Building your leadership skills is a surefire way to advance forward in your career. Leaders are the ones who manage teams, entire departments, and even entire companies.
It also goes without saying that leaders are usually the ones who get paid the most within a company. But how do you start to become a leader? Well it all begins with developing the right skills. In this article we’ll explore what they are, and how you can start developing them today.
Communication skills and leadership
Leaders are almost always great communicators. They know how to get their point across clearly and succinctly, and they also know how to build a logical, persuasive case to support their point of view. Being a leader at almost any level requires a degree of public speaking. This can including larger presentations to the executive team, communicating updates to your team during a daily stand up or huddle, or leading meetings.
To improve your communication skills, start taking a more proactive approach in meetings. Maybe this could include leading meetings where propose a new strategy, or presenting a new project idea idea to the leadership team.
Leaders know they can’t do everything, and they’re not supposed to. Part of being an efficient and effective leader comes from delegating responsibility. This means that you need to be able to build teams, and fill roles with people you can rely on to get the job done.
To build this skill, it’s important to set clearly defined roles & responsibilities within your team, department, and the wider company. By pushing back on requests from other teams that fall outside the parameters of your role, you’re effectively delegating responsibility to others. Also, if you’re collaborating with team members on certain projects, it can help to clearly define tasks and responsibilities with those involved. Practising delegating responsibility on these smaller projects will help prepare you for bigger teams, and bigger projects.
Making important decisions
Leaders need to make important decisions on a daily basis. Executives are often forced to make tough decisions on what to do with budgets, whether to issue redundancies, whether to bring on new resources, whether to pursue one line of strategy or another, and resolve differences of opinion within the senior leadership and management team. That’s a lot of considerations to decide on.
Thankfully, this is a skill that any of us can develop. It comes down not just to simply making decisions, but improving how you make them. For example, having a data-backed reason for your decision is better than just going “by feel” or “intuition”. Also, it’s important that your decisions are objective, that they consider all of the potential scenarios and consequences, that it accurately estimates and time or financial requirements, as well as how many resources or staff may be required to effectively implement that decision.
Handling pressure and high amounts of stress
As the cliche goes, when it comes to leaders – the buck stops with them. Being a leader requires handling a lot stress, pressure, and responsibility. If you’re the chief marketing office (CMO), then the entire performance of the marketing team which could include SEO specialists, content writers, graphic designers, performance marketers, social media managers, PR specialists, marketing managers, and analytics specialists – all sits with you.
How do you handle this responsibility? Well it should come as a natural evolution of your career that you “cut your teeth”as a leader and refine your skills by first managing small teams, then larger teams, and then potentially several teams within a department (for example a “head of digital” might oversee several digital teams). And then if you reach the executive level, you’ll manage the entire department.
Handling this stress also comes from having a strong support network with your friends and family. It’s also important to do the things that nourish your mental health, such as meditating, taking holidays and vacations, socialising with friends and family, and spending time away from the computer, and potentially even out of the city.
Creating accountability with your team
Leaders know how to run teams (and even departments) efficiently. Part of that means creating transparency and accountability within your teams. This can take the form of weekly stand ups, WIPS, or huddles, where people share what they’re working on. It can also take the form of shared spreadsheets where people update their tasks, other project management software like Asana, Jira, or Trello. Essentially, as a leader, you need to know what your teams and employees are working on, and ensure it syncs with the highest priority, and highest ROI yielding activities.
Boosting Morale & Improving Employee Retention
An effective team and department is a happy team and department. Leaders need to encourage and support the people working under them. Pretty simply, if you overwork your team, if you fail to recognise their accomplishments, if you fail to dispel the uncertainty that can come with working for a company that’s in dire straights, then they’ll leave. And it won’t reflect well on you if they decide to leave in droves.
So it’s important to, conversely, recognise and celebrate accomplishments (both for individuals and teams). It’s also important to keep an eye on the health of your team, and make sure they’re not suffering under an overbearing load of work.
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Will Vaughan is the Founder & CEO of Your Career Mastery. He’s dedicated to helping young professionals discover and land the job of their dreams using a mix of proven strategies, tips, tools, and mindsets. He currently works as a Content & SEO manager for a 100 million dollar tech company in Melbourne, Australia.