Does being a manager mean you’re a good leader? No. As a manager, you’re driven to achieve the goals and work with what you’ve got to get them done. Whereas as a leader, you’re more about the vision, so you create the objectives for the business and drive the people within it to get better results.
Leaders focus on getting the best performance from people, and this requires skills on how to motivate employees, encourage better performances, increase efficiency, and set a good example simultaneously. Naturally, you want to be a “better” leader, but with so many independent responsibilities and subjective qualities inherent to the position, how can you reliably improve your leadership performance?
Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to improve your abilities and unlock your full potential as a leader.
Invest in Executive Education
One of your best options is to invest in an executive education program or leadership training program.
With this approach, you’ll follow a formal curriculum, mastering different skills and abilities related to leadership and organizational performance. You’ll also get a chance to meet other like-minded people—which is a perfect opportunity to network or build team bonds.
Most people walk away from this experience with a renewed perspective on their own leadership style, and they’re able to lead employees more effectively as a result.
Observe and Monitor Leaders You Respect
Think about the leaders you respect in your personal life, and take the time to monitor how they engage with their team members.
Successful leaders have already taken the time to experiment with different leadership approaches, and they’ve stuck with the tactics that seem to work best. As you get to know these leaders, you’ll be better able to emulate their leadership styles for your own purposes.
Keep in mind that these leaders don’t have to be in your organization; for example, you might look up a politician or historical figure. You can even learn from fictional characters in some cases.
Set Individual Goals (and Aspire to Achieve Them)
You likely encourage your team members to set individual goals for improvement, so follow the same approach for yourself.
Take note of your personal strengths and weaknesses, and set measurable goals for improving your own performance. For example, is there a way you can spend less time in meetings while achieving the same result? Can you make more time for one-on-one coaching sessions?
Read and Listen to Other Experts
Ongoing education is vital for leaders to be influential, so spend time reading books and listening to interviews or lectures from other experts—even if they’re not in your specific field. Doing this sometimes teaches you new principles, new skills, or new abilities. But more commonly, you’ll get exposure to different communication styles, new vocabulary words, and a diverse mix of ideas you can bring to your team.
If you’re unsure where to start, consider subscribing to an eclectic podcast or two or getting book recommendations from people you respect.
Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Many people naturally think about leadership as a purely logical function; you make decisions, direct employee actions, and generally make sure the organization works the way it should. But there’s also an emotional aspect to leadership; not only will you need to read and respond to the emotions of other people, but you’ll need to keep your own emotions in check when working with other people (and this isn’t always easy).
The best route to improvement here is increasing your emotional intelligence.
There are many individual strategies to help you do this, such as practising empathy, keeping a journal, and meditating. The better you understand and acknowledge the power of emotions, the better you’ll be able to function as a leader.
Look for Opportunities to Improve Your Communication
Another major category of improvement for leaders is communication. Your communicative abilities will be responsible for assigning the right tasks, relaying job descriptions and projects accurately, and resolving conflicts.
The better you are at communicating, the fewer issues you’re going to face, and the faster you’re going to fix the problems that do arise.
Again, many tactics can help you improve your communication. You can read content by writers you respect, emulate the communication styles of people you look up to, and simply practice how you speak and write regularly.
Listen to Your Employees
Finally, take the time to ask your employees for feedback and listen to what they have to say. Make them feel comfortable sharing what they frankly think about your leadership style and note aspects they think could be improved or refined.
Keep in mind that there’s no way to become a better leader overnight.
If you want to invest in your abilities, you’ll need to be prepared for a long-term commitment; you’ll need to change your habits, invest in ongoing education, and put in the time every day to make yourself more effective. Over time, you’ll notice a measurable improvement in your performance as a leader—and your subordinates will see a positive difference as well.