If you search around the internet long enough, you’ll find all kinds of lists on how to become a better leader. What you don’t often find are the self-improvement tactics that will help you put those lists to use.
This isn’t going to be a simple list of things great leaders do.
We’re going to talk about actionable self-improvement steps you can take that will help you be a better leader now, and into the future.
1. Emulate Leaders That You Look Up To
This is easily the first step. You’ve probably heard fake-it-until-you-make-it before. The theory is by simply attempting to do the thing you want to do, eventually you’ll just be doing it.
It sounds like nonsense, but it works. Most companies start this way. For example, a client will ask someone to do something that isn’t their primary job. That person will accept the gig and figure out how to do it by emulating what they think should be done.
Before long, they’ll have learned enough about what works and what doesn’t. Eventually, they’ll actually be an expert in that job.
By simply doing what you see other great leaders doing, you’ll learn a lot about why they do it. You’ll also find what works well for you. After you fake it for a while, you’ll wake up one morning and realize you’re not faking it any more. You’ll be a great leader.
2. Find a Mentor
It’s best if you can find a mentor near by, preferably in the same company. That’s not always possible, but it’ll make life a lot easier. Any time you’re really struggling with a decision, or an employee, or your superiors, leaning on the mentor for advice is a great learning experience. They’ll give you a solid perspective for the situation you are in.
Don’t just rely on them in times of need. Try to be proactive about learning what makes the mentor great. Watch their demeanor, and ask questions about their day.
Just spending time with them will help their leadership rub off on you. Before long, you’ll find yourself taking on some of their leadership traits.
Every mentor will tell you that self-improvement is the basis for success. They’ll likely recommend books, and things they’ve done to become a better leader.
Despite what the movies say, no one is born a great leader. They all learn it from somewhere.
3. Spend 5 Minutes Learning About Your Business Every Day
The word business is interchangeable here with whatever it is you’re doing that requires you to be a leader. The theory is that by spending just a few minutes learning something new about your company, leading people and making decisions will come easy.
Most people float by collecting knowledge that just sort of hits them in the face as they go along. Searching out details, working in other departments, and speaking to people above and below you will yield a lot of information you may not run into in your current position.
If it’s a business, it can be very hectic and easy to forget to take the time to learn a new thing. However, 5 minutes isn’t a lot to ask. You can email HR with a question. Pop into a department head’s office and just ask one question about what they’re doing. You can just ask a random question about their department and see where it leads. It may surprise you.
4. Join a Group or Organization
Boy Scouts is a great example for this. But you can use almost any club or group that has a defined leadership structure. The Boy Scouts in particular have some great training for adult leaders.You’ll be put through your paces in some loose yet formalized training.
You’ll also get the chance to see how the other leaders handle things. This goes back into the mentorship area mentioned earlier. By watching good leaders, it won’t be long before you adopt some of their best habits.
It is also a great place to practice being a leader. You’ll be responsible for motivating and nurturing today’s youth. It’s not that dissimilar to running a department or company.
You’ll find that being a good leader isn’t just about telling people what to do, it’s about motivation, morale, decision making and communication.
5. Read, Read, and Read Some More
There are thousands of books about improving leadership. Very few of them will be bad for you. Read as much as you can, as often as you can. Soak up as much information about leadership and management as humanly possible.
There are books on every topic as well. So no matter what you think your strengths and weaknesses are, you’ll find a book to fill that void. You can never know too much about leadership.
Even if one book has covered some of what you’ve read before, the perspective will likely be different. It can go a long way toward reinforcing ideas and helping you develop good habits and effective leadership strategies.
6. Let Yourself Make Mistakes
The biggest problem a leader can face is a lack of indecision. This comes from a fear of being wrong. What happens if you make the wrong decision? What if your boss hates the decision? What if it makes the staff upset?
You have to make a decision. Don’t get bogged down in “what ifs”. They’ll stifle your leadership to no end. Great leaders are decisive first, and correct second. It’s true that if you don’t make a decision, you can never be wrong. But you’ll also never be a great leader.
Allow yourself the opportunity to be wrong. Make informed decisions. If it’s incorrect, you still win: you learned something. Second guessing yourself will not get you anywhere.
Have a good internal debate, talk with trusted advisors or superiors, then make the decision. The longer you sit on it, the less clear it will become.
Timely decisions are what can make or break a department or company. Too often, people sit on the sidelines while the competition passes them by.
Being a great leader doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard work on your part to put yourself in a position to succeed. There are no easy fixes. Just try to learn what you can, and get a little bit better every day.
In the future when someone asks you how you became a great leader, you’ll be able to look back at all the things that did and didn’t work, and give solid advice to the next generation of leaders that you’ll be mentoring!
How Can You Become a Better Leader?
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