Whether you’re in a management position already, or aspiring to be in one, sharpening your leadership skills is a great way to reach your professional goals. Leaders are incredibly important to the overall wellbeing of a company; as the old saying goes, “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” By ensuring your leadership skills are up to par, you’re setting yourself, your team, and your company up for success.
The best place to start when trying to improve one’s self is with a self examination. What are your goals? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Good leaders should have a strong sense of self awareness. By recognizing what you excel at, you can lean into those actions while improving the things you’re not as skilled at. If you’re having trouble assessing your strengths and weaknesses, try chatting it out with a friend or even a career guidance counselor. Once you have reflected, try choosing a leadership style that best fits your personality and goals. There are many different approaches you can take. Indeed has a handy list of leadership styles here.
Once you know which leadership style fits you best, use that as a guide to look for books and blogs about leadership. This will help you narrow down the wide variety of resources available. Leadership courses are also a helpful and interactive way to study these skills. Perhaps you can find a leadership podcast or audiobook to listen to in the car. No matter which medium you choose, make sure you set reasonable goals and stick to them. For example, make it a goal to read 3 chapters a week. The philosophies and practices you learn will become the basis for all your future “real-world” experience.
When you feel ready, try asking for more responsibilities at work. The key here is to take a little at a time so you don’t overwhelm yourself at the very start. Ask to lead projects, meetings, special events, or whatever opportunity works best. This is where you can put all you’ve learned so far into practice. Make note of which strategies worked and didn’t work so you can be an even better leader on the next project. You could even ask one of your superiors to be your mentor and keep you on track. If you’re not ready to put yourself out there at work yet, look for opportunities outside of the office! Look for volunteer leadership roles in your community, or through a charity you’re passionate about. These are great ways to gain experience, do good, and alleviate any pressures from the workplace.
Working in a management role requires a strong set of soft skills. While hard skills are your technical knowledge and training, soft skills are personal habits and traits that shape how you work, on your own or with others. These skills include creativity, empathy, problem-solving, adaptability, etc. Being technically highly skilled is great, but if you can’t communicate, motivate, and organize a team effectively, you’re not going to be a very good leader. Read up on, and become aware of, your soft skills so that you can actively test them in the field. Just becoming aware of your own body language is a great place to start when working on your communication skills. Is your position relaxed and open, or stiff and closed? Again, much of this is about assessing yourself and building up your strengths.
If you’re willing to put effort into sharpening your leadership skills, you have the potential to boost any company you work for, and keep your team motivated. Great leaders are hard to find, making you that much more valuable to the company and poised to rise in the ranks. These skills transfer outside of the workplace too, benefitting you always. Happy leading!
By Aubrey Dion
Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.