5 Critical Skills You Must Develop to Become a Great Leader

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a leader. I loved achieving things as a team and the feeling of camaraderie over individual successes. There is something significant about going through a journey with others and being victorious. But I quickly found out that just because you dream about or love something doesn’t mean you are going to be great at it.

My first opportunity leading others professionally proved to be a disaster. I ended up being living proof that Jocko Willink’s quote about leadership is true.

“There are no bad teams just bad leaders.”

I failed my team, but I knew it didn’t have to end that way. I made a commitment to develop my own skills and help others develop theirs. After years of studying, practicing, applying, and writing about what the best leaders do, I am confident there are 5 critical skills every leader must develop in order to become the best leader that can be. These skills do not have to be completed in order and you will probably find that you already have a high skill level in some or most of them.

1. Coaching

All coaching interactions between you and your people should have a common theme: make an individual better, not tear them down. You should proactively be coaching an individual based on their skills. Skill is defined as “the ability to do something well.” It is imperative that you understand the four levels of skill development to best serve your people. These include; Awareness, Building Critical Mass, Accelerated Performance, and Sustained Excellence. Different tactics and techniques are necessary during your coaching conversation, dependent on where a team member is within the four levels.

But coaching doesn’t end with skills. You must go beyond focusing on skill development and contribute to the long-term success and well being of your people. Focus in on the whole person and helping them become the best version of themselves both inside and outside of work.

2. Communication

The vast majority of conflict in a work environment or any relationship can be blamed on poor communication. Many leaders do not place enough emphasis on and put enough effort into being clear communicators. When a leader or team does not properly communicate, assumptions are made. This results in people being unsure about where they stand or how they are supposed to behave. Making it a priority every day to be a great communicator and choosing to over- vs under-communicate will help avoid these issues.

3. Relationship Building

Relationships are the center of everything. As such, the relationships you build with others must be based on trust and mutual respect. Where most leaders struggle is in understanding their responsibility to earn those two things. Long gone are the days of a title earning the respect of those you lead. In today’s workplaces, a title should only be a reminder of your responsibility to earn trust and respect from your people.

4. Teaching

One of the best ways to help set people up for success in the future is to be a teacher to others. In order to do this, it requires something you probably feel you have little to give away; TIME.

Set aside time in your schedule or find time in a moment of need, but either way don’t hesitate to grab a white board and teach.

When you share your passion, competence, and experience with others, you make an impact that lasts a lifetime

If you don’t have the expertise in a particular area that needs to be taught, point people in the right direction and financially support their development.

5. Soft “Real” Skills

People love to use the term “soft” skills when referring to skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, and courage. I refer to them as REAL skills. More importantly than how they are labeled, each of them is a set of skills that can be measured and learned.

Emotional Intelligence: Is getting your emotions to work for you instead of against you. It has three key parts: Identifying emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.

Empathy: How well you are able to identify with your team to understand their feeling and perspectives, in order to guide your actions.

Courage: Being scared or fearing something and deciding to do it anyways.

All three of these “Real” Skills are paramount in order to be a successful leader.

Every leader began somewhere. If you are anything like most leaders, it’s safe to say you didn’t take your job of leading others seriously enough early on. You probably just winged it or did what came naturally. This is what has created a low quality of leaders in the current workplace. The latest statistics show 60% of new leaders fail within the first 18 months of their job. Additionally, the vast majority of people don’t have confidence in the leaders they currently have.

In order for you to excel as a leader, you must work hard to understand, master, and apply these five skills on an ongoing basis.

Building the Best Leadership Workshop Do you lead a team and want to go to elevate the way you lead? Don’t miss out on the opportunity to participate in the Building the Best Leadership Workshop on June 25th in Charlotte, NC. Learn more and sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

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