Whether it’s in business, the community or sport, well-developed leadership skills can cultivate confidence, drive business success and build a sense of personal satisfaction.
Leadership guru John C Maxwell is well known for his quote “a leader is one who knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.”
But what makes a good leader and how can you develop your leadership skills? Today, we explore the characteristics of effective leaders, how leadership skills can support business growth and tips for developing this valuable skillset.
What makes an effective leader?
Leadership is about so much more than a role or position. It’s about action, setting an example and bringing out the best in others.
That means anyone in any position within an organisation or team can develop their leadership skills and amplify their contribution.
It is said that there are eight or more different leadership styles such as autocratic (“do as I say”), authoritative (“follow me”) and democratic (“what do you think?”). Some leaders tend to stick to one or two styles while others are more agile, adapting their style based on the situation.
Respected leaders tend to share some of the same qualities, regardless of their style.
- Strong communication
- Empathy and emotional intelligence
- Ability to delegate
- Learning agility
- Critical thinking
- Active listening
Hard versus soft leadership.
There has been discussion in recent years about “hard” and “soft” leadership skills. Hard leadership skills are about being task-focused, competitive, data driven and persuasive, while soft skills are more about collaboration and consensus, leading through empathy, persuasion, transformation and authenticity.
“Hard leaders take people where they want to go, while soft leaders take people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but where they ought to be. Soft leaders don’t force people to follow ― they invite people on a journey. Soft leaders focus on strategies while hard leaders focus on processes.”
In recent years, many organisations have shifted from hard and autocratic leadership to a more collaborative, people-centred approach. The coronavirus pandemic has taken this one step further, with leaders needing to be tough and resilient yet more humane and understanding.
Author Tony Robbins says that whatever your natural strengths are, developing leadership skills that align with those aptitudes is your ticket to greater effectiveness on the job.
Making a difference – transformational leadership.
Bestselling author Lisa Haisha says “great leaders don’t set out to be a leader…they set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role, always about the goal.”
So if you want to become a better leader, find your passion and go from there. If your passion is to help people with a disability live better, more fulfilled lives, embrace that mission and own it. Use it to create an inspiring vision of the future. Let it fuel everything you do and every business decision you make.
This transformational style of leadership motivates people around you to get involved and contribute. It can also result in more effective teams.
Why develop leadership skills?
- Build better relationships
- Progress your career
- Develop confidence
- Improve your ability to manage crises, challenges and difficult situations
- Develop a growth mindset for your business
- Better support your team to achieve individual and business goals.
How to develop your leadership skills.
- Voluntarily take the lead on new projects
- Join a sporting team
- Join a board, committee or community group
- Become a volunteer
- Practice mindfulness
- Join a business group
- Develop any of the qualities listed above
- Go out of your comfort zone.
- Empower others by supporting them to develop and learn
- VET training or TAFE course
- University courses
- Conflict resolution training
- Coaching or mentoring – check out opportunities and programs in your state
- Workshops – many chambers of commerce and business groups run training or share formal professional development opportunities
- Australian Institute of Management courses.
Spotting leadership potential in others.
It’s a good idea to identify and nurture potential leaders early so you can support them to develop their skills and confidence. This can futureproof your organisation and help retain talent.
Look for employees who inspire and naturally influence others, have high motivation, listen attentively, solve problems and demonstrate emotional intelligence.
Keep in mind that good leaders can come from anywhere in the organisation. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” said former US President, John Quincy Adams. Look for team members who do just that and support them to thrive.
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Further readingHow to make a Google My Business listing work for your business.
 Sophia Demetriades Toftdalh, LinkedIn Pulse, The 7 most common leadership styles and how to find your own, 15 July 2020.
 MS Rao, Chief Learning Officer, Soft versus hard leadership, 4 November 2020.
 Sanat Rao, Forbes, Leadership in the future: Go hard at the problem but with soft hands, 9 July 2020.
 Tony Robbins, 7 ways to improve leadership skills, accessed 05 August 2021