Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Jack Ma. Winston Churchill.
It doesn’t take much thought to come up with the names of great leaders; what’s puzzling is how they came by their leadership skills.
To be sure, many great leaders benefit from formal education, but then, so do a great many people... and they are not necessarily remembered for their leadership skill.
What are leadership skills, anyway? How come some people seem imbued with leadership qualities while others in leadership positions... don’t?
Think of a manager you work(ed) for whose autocratic style of management gave neither you nor your teammates room or opportunity to thrive and, mayhap grow into a leadership position yourselves. In fact, they may have quenched any desire you might have had to seek out leadership development!
Why does anyone aspire to become a leader?
Often, it is because a leadership role is the next logical step in their career – whether they possess any leadership skill or not.
Sometimes, people crave power (and riches, the two often go hand in hand). They believe that an extensive cadre of subordinates is the way to wield power... but, as we all know, such power must be used judiciously.
A handful of people who seek out leadership development see it as a vital aspect in their personal development; such ones do not have any aspirations to take a leadership position in their company. They only want to cultivate any leadership traits they already have and learn how to use them to the best effect.
Are you such a one?
Would you like to learn about leadership styles and what it takes to be an effective leader on the path to self-awareness?
If so, your Superprof has got you covered. We’ll look at why it is so important for you to develop leadership skills and the best ways to go about doing so. We’ll also examine what leadership skills are and where you can find leadership training online.
May we take the lead?
What Are Leadership Skills?
You would think that the skills that make for effective leadership would be easy to determine and list but, the truth is, the topic is debatable.
Leadership is not only something you learn through a series of classes such as business administration or principles of management.
True leadership is a mixture of human qualities like trustworthiness and empathy that blend seamlessly with learned abilities such as decisiveness and communication skills.
Strategic thinking is often regarded as a leadership skill. It involves visualising all possible outcomes of a situation or decision; it is a type of thinking that requires imagination – something you either have or don’t have.
That example concisely sums up the blending of human traits and learned skill that epitomises leadership.
Creativity is another important leadership trait; it permits everything from effective communication to boosting morale among employees. It is another personality trait that cannot be taught.
However, there are things that you can do to boost the human traits you have in common with great leaders; why not find out how?
Why is it so Important for You to Develop Leadership Skills
It is possible that labelling these skills ‘management and leadership’ may perhaps do them a disservice.
After all, not everyone aspires to be a leader; there is a chance you might turn away from the benefits of good leadership practices simply because you don’t think of yourself as CEO material.
Not so fast! In seeking out leadership development, you’re not signing up for a managerial position, you’re looking for great interpersonal skills so you can get along better with others.
Team performance might not concern you but, if you’re hoping to learn conflict management... maybe so you can help kids manage bullies at school, then leadership training is exactly what you need.
Consider these instances where good leadership is essential:
- You are a teacher who likes to conducts team building activities in your classroom
- You are a guidance counsellor who practises active listening and gives empathetic support
- You are preparing to enter university and have been tasked with writing a self-assessment
- You are seeking to boost your self-confidence through leadership competencies
- You want to understand how assertiveness can help you advance in life
- After several rough months, you want to understand emotional intelligence and how it can help you manage difficult situations or avoid them altogether.
Not once of these examples, save perhaps for being a teacher puts you in a leadership role but still call for leadership skills.
Did you know that, among A-Level topics to select from, you will find an exam for the most useful skill all leaders possess: critical thinking?
Naturally, if you are interested in being a team leader at work, it wouldn’t hurt to include any leadership and management training you’ve had on your CV... but you don’t have to set your sights on the high bar to learn leadership skills and discover your leadership style.
Now discover other ways that leadership training can benefit you in every aspect of your life.
How Can You Develop Your Leadership Skills?
You don’t have to do as Madeleine Slade (AKA Mirabehn) did, abandoning home and family, to learn from a great leader.
You don’t need to spend tons of money, go away on retreats or completely change your personality, either. To start developing leadership skills, you only need a bit of direction; you can take things from there.
According to a survey conducted by a team of leadership consultants, the skills most needed by leaders today are actually behaviours, not anything that can be taught.
For instance, the majority of leaders who were surveyed aver that anyone who leads must be motivating and inspiring. That makes a lot of sense; delegating tasks and responsibility is far easier if your team is motivated to complete them.
Other effective leadership skills include problem-solving, relationship-building and, believe it or not, being ethical and honest and trustworthy (no, they are not all the same thing!).
What is most striking is that all of these are soft skills; human traits that you may already possess; traits that only need cultivating.
Go ahead: be as honest and ethical as you can be! You may well inspire others to do the same. Be a great communicator! You never know who will be inspired by your personal leadership to do the same.
That is only one half of the equation; the other half does actually call for a bit of education.
For instance, it would help for you to know and understand the different leadership theories and when best to apply them.
Let’s say your boss knows you and your team can do your jobs competently, with a minimum of oversight. S/he might employ the laissez-faire style of leadership, which falls under the situational theories.
If you’re really lucky and have a fantastic manager, s/he might practise transformational leadership, a style of leading that inspires positive changes in all who follow them. This type of leadership falls under the relationships theories of leadership.
We’ve written an entire article on how you can develop these leadership skills; now we’re going to find resources available to get you started.
Online Resources to Help You Develop Your Leadership Skills
Believe it or not, cultivating different styles of leadership is a hot topic these days; even academia is on board with students in the earliest Key Stages learning creative thinking skills and problem-solving.
You might think that an education in leadership skills and development would come with a hefty price tag; in one sense, you are quite right.
It is by no means cheap to earn a degree in Business, let alone an MBA – where there are entire courses on Business Ethics and Organisational Behaviour.
The Masters of Business Administration is the degree that many aspiring to a leadership position aim for. Would you be totally surprised that it’s not actually necessary to have one in order to lead a major company?
In fact, you can learn all about leadership traits and management skills right in the comfort of your home, often for free. As an example, whether you work in sales, business administration or finance, there is a podcast for you.
You could download a Dose of Leadership (Richard Rierson) before you head out for your morning (jog?) commute and absorb all of the wisdom from military leaders, those from the financial sector... even religious leaders.
If you’re less interested in how to lead than in a transformative experience, let Dov Baron’s Leadership and Loyalty catch your ear. You will hear about the value of leading a purposeful life and find inspiration to push on, no matter what obstacles you might encounter.
From the Women’s Leadership Podcast (Sabrina Braham) to The ONE Thing (Geoff Woods), the wealth of listening material to inspire great leadership is... only one way to gain insights into leadership.
You could also take free courses online, participate in workshops, read blogs, find quizzes and puzzles to test and sharpen your thinking skills...
There is so much online learning material available to anyone who wants to improve their leadership capabilities!
Aren’t you glad your Superprof listed the best of them in one, convenient article?