On the surface, leadership is a fairly straightforward thing. It’s the ability or the actions you or someone else takes to lead other people or an organization. But this fairly simple concept is wrapped up in some complicated issues and concerns. Great leadership can mean the difference between a successful business and company and a failure. It can fundamentally affect the happiness of workers, or cause them to produce substandard work. And the skills involved with leadership aren’t applicable only to a business setting.
Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, a business tycoon, or a corporate manager of some kind, you still need to work on your leadership skills because they’re applicable in every part of your life. They’ll help you take charge when you need to and make you feel more in control of yourself and of your life. They’ll help you be a leader in your overall life, which means that you won’t be at the mercy of everyone else’s opinions and agendas.
This doesn’t mean that you can or should use these skills to control or direct other people of course. Instead, this type of development is about you. It’s about your feelings of personal control, self-mastery and competence. Improving your leadership skills can enhance all of this areas, and that’s a great benefit for your life.
Have you ever wished for the ability to inspire and lead others in a good direction? How would your work and your home life be changed if you developed these skills?
What a Great Leader Looks Like
To develop your leadership skills, you need to understand what great leaders look like. You can see examples of good and bad leaders everywhere and it isn’t hard to see the difference between them. Great leaders inspire. They lead by example and live according to what they preach. They encourage the best from the people around them and most of all, they want the best for everyone around them.
This is different to what you see in a lot of organizations. Too often, people in leadership positions are too concerned with looking good to their bosses to worry about how their leadership style is affecting the people under them. This can result in behaviour that may create some short terms wins, but in the long term is very destructive for employees and for the business. According to Simon Sinek, a bestselling author of a book on leadership, the results of this kind of thinking are obvious in today’s society, “We mistrust government, we don’t trust leadership, we think corporations are bad, and management is bad.”
For inspiration on how to be a great leader, have a look at what some great leaders and thinkers have said about it:
“It is better to lead from the behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
John Quincy Adams
“If your actions inspire to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
“…the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”
“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.”
The Benefits of Improving your Leadership Skills
Developing and improving your leadership skills will benefit not only your business practices, but your home and personal life as well. Some of the most important benefits you will notice include the following:
More productive teams
Whether it’s at work or in your home, developing your leadership skills will improve the productivity of your team and encourage them to produce better work as well. This will benefit your company if you’re a business leader or entrepreneur, and it will benefit your family life if this is where you apply these skills.
There’s nothing more dispiriting for employees than having a leader who makes them feel unsafe or undervalued. In fact, this is one of the most important reasons why people leave their jobs or companies. Developing great leadership skills means that you learn to show appreciation for your team and work to improve their lives and skills. And this creates a happy workplace and happy employees.
Do you have a family? Relationships outside of work that would be improved if you could lead the relationship in a healthier direction? Leadership skills aren’t only for work, they can be applied in any context. They improve your confidence and your sense of self-mastery, and the techniques can be helpful in every relationship you have.
More skilled employees
Great leaders want the best for their employees and this means training them to advance their skills and their effectiveness at work. When you apply this philosophy to your business, it will give you access to employees who are always improving themselves and their practices, and this will benefit your overall business success as well.
It can be difficult to be a leader. Everything is your fault and the full weight of the responsibility of the business rests on your shoulders. Improving your skills as a leader can help you shoulder that burden. It can give you the confidence you need to take on the role with the knowledge that you can manage any obstacle put in your way.
There will be obstacles in your business and career journey. You can’t avoid them, but you can develop the skills to overcome them by improving your leadership skills and giving yourself more tools to work with.
What Qualities do Great Leaders Bring to a Business?
Leaders vary wildly. Everyone has to approach this role in their own way, using their own combination of skills and traits. But there are some qualities that are universal in all truly great leaders. These include the following:
Employees and clients need to be able to trust their leaders and this is impossible to do if the leader doesn’t have the integrity to do what they say they’re going to do.
Lying can be easier sometimes, but it isn’t usually effective. In fact, research shows that people can often unconsciously sense when others are lying. So if you lie as a leader, they may not call you out on it, but it will radically reduce their trust in you as a leader and as a person.
It’s important that great leaders have a clear vision for their business and for their team. This is what inspires others to follow, and it gives everyone the motivation to keep going even when things are difficult.
Leaders sometimes have to make the hard choices. But this doesn’t always mean firing people when things get hard to protect the bottom line. Most of the time, that’s the simplest choice and rarely the best one. Instead it means making the hard choices when no one else wants to.
Good decision making skills
This is an obvious one. If you make bad decisions, you probably won’t find yourself in a leadership position in the first place and if you do, your lack of skill in this area will lead you and your business to ruin.
Great leaders love what they do and what they want to achieve. It’s this quality that inspires them and helps them inspire others to work towards the same dream.
Great leaders are creative in the way they work, creative in the way they approach their employees, and creative in their solutions to problems. Without creativity, they can’t inspire and they can’t build the vision that should drive their business.
Great communication skills
As a leader, you will have to communicate with people from all works of life. But more than that, you will need to speak to them on their level, with the right combination of emotion, rationality, reason and passion to inspire and inform them. And this takes communication skills that are way above normal.
Leaders need to be able to understand and support their employees, to make them feel safe and valued no matter what situation they find themselves in. This demands a high level of emotional intelligence and awareness.
What Are Leadership Styles?
There are several different leadership styles and theories about leadership styles. Your leadership style is your way of leading, it’s your way of providing direction and management to the people under your authority. You might think that your way of leading should and does come naturally, but in reality there are a number of ways you can improve your practices in this area. That’s why developing an understanding of different leadership styles can be so beneficial to your work and personal life. It can give you more tools and different approaches to take in your interactions with employees and suggest useful techniques for when you’re stuck or floundering. And deliberately learning and developing your skills in certain leadership styles can give you and your business a boost and the edge it needs to achieve real and long lasting success.
There are 6 general leadership styles, though the labels for these styles sometimes change. They’re based on the work of Daniel Goleman in his work Primal Leadership. The styles were discovered through a study conducted by Goleman that examined the lives and work habits of more than 3,000 executives. And the results were astounding. In fact, the research uncovered the fact that the leadership styles of managers and entrepreneurs was responsible for 30% of the businesses overall profitability. This shows just how vital your leadership style is for your business success and perhaps even for your life success overall.
Common Leadership Styles
If you want to move from being an ordinary leader to a great one, you need to consciously and deliberately learn about and practice different leadership styles. There are several different systems that outline leadership styles, but the model discovered through Daniel Goleman’s research is one of the most useful. The styles in this system include the following:
Visionary leadership is based on goal achievement and it encourages people to move towards shared goals. It takes good communication skills and the ability to think about issues in the long term. This is a positive style of leadership that can be helpful when your business or company is going through a major change. However, this is not always a very practical technique. It tends to motivate people to achieve a goal but doesn’t offer practical ideas for how to do that, which means the employees need to be naturally self-sufficient for this style to work well.
The coaching leadership style is based on developing employees on a one to one basis. The aim of this style is to improve the work practices of specific individuals and advance their professional development. Leaders who use these techniques must be careful not to micromanage employees, as this can make them feel stifled and uneasy.
This leadership style is based on the idea of creating a positive, nurturing environment. It’s most often used when teams are constantly in conflict with each other or to create new and effective teams. However, because it deliberately avoids confrontation or distressing conversations it isn’t useful in situations where uncomfortable change has to occur to create a healthier business
Like the political idea, this leadership style encourages equal participation from everyone involved aims to reach a consensus in every decision. It’s a good technique to use if you’re trying to get input from everyone on your team and are having trouble getting certain members to speak up. This can be a very slow form of leadership, as everyone has to air their opinion and debate, so it isn’t helpful in situations where speed is key.
The pacesetting style is designed to encourage already motivated people to improve their practices and work more independently. In this style, the leader models these behaviors and expects the workers to learn from their example. This is a type of leadership that gets very quick results, but the team needs to be highly skilled and motivated to start with or it can backfire and cause employees to become demotivated.
This is one of the most common leadership styles, especially in traditional workplaces, as well as the least effective. People who use this style demand and expect compliance and employees have very little choice if they want to keep their job. This technique should be used sparingly if you want to develop happy and productive teams and employees. It’s mostly useful in emergency situations, or when dealing with troublesome employees.
Why You Need to Mix Your Styles
As the information above suggests, no single style will work in every situation. That’s because there is no one style that will fit every employee, business, or life challenge. Sometimes your employees, or your children, will need a kick in the pants to get moving, and this is when you use the commanding style. Other days they will be upset and vulnerable and will need a lot of encouragement and support to work at their best and get the job done. This is when you can access the affiliative style. Looking at the leadership styles in this way, as tools rather than strict rules of behavior, can help you get an understanding of how they can be most useful in your business.
One of the keys to using these styles effectively is to be authentic with it. There’s no point trying to be overly warm and cuddly at work if you aren’t that way naturally. Your employees will sense your unease in a moment and it will make them uncomfortable. These leadership styles are linked to different aspects of emotional intelligence, so if you’re having trouble using one of them it’s probably a sign that you need to work on your own personal development first before you start applying the relevant techniques to the people around you.
How To Practice Different Leadership Styles
The idea of learning and practicing so many different leadership styles can be overwhelming. Each of the styles are very different and are comprised of different techniques, requiring a variety of skills as well as the intelligence to know when each style would be most effective. Developing the skills necessary will take time and focused practice, but you can start this journey with the following ideas:
Research the style and choose one
As with most goals, it’s usually best to start with one, and this applies to leadership styles as well. Choose one of the styles and learn about it. Learn when to use it, and when not to. And start deliberately applying the techniques in your business life.
Increase your own emotional intelligence
Each of the leadership styles is linked to the different aspects of emotional intelligence. So developing your own EQ will not only help you understand and use these different styles it will also allow you to better judge when they should be used.
Don’t overuse certain styles
The pacesetting style and the commanding style should only be used for a short time or you risk alienating your employees or causing them to burn out. Be very certain that the situation calls for the use of these styles before you call on them.
Observe the culture of your workplace
The workplace culture is the mood and personality of your workplace. There are many different aspects that go into making culture including beliefs, ideals, traditions, values, behaviors and attitudes. If you’re a manager or a leader of some kind, your leadership style is pivotal to creating the culture of your workplace. So if you want to influence this for the better, you need to learn how to read the culture, and which style will work best to influence it in the way you want to go.
Know your desired end result
There’s no point in trying to change your leadership styles if you don’t know what result you want from the changes. Do you want to make your employees happier? Do you want to improve their productivity? Make more profit? Assessing and honestly stating your goals before starting this process will allow you to better use the leadership styles in a way that best suits your needs.
Get to know your employees
Not only do different situations require different leadership styles but so does each employee. If you’re the boss of a big business, you might have too many employees to be able to meet them all, but you can use other tactics to learn what they’re concerned about and what they want from their job. And you can always get to know the team who’s under your direct command. Learning more about your employees will help you understand which styles they respond best to and what they need from you.
Part of being a great leader is listening to the people around you. So ask for feedback on the changes you’re making. Set aside some time and really listen to their responses without getting upset or angry. And ask them if they have any ideas for how you can improve your leadership or better use the leadership styles. This will not only improve your practices, it will make your employees feel like part of the process as well.
There is no one leadership style that will work for every situation and every company. If you really want to inspire people then you need to be able to approach each situation with an open mind and bring appropriate skills to the exchange. This means learning a lot of different leadership skills and approaches. And it means being able to read each situation and have the emotional intelligence and awareness to respond in the right ways. Learning all of this can take practice, but it’s worth it to improve your life, your work, and your overall sense of confidence.
What great leaders do you admire and want to be more like? Share with us in the comments below who your role models are and why.