’t mean you automatically know how to perform these essential tasks to great leadership. In fact, millions of small business owners and employees never gain these abilities — and so their businesses continue to fail.
Fortunately, business and organization leaders are made, not born. It takes concerted effort to improve your leadership skills, but it isn’t difficult to find ways to practice. Here are a few effective techniques to help you build your leadership abilities in the short- and long-term:
1. Know Your Leadership Personality
Not all leaders lead with the same style. In fact, most leaders fall into one of a few categories of leadership, determined by their personality, their actions, and their values. Unfortunately, not all teams are receptive to all leadership styles. Therefore, to be the best leader you can be, you need to be aware of your tendencies in positions of leadership.
There are a few ways to do this. First, you can ruminate on your behavior and attitude, reflecting on how you interact with your team. You might consider the following questions:
- Do you ask others for their opinions?
- Do you expect your team to motivate themselves?
- Do you set standards and goals for others?
- Do you place achieving organizational objectives above fulfilling personal needs?
- Do you feel comfortable with confrontation?
If these questions don’t enlighten you to your particular leadership style, you can take a more structured approach with an online leadership personality quiz. After completing the quiz, you will have a better sense of your leadership strengths and weaknesses, so you can make targeted improvements.
2. Start Journaling Effectively
Journaling isn’t just good for your mental health; it is also beneficial to your career. In a special work-related journal, you can preserve all sorts of information that will be useful to review as your career progresses. For example, you can:
- Log good ideas as soon as you have them
- Make notes on mistakes made and lessons learned
- Write down advice and feedback from mentors and bosses
- Collect compliments on your work
- Imagine your dreams and set professional goals
- Vent about minor aggravations in a safe space
Plus, your leadership journal doesn’t have to be a fluffy pink diary like a child would keep. You can use professional-looking online journaling tools to keep your journal with you everywhere you go and keep you accountable to making daily or weekly entries. You’ll be astounded at how organized your thoughts will become after you start writing them down.
3. Take Courses in Leadership
Undoubtedly, enrolling in an online MBA program is the optimal way to gain the skills and knowledge necessary for a leadership career. Most online MBAs are faster, more affordable, and more flexible than traditional university programs, so you can earn the competencies you need with less effort. Plus, the credentials of an MBA alone will open doors to new positions and earning potentials.
Still, a full degree program isn’t absolutely necessary to bolster your leadership abilities. Many of the massively open online courses (MOOCs) around the web offer at least a few different programs for leadership, and these tend to be free or exceedingly cheap. Additionally, various blogs on leadership, including Master Class Management and MindTools, offer brief programs for aspiring leaders. It is also important to remember that you will get out of an educational program only what you put in — which means most students do better when tuition and grades keep them accountable.
4. Practice Better Communication
Communication is easily the most valuable skill you can develop — inside and outside the workplace. While not communicating enough is a rampant problem among organization and business leaders, there is rarely such a thing as communicating too much. Therefore, if you recognize in yourself poor communication, you should commit to overcommunicating with your team to build your communication skills.
Your ultimate communication goal should be this: Nothing and no one is ever misunderstood. In pursuit of this goal, you should strive to listen well to your teammates and clearly explain your thoughts and ideas. If you suffer from some degree of social anxiety, you can practice communicating by preparing statements beforehand. No matter how good your communication skills are, they can always be better.