Leadership is an essential career skill to develop, whether you run your own business, manage a team or have just started work and have aspirations of moving up the ladder. Yet leadership is not a stand-alone skill, with other skills like communication, empathy, time management and problem solving all merging together to create a great leader. So what should you focus on if you want to boost your leadership capacity? Here are just three:
1. MASTER THE FOUR Cs: CONFIDENCE, CONNECTION, COMMITMENT AND COURAGE
When it comes to skills and traits that feed your leadership, the four Cs are vital components for your personal and career development. In an article for Harvard Business Review (HBR), author of Leading with Emotional Courage, Peter Bregman, argues that all great leadership consists of four essential qualities. He explains:
‘To lead effectively — really, to live effectively — you must be confident in yourself, connected to others, committed to purpose, and emotionally courageous.’
Bregman believes that most leaders are only great at one or two of these four essential components. He also suggests that understanding which of these traits you are strongest, and indeed weakest, in can help you to improve your leadership capacity. For example, if you recognise that you are committed and connected but lack the courage needed to make key decisions when necessary, then this is an area that you should target for development in order to become more well-rounded.
2. LEADING BY EXAMPLE
One of the most important lessons to learn when developing your leadership skills is that, no matter how proficient you are at giving direction and making your position known, if you do not lead by example others will not follow.
This may sound simple, but leading by example takes self-awareness, constant attention to detail and a proactive approach if you are going to ensure that this becomes routine. According to an article by Forbes contributor John Hall:
‘Being a leader of a company is kind of like being a celebrity hounded by paparazzi. Your team is always watching, and if you don’t embody the values and mission you set for your employees, people won’t take you seriously.’
Hall believes that if you want your employees to be balanced, productive, happy people – all traits that lead to greater employee engagement and therefore innovation and growth – ‘you have to set the example and embody those qualities yourself.’ This also includes practicing what you preach, since as Hall notes, you can’t ‘offer “unlimited” vacation days but never take a day off yourself,’ because this leads team members to ‘neglect to use their benefits for fear of appearing unmotivated.’ In all areas of leadership, therefore, you have to be the embodiment of the message you want your team to live by.
3. FOSTERING RELATIONSHIPS
At the heart of many great leaders is the capacity to foster relationships, and so working on this skill in both a work and personal context will stand you in better stead for progressing in a leadership role.
An Inc.com article quotes leadership expert, Jack Christianson, who argues that more than anything else ‘leadership is about relationships.’ In his book Frogs Matter Most, Christianson explains that ‘relationships are far more important than issues, yet most leaders focus on issues and never truly develop relationships of trust.’ While acknowledging that issues need to be resolved, Christianson believes that focusing exclusively on this is hampering individuals’ development in the leadership arena.
By working on your capacity to build trust and nurture relationships, you can instead improve your leadership style. Christianson adds that ‘the "bottom line" will take care of itself when the relationship works, when there is deep trust between the employee and the leader.’ Investing time and effort into this, combined with the four Cs and learning to lead by example, you can become a great leader of your company or team and drive growth and innovation.
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