Five steps to becoming an effective leader
It's hard to come by the skills needed to be an inspiring leader. Carmichael Fisher offers some pointers to give you a fighting chance
Becoming a visionary leader requires crossing the Rubicon. It’s about taking that leap from being an excellent and productive employee to inspiring teams, impressing senior colleagues, and moulding the future. For those ready to move up to the next level, there are five effective steps to maximise the chances of success:
- Being willing to step off the well-trodden career path
Doing something just because it’s the traditional way of progressing a career is not the way to become a modern leader. Often, these well-establish paths don’t give you the tools required to become the leader modern organisations need.
Becoming a leader isn’t something which can be bolted on. Authentic leaders need to understand themselves and their motivations. Understanding why you want to become a leader and what you can offer is the starting point for an important journey.
- Being unafraid to fail
Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” He also said: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
The fear of failure leads to us staying within our comfort zones. And the tendency to measure ourselves by what other people think can encourage a conservative attitude.
Anyone wanting to move to the next level needs to overcome a fear of risk. They need to be able to see things from different perspectives, to think laterally to solve problems, and to have an in-built resilience. They need to go the extra mile and take calculated risks.
Developing a growth mindset is an important part of leadership. The idea was first established by world-renowned Stanford University professor of psychology, Carol Dweck. And people with a growth mindset see every decision as either a potential success or an opportunity for learning. There is no failure. They also believe talent can be enhanced by hard work and practise. A growth mindset encourages the resilience and problem-solving organisations need from their leaders.
- Developing sound judgement
The ability to weigh up a situation quickly, to think through the consequences of potential actions, and to have the confidence to take calculated risks is much sought-after among leaders. It’s not acting on intuition, but it is quickly assessing problems and opportunities. It’s also the ability to understand not everything has to be solved by one person. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, and those of the people around you, will assist you in building an effective team and finding creative solutions. A reputation for sound judgement will get you noticed.
- Creating and maintaining your personal brand
In the UK, we avoid “blowing our own trumpets” at all costs. But creating a personal brand is vital for leaders. It’s so important to show and share our knowledge and expertise.
There are ways of doing this without seeming arrogant. One of the key ways is to help the people around you rise by sharing your skills and expertise. That way, as they rise, you rise.
Communication is an important part of this process. Being an excellent link in a chain of internal communication helps to inspire your team, gives confidence to your senior managers, and impresses your peers without the need to shout about your achievements.
Leaders understand that succeeding isn’t just about what you know, who you know, or even who knows you. It’s about the work for which you’re known.
- Developing Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s 1998 article ‘What Makes a Leader?’ stressed that all effective leaders have one thing in common: a high level of EI. Without it, a person with technical prowess, creative ideas, and analytical skills, would remain an excellent and valuable member of staff but they would not be a great leader.
There are five basic planks of EI: empathy for others, self-awareness, social skills in building and managing relationships, self-regulation, and a passion for the work itself – something which is not tied up in status or money. Developing these soft skills are the most important thing anyone can do to become an authentic and effective leader.
In a competitive field, excellence in communication and emotional intelligence will set you apart from the rest of the field. People such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, people who can see beyond the traditional, transactional method of leadership with empathy and vision, set the gold standard. In my experience, I have found it is extremely hard to come by these skills.
In essence, anyone who wants to lead effectively must inspire, engage, and develop the people around them.
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