American companies spend a lot on Leadership Performance Development every year.
TrainingIndustry.com says that leadership training is a $366 billion global industry, with nearly $166 billion being spent in the U.S. alone.
Colleges and universities offer hundreds of degree courses on leadership, and the cost of customized leadership-development offerings from a top business school can reach $150,000 a person.
According to a recent survey of 28,000 business leaders, conducted under the guidance of Chief Learning Officer magazine, seventy-four percent of organizations use instructor-led programs, and 63% also use coaching and mentoring, often focusing on soft skills like:
- Improving Coaching Skills
- Employee Engagement
- Strategic Planning & Logistics
- Time Management
- Business Acumen
- Financial Management
It is a common misconception that leadership is something you must be born with, an innate ability to generate in others a common vision, trust, shared enthusiasm. And yet tens of thousands of people continue to seek out those who can teach them the “skills” they need to drive high-performance workflows and be the kind of leader they want to be.
But here is the secret: Leadership can be coached, but it cannot be taught.
You have it within you right this very moment to be a successful leader, a motivator, a cheerleader, a referee, and a diplomat. You really do, and the moment you realize that will be the first step on your journey of self-discovery.
Leadership is a choice. It is a choice only you can make, despite all the training your company paid for.
If you truly want to be a leader, here are ten steps to improve your leadership performance
1. Take the Initiative
Quite often, bosses assign work to employees knowing what they can do. But they do not know all that YOU can do. Never be complacent – step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to improve constantly. Sign up for classes, take on extra work, volunteer to organize that event.
Taking on more responsibility and learning more will eventually move you into more of a leadership position, what you do with it is up to you.
When that day comes, you will have already established a reputation for effectiveness, and a track record of taking the initiative, using your new knowledge and skills for improvements in the workflow.
2. Listen Effectively
Communication is one of the most important pillars of business life, yet a great deal of effort is put into how you present, speak to others, not often is attention given to the most important aspect of clear communication: effective listening.
Effective listening allows for:
- Improved communication.
- Less arguments.
- Showing you care.
- Better understanding your world.
- Improving your memory.
Listening effectively is not merely waiting for the other speaker to finish so that you may voice your next thought, it is a combination of direct intention, eye contact, avoiding distraction, giving feedback, and proper body language.
- Listen to the speaker nonjudgmentally and with empathy – Think about it from their perspective, try to understand where they are coming from. Listen without judgement.
- Listen to content – Listen for facts and ideas.
- Listen to intent – Listen to the emotional meaning of the speaker. Try to “hear” the underlying message.
- Assess the speaker’s nonverbal communication – Try to read and interpret what the speaker is “saying” with body language and nonverbal cues.
- Monitor your nonverbal communication and emotional filters – Be mindful of the messages that you are conveying through your body language such as crossed arms, tone of voice or scowling face.
3. Self-Discipline Matters
Showing up late for meetings, not responding to internal communications in a timely manner, forgetting to keep promises that were made, these are all signs of a lack of self-discipline. Employees take their cues from their direct line of supervision, and if the boss cannot handle the details of the small things, maybe they cannot handle the details of the big things.
- Countdown, then take action
- Put your goals where you can see them every day
- Remind yourself why you started
- Set small goals first
- Practice prioritizing
- Know your weaknesses
- Get friends to hold you accountable
4. Constant Learning
John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
Life is constantly changing. The ability to unlearn old methods and technology while embracing new methods, knowledge, and technology will help keep you current, and agile in the face of crisis.
When enhancing leadership performance, study leaders you admire.
- What makes them effective?
- What traits do they have that you could emulate?
- Would they mentor you if you asked them?
5. Handling Conflicts
Managing employees means conflict. Conflicts between people both in and out of work, conflicting schedules, conflicts between circumstance and team goals. Finding ways to resolve these conflicts is the meat and potatoes of leadership.
This often requires leaders to speak frankly, and this often requires courage. It is not easy to tell someone when they are underperforming, or problematic in the workplace. It can also be difficult to stand up and take responsibility for your team in the face of upper management.
How you manage these conflicts defines you as a leader.
- Accept that conflict occurs
- Be a calming agent
- Separate the person from the problem
- Focus on the future
- Model neutral language
6. Delegating Effectively
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it,” according to Theodore Roosevelt.
Delegating tasks empowers employees to be more responsible. Not requiring your signature on every report, or approval of their work, builds trust and encourages employees in their own personal growth.
Imagine you had to travel for a month on business. Who would you task with covering which aspects? Could you leave knowing the workflow will continue?
7. Motivate Others
Employees want to be valued. They want to feel necessary, and when excellence is rewarded, it gets repeated. When excellence is encouraged, over time it becomes habit. Recognition is contagious.
When you foster it among your team, they will pick up on it and begin to recognize and support each other.
8. Critical Thinking
The ability to foresee problems before they become problems is an invaluable tool, and a common trait among high-performing leaders. Potential issues can often be prevented by judicious action, which is always the result of critical thinking.
- Become more self-aware
- Understand your mental process and patterns
- Practice active listening
- Ask questions
- Evaluate existing evidence
9. Lead by Following
A true leader recognizes that the other team members have enormous value, and the leader can learn a lot from those they represent. If an employee has an idea, encourage it, see where it goes. Help your team members to step out of their own comfort zones, stretch their own limitations. By believing in them, you help to strengthen their confidence and job satisfaction.
10. Communication is Key
Presenting ideas in a clear and cogent way is one the most important factors in leadership performance success. Those truly effective leaders have the ability to express ideas in a relatable way, whether speaking to the board, or the crew unloading the docks.
- Simplify to stay on message
- Take time to respond
- Engage, don’t lecture
- Make communication a priority
- Respect your audience
- Maintain eye contact
- Control body language
Keen Alignment can help you to both chart your course, and steer your career where you want it to go.
Contact us for coaching to bring your high-performance leadership abilities to the front, where the world can see them!
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