Since August I have been in a Leadership Doctoral program. Leadership skills have always been important to me. I desire not only to be a leader, but to embody the meaning of the word in all that I do. From my program and my experiences, I’ve learned quite a bit about leadership.
I first want to bust any potential myth that you can only be a leader if you manage people or have the words “leader” or “manager” in your title. Leadership is about influence and sometimes the best leaders are not in leadership roles.
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“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
How To Elevate Your Leadership Skills
There are tips and tricks on how to be an effective leader, and everyone has a different definition of what makes a great leader. While I am not an expert, I can tell you how to take your leadership to the next level this year:
1. Find the right mentors.
We have talked a good bit about mentors here at G20 because mentors matter.
Having someone to talk with and get advice from that is neutral, cares about your future, and is more experienced can help take your leadership and success to the next level.
Related post: 5 Reasons Having a Mentor is a Brilliant Idea
2. Study people who have been great leaders.
Along the same lines of finding a great mentor, learn from great leaders who have been successful and have changed culture. Some examples are MLK, Nelson Mandela, Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah.
Learning from exceptional leaders can elevate YOUR leadership.
I’d recommend finding articles, reading books, or listening to podcasts to learn more about leaders you admire. I’ve even used social media to learn from leaders.
I am a huge fan of Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. I have listened to several interviews with her and currently follow her on Instagram. She talks some about Spanx and leading on her Instagram account, and I love learning little nuggets from her there.
3. Self-awareness is critical.
You can’t elevate your leadership if you aren’t aware of how you show up in the world, how others perceive you, and how you lead, you can’t elevate your leadership game.
Any leadership book you read will talk about the importance of self-awareness. I would recommend taking personality assessments as a start (related: Personality Test All Job Seekers Should Take). You can take a look at previous work evaluations, and have conversations with people you trust to start to get an idea of how you are perceived by others.
Once your self-awareness has increased, you can have more control over your actions. It’s a cliché, but knowledge really is power.
4. Inner Voice.
Listen to your inner voice… your gut. You can certainly take advice from loved ones, but pay attention to your instinct.
Brené Brown, aka my pretend fairy godmother, talks a good bit about integrity. One of the quotes from her that I love is “You can choose courage or comfort, but you can’t choose both.”
Being a leader is not always easy and there will be times when you have to do things that you know are right but are not easy, if you feel like they are what is best, do it anyway. Leadership isn’t about being liked, it is about doing what is best for those who follow you and for the organization.
6. Remember, leadership is not about you.
I just finished a class about followers and throughout the semester we talked about the importance of paying attention to followers when serving in a leadership role.
Sheryl Sandberg says “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
Leadership is about others which means it requires you to do what is best for them even if it is hard for you.
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7. Have a vision for your life.
One of the books I read this semester talked a lot about having a vision for your life. Decide what is the overarching reason for your leadership and what you want to do through your leadership.
For me, it is helping empower traditionally underserved communities. For one of my friends, it’s making as much money as he can. It doesn’t matter to me what that vision is, but know why you are doing the work you’re doing as it will help guide all you do as a leader.
As I’ve mentioned, leadership has a lot of different definitions, and there are a lot of ways to be a good leader, are there things I am missing from this list? Are there other things you are doing this year to take your leadership to the next level? As a student of leadership, I’d love to hear from you all!