It’s never too early to begin building your leadership skills. In fact, it is better to begin building your leadership skills sooner rather than later. There is nothing worse than ending up in a leadership role for the first time, with team members looking at you for answers and you not having a clue how to get them all on the same page. If you think about the worst bosses you have ever had, I bet it would include a complaint about the manager either just dictating orders and micro-managing, or that they were giving you advice that you know was wrong. You want to avoid doing the same thing. But where can you begin to develop your own leadership skills?
Accept your weaknesses
If you want to be a good leader, the first thing you need to accept is that you will never know everything, and you definitely are not going to be the best at everything. As Steve Jobs once said, it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and try to tell them what to do, instead you should hire smart people so that they can tell you what to do. Humility and self-awareness are the foundation of a good leader. If you are great at the big picture, you are going to lack the ability to get into micro details and vice versa.
If I use myself as an example, I am great at big picture strategy, but I hate admin. I do not care what bullet point 7 of paragraph 3 on page 64 says. As long as it’s in the ballpark of the overall plan and gets us the required results in the required time, I am fine with it. So, I always make sure I hire someone who is great at admin and those nitty gritty details, otherwise I am likely to miss something. I don’t then try to tell them exactly how everything should be because I hate admin. I may give a general direction, but I trust them to be an expert in the details, its why I hired them after all.
If you are not very self-aware, the easiest way to work out your strengths and weaknesses is to do a high-end psychometric assessment which will highlight both your strengths and weaknesses. As much as you may not want to accept the results, it’s likely to be a pretty accurate description of who you are and then you need to build a team that covers all bases. Think about it like a football team – you cant just have a team of goalscorers, you also need full backs, wingers, goalkeepers etc. No one can play all of these positions well, it is why you need to a team to deliver the results. Only a poor leader think they, or someone else, should be able to play all positions equally well.
Work on your communication skills
Its no surprise that Warren Buffet considers a $100 public speaking course as the best course he ever went on. If you are going to be a leader, you have to be able to communicate. If you cannot communicate effectively, then you cannot get people to buy in to your ideas or to follow you. If you can’t do this, then there is a limit on how far you can progress into leadership. How could you be CEO or head of your division, or a founder of your own business if you can’t convince anyone to do what you want? Follow Warren’s lead and invest in building your communication skill set.
Pursue your passion
A simple question, are you doing what you love? A role of a leader is to lead. In order to lead, you need people to follow. Who are you more likely to follow? Someone who is energized and passionate about what they are doing and convinced it’s the right thing to do, or someone who just shrugs and says well I guess we need to do this now. If you are not hugely passionate about what you are doing, very few people are going to follow you. If you want to inspire others, you must first be inspired yourself.
Finally, it’s important to understand that being a leader means admitting when you are wrong. There is not a single person on the planet who hasn’t made a mistake. Failure is a key part of any journey. It is impossible to get everything right on the first attempt. We have all worked for that boss who can never admit they are wrong. Its infuriating and it leads to disengagement. If you want to be a good leader, you are going to have to admit you are wrong. You may make a decision that turns out to be the wrong one. Be open about your failures and what you learnt from them. How did you adjust and regroup in order to overcome the setback? Learning from failure sends a powerful message to others and people will want to reach out to you for help when they experience a similar set back.
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