Leadership is typically seen as a skill that people grow into with time. While potential is excellent, day to day experience and the knowledge of how different decisions will play out all come together to make for what is seen as a great leader. However, as numerous tech entrepreneurs and others in the business world have proven, age does not need to be anything more than a number.
This feature is for those that have either had a leadership role forced upon them, or who want to rise through the ranks in their career rapidly. It won’t necessarily be easy, and many skills are inherent rather than taught, but where there’s a will, there’s always an opportunity.
1. Clarify Your Vision
A key part of leadership is to ensure that everyone is on board and pulling in the same direction. It’s impossible to lead others to a destination if you don’t know it yourself. Even experienced leaders get caught up in the day to day operations when they really need to take a step back and think about what they want to achieve. Vagueness is the enemy – you want goals and accomplishments that you and others can clearly see ahead of them.
2. Communication is Your Key Skill
Once you have your goal in mind, your next job is to communicate it to those around you. If you work alone, then leadership becomes less important as the goals will live or die based on your individual efforts. However, most leaders have a team around them, and everyone needs to know all they should to play their part. Above anything else, your communication must be clear. Misunderstandings waste time and energy, so work to ensure you can put forth your ideas and get everyone on the same page.
3. Foster an Optimistic Outlook
You and those around you know that not everything goes to plan. However, you should never let doubt creep in. Your team looks to you for guidance, and if they see you feeling like you’re losing a battle, their own confidence will take a knock. With an optimistic leader, they have the comfort of knowing that no matter what happens, everything should turn out perfectly in the end.
4. Motivation is Another Key Role
Disguising your own doubts is one thing, but a brave face only goes so far. Those around you will face their own challenges, and you need to be on hand to give them a push now and then. A stimulated, happy worker is a productive one, and it’s down to you to ensure that they feel valued. This can be through rewards, empowerment or anything else you identify as a driving factor.
5. Don’t Just Accept Criticism, Invite It
One of the biggest issues facing younger leaders is feeling like they need to know everything. However, you know you don’t, and your team does too. If you’ve got the right people around you, there will be those whose skills exceed your own in certain areas. Make it clear that your colleagues should never be afraid to speak up and if they well that there’s room for improvement you haven’t spotted, you’re happy to hear all about it.
6. Don’t Forget to Do Your Part
If you reach a point where you give everyone their instructions for the day and then shut yourself away in the office waiting for a problem to solve, you’re leading wrong. You’re still a member of the team, if a senior one, and you should have a reasonably full working day yourself. Your staff will respect you for working as hard as they do, if not harder, and if you do something well, they will have something to aspire to.
7. You’re Not Infallible
You might be in charge, but you’re still only human and, as such, you’ll make mistakes. If you ever find yourself answering a question and justifying your reasoning with ‘because I’m in charge’, you’ve failed your employee. Take responsibility when things go wrong, and you’ll foster more respect. Besides, every mistake is an opportunity, and you’ll be a better leader for it going forward.
8. Don’t Get Complacent
Every leader at every level and in every organisation loves days where everything goes smoothly. They arrive, get things done and go home happy. However, the time may come where you need to rock the boat to achieve what’s needed. Sweeping changes should be rare unless there’s a major problem, but if you feel like something needs to be done, you’re probably the only one that can force some kind of improvement.
9. Cultivate a Culture of Patience
Calmness and patience are fantastic characteristics in a leader, mainly because snap decisions and rushed plans rarely reach their potential. It works both ways too – you may be excited, or you may be in a crisis. While they lie at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, they can both equally lead to mistakes and issues. Intuition helps the process, but you never want to make a decision on an emotional high or low, so you should ensure that you and those around you give the whole situation time to sink in. Make sure you have all the facts before you make any major decisions and even sleep on them if required. Above that, encourage your team to do the same.
10. Constantly Develop and Improve
This feature is aimed at young, inexperienced leaders. However, if you demonstrate talent in leadership roles, the chances are you’ll remain in one for the rest of your career. You’ll be an older leader one day, with the experiences and track record that characterise some of the most notable in history. Never feel like you’ve mastered the art of leadership, as there is always somewhere to improve. Whether you try something new every day or ensure that formal education forms part of your daily schedule, nobody ever moves forward just by standing still.