Top 5 Ways to Grow as a Leader in Business
Leadership capability is at the crux of most mid and senior-level job profiles. To borrow terminology from Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, as you move away from being a “technician” to a “manager,” your business personality starts to undergo a significant shift. In place of doing all the day-to-day minutiae, your role as a leader will see you inspiring and helping everyone who reports to you do their best work.
If you’ve been hired into a leadership role, it means that someone sees your potential to influence others. Now the question becomes, how do you grow from here? Here are five personal elements of great leadership that you can focus on. Evolve these five skills, and you’ll keep climbing up the chain of command.
Your ability to lead others starts with how well you know yourself. If you don’t know how you show up in front of others, you won’t be in a position to understand how your actions are affecting them.
Are you consistently argumentative? Do you feel the urge to “win” conversations that were simply intended to be civil discussions by the other party? Chances are, you’re probably upsetting some people who feel they can’t communicate with you.
We all have our faults, and all make mistakes sometimes. One of the ways you can build your self-awareness is to look back and reflect on conversations that elicited strong responses from your colleagues. Ask yourself: how was I likely perceived at that moment? What did I say that may have pushed my colleague’s buttons?
My struggles in leadership have been a direct result of subpar self-awareness and addressing this has significantly improved my effectiveness.
Self-awareness is the foundation of great leadership and without it, you’ll soon be standing on shaky ground with your peers.
2. Relationship Development
As Robin Sharma wrote in The Leader Who Had No Title, “the deeper your relationships, the stronger your leadership.” How well you know and how deeply you care about the people you work with has an enormous impact on how effective you’ll be as a leader.
Would you marry someone you barely know? I’m going to say probably not.
Would you blindly follow someone you struggle to trust? Again, probably not.
When a peer believes that you’re sincerely looking out for their well-being and self-interests, then a powerful sense of trust can start to develop.
How do you build this trust when you’re just starting in a leadership role? Here’s a key: be curious. Ask sincere questions to your colleagues about what they enjoy doing, who they are, and what their ambitions are in life. Learn to love the story of someone else.
Be consistent in your engagements with others, whether you talk once a day, once a week, or once every few months. Relationships develop over time, and the longer your relationship spans, the more of a mark you’ll make with your leadership presence.
Also Read: How to Gain Respect as a Young Professional
At the heart of effective leadership lies great communication. If leadership is about influencing people to change and act on new ideas, then communication is about making those ideas spread.
Everyone communicates in different ways (but as John C Maxwell would tell you, “few connect!”). Some people are amazing speakers, while others may prefer writing. Most people do have their preferred methods of communication, but the better you are in all communication settings, the more valuable of a leader you become.
Whether you’re interacting through video, audio, text or via face-to-face conversation, your goal is to articulate your thoughts in a way that others can understand. And just because you’re discussing your brainchildren out loud doesn’t mean everyone’s picking up what you’re putting down.
Communication is a two-way street and requires strong listening skills, which will shed light on how your peers view your ideas. If you’re trying to sell your vision to a group of reports, listen to how they speak. If they’re starting to repeat the words, expressions or slogans that make up your beliefs, then they’ve begun to buy into your philosophies.
Being productive in your work does something very important for your leadership: it makes you more credible. Productive people who do great work command the respect of others, no matter what field they’re in. Here are some examples:
- Shakespeare’s works have made him one of the most famous figures in the English language (even though he’s been dead for over 400 years!).
- Bill Gates’s efforts in developing computers have made him a well-regarded voice in other spaces, such as the environment.
- Mary Kay Ash, who founded the eponymous global cosmetics company in the mid-1960s, inspired millions to join her cause, thanks to her execution of an empowering vision.
While self-awareness, relationship development, and communication skills can all be considered “soft” in nature, productivity is a hard skill that relies on your ability to perform the tasks assigned to you.
I highly recommend learning from others who have come before you. My mentors have had an incredible impact on both my personal and professional life and I wouldn’t be who I am had we not met.
Study the successful methods of your peers and discover their tips and tricks that have made them efficient in their efforts. The more great work you produce, the more leadership potential you’ll have.
5. Personal Growth
Just because you graduated from your formal training, doesn’t mean your opportunities to learn have dried up.
Leaders need to find ways of staying on top of their game, otherwise, the game will pass them by. Learning new things about yourself, others, and the world as a whole will keep you evolving.
Keep in mind that life is a balancing act, and the more you grow personally the better you’ll become at finding that balance.
Creating time for self-care – whether it’s in the form of a workout, socializing with friends or family, or enjoying a personal hobby – is an important strategy for avoiding burnout.
Just when you think you’ve arrived at the peak of your abilities, you’ll discover a mountain range of new summits to climb.
Growth is a State of Mind
Leadership is a journey that has no definitive end to it. It’s an incredible pursuit that results in your ability to positively change others and, in turn, the world.
You don’t have to be anxious about attacking all five of these areas at once. Pick one area at the beginning of the month and make it your area of focus for the next 30 days. At month’s end, look back and note the progress you’ve made, as well as where you feel there’s still an opportunity to grow.
Stay consistent in your efforts and in a year from now, I promise you’ll be an entirely different leader.
Mike is the founder of CoachOiseau Life & Leadership Coaching. He’s spent his entire life working with young people and now helps his students and clients build extraordinary careers. Check out and subscribe to his weekly posts over at his blog.