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How to Become a Better Leader

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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 have to accomplish them. 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, which requires skills 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.

Observe and Monitor Leaders You Respect

Think about the leaders you respect in your personal life and monitor how they interact 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.

Remember 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 strengths and weaknesses, and set measurable goals for improving your 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, skills, or 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 getting book recommendations from people you respect.

Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Many people naturally think of leadership as a purely logical function: You make decisions, direct employee actions, and generally ensure 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 also 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, accurately relaying job descriptions and projects, and resolving conflicts.

The better you communicate, the fewer issues you’ll face, and the faster you’ll fix the problems that 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 admire, and simply practice how you speak and write regularly.

Active and Passive Listening

Hearing and listening are not the same thing. You can hear your staff speak without listening to what they are saying.

First, to use both appropriately, you must understand the differences between active and passive listening.

Active listening

The main sign that someone is actively listening is that they want to engage. Asking for feedback may be the simple act of nodding or verbally saying “I understand” or “Yes.” Additionally, when you’re actively listening, you’re more likely to ask questions to clarify your understanding of what’s being said.

Paraphasing is another way of showing that you’re actively listening and that you understand what has been said.

Body language is also crucial to active listening. Maintain eye contact, use facial expressions to show your engagement and interest.

Passive listening

When you’re using passive listening, it’s hard for the speaker to gauge if you’re listening to them. If your staff are talking to you, and they are introverts, they may not ask if you understand them. Instead, they may just be left feeling undervalued.

Passive listening doesn’t mean you’re not listening. You’re probably listening, just not showing the speaker that you are. There are times when passive listening is appropriate, for example, at a speaker’s event. It’s OK to listen but not attempt to get feedback or engage.

Ideally, you’ll want to use your active listening skills in leadership. In team meetings, for example, consistently show that you are present and interested in the discussions.

Take the time to ask your employees for feedback and listen to what they have to say. Make them feel comfortable sharing what they think about your leadership style and note aspects they think could be improved or refined.

Final Thoughts

Remember you can become a better leader overnight and an effective leader over time.

Prepare for a long-term commitment that will require creating new habits, invest in ongoing education, and practice active listening.

Surround yourself with influential leaders and emulate them. Try different approaches and techniques to leadership and management.

Over time, you’ll notice a measurable improvement in your performance as a leader—and your subordinates will see a positive difference.