If your goal is to become a better leader today, you have come to the right post! This post focuses on 10 easy steps you can start taking right now to become a better leader.
1. Know/Learn Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Many good leaders know some of their strengths and weaknesses, but the best leaders have an intimate knowledge of them. They know exactly what skills, habits, and attributes they possess that allow them to get the most bang for their buck. When you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you can leverage your strengths and hire others to handle tasks related to your weaknesses.
So how can you come to know your strengths and weaknesses? There are many things you can do to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You can write a list of what you do well and what is challenging for you. You can also take a self assessment that looks at your strengths and your weaknesses. My favorite self-assessment tool is found in the book called Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.
2. Surround Yourself With Great People
Great leaders surround themselves with great people. They get great people to do many things for them. For example, some include:
- Subject matter experts to oversee groups or projects they either don’t have time to address or are outside their area of expertise
- Other team members on your work team
- Business/financial consultants to help them make good personal and business financial decisions
- Mentors/coaches that can help them learn and grow as a leader
- Good friends that will tell them what they need to hear to grow at the time they need to hear it
This list is just a small sample of the great people with which leaders surround themselves. The key is putting people in your life that will have a positive impact on you and help you to be your best self. If you are wanting to grow as a leader, it is very important to find and put people around you that will help you reach those goals.
3. Increase Your Knowledge
To increase your knowledge there are many things you can do. You can read books about leadership, specific leaders that have gone through challenges and overcome them, self development, or books that explain leaders failures so you can learn from their mistakes. There are many different aspects of leadership that you can learn from books.
In addition to books, there are many other steps you can take to learn more about leadership. You can enroll in classes that focus on improving leadership, organizational behavior, and/or interpersonal interactions. There’s also classes that focus on your specific business or your chosen profession.
Additionally, you can take these classes online, at your local university or community college, or through adult education classes offered in your community.
In addition to books and classes you can also learn about leadership through Podcasts, blog posts, YouTube channels, leadership forums, and many other outlets. What’s most important is that you seek learning to become a better leader. The best leaders are always doing everything they can to learn.
4. Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
As a leader, you often do things outside your comfort zone. At first those experiences are very challenging, but once you gain experience they become easier.
To improve your leadership abilities, seek opportunities to go outside your comfort zone. Even though it is uncomfortable by its very nature, going outside your comfort zone will become more comfortable the more you do it. You will gain experience doing the uncomfortable and gain more confidence in your ability to be flexible and take on a variety of challenges.
5. Request Feedback
To improve your leadership and become a better leader, ask for constructive feedback. Constructive feedback helps you learn and grow as a leader. It also helps you learn how others perceive you and your leadership style.
When seeking feedback, reach out to the following four groups:
- Those you lead
- Leaders that you lead with (coworkers that are equals)
- Your leaders
- Your customers or external audiences
Each of these groups will provide feedback from a different angle. When you receive their feedback, keep in mind that they are giving you feedback because you asked for it so you can be a better leader. They are likely giving you feedback with your best intentions at heart. With that in mind, try to receive it objectively without letting your emotions get the better of you.
Listen to the feedback and try to learn and grow from it. You don’t necessarily have to change everything you do and become a completely different person after hearing feedback. Instead, do the best you can to understand the feedback and make course adjustments to improve. For a extensive post on feedback, check out this link.
6. Seek a Mentor
When trying to become a better leader, seek out a mentor. When seeking your leadership mentor, look for someone who:
- Has walked the same path that you’re trying to walk.
- You admire.
- Has been successful in their chosen career path.
- Is skilled in areas where you lack.
- Can provide you with a perspective different from your own.
Once your mentor, create a plan to communicate with them regularly. The frequency can vary based on the schedule that works best for the two of you. What’s most important is that you regularly communicate.
7. Perform a Leadership and Self-evaluation
Another great way to become a better leader is to perform a regular leadership and self-evaluation. In that evaluation, ask yourself the following questions:
- What can or should you be doing better?
- Are you demonstrating integrity by your actions?
- Do you work hard when no one is looking?
- What do you need to do to improve?
- Do you practice what you preach?
- What are you doing to minimize and improve your weaknesses?
- How do you define your leadership qualities?
- What are you doing to emphasize your strengths?
- Are you honest?
- Do you follow the laws around your specific industry?
- What are your current weaknesses?
- Do you treat others as you would want to be treated?
- What are your current strengths?
- Are you doing the right things when no one else is around?
When you ask these questions, be true to yourself and answer sincerely and honestly. Dig deep as you perform your leadership evaluation.
8. Keep a Journal
You can become a better leader by writing in a journal. Writing your thoughts in a journal, helps in the following ways:
1. Clarify Your Thoughts
Whether you are flustered, frustrated, confused, angry or just have a lot on your mind, writing in a journal can be very beneficial. When writing in a journal, focus on writing what is on your mind without regard to editing or making it clear and concise. Let your thoughts flow freely. That will clarify your thoughts and feelings as they get on paper.
2. Know Yourself Better
Writing in a journal regularly helps you gain a better understanding of what makes you happy and/or frustrated. You learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. You also learn what situations bring out your best and worst.
3. Reduce Stress
Writing about your happy, sad, good, bad, painful, and other emotions helps to release those strong feelings. That helps you to feel more at peace and tranquil with those feelings.
4. Solve Problems More Effectively
The normal problem-solving approach is to think using your analytical brain. When you think that way, it is harder to think of creative solutions. However, when you write freely without editing, you are able to use all parts of your brain. That allows you to use both your creative and analytical parts of your brain to come up with more creative solutions.
5. Resolve Disagreements with Others
By writing in your journal about conflicts with the desire to understand all points of view, you are able to better understand what others are feeling. That allows you to get past the disagreements more quickly and look towards a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
9. Set Goals
To become a better leader, you must set goals. For goals to be worthwhile, they must be SMART goals. Each year I set SMART goals for myself and my employees. The SMART goals range from personal and team development goals to process improvement goals. When I set those goals, I make sure that they are not easy to accomplish. At the same time, they are not goals that are far beyond reach and/or unrealistic.
So, what are SMART Goals?
The word “SMART” in SMART goals is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. For a goal to be a SMART goal, it must meet the following criteria.
It is very important to set very specific goals. It is easy to set a lofty, “up in the air” goal that cannot be understood. A goal that is not specific and “up in the air” is ambiguous and leads to confusion. An example of this type of goal would be to say, “We want to make the organization better this year.” How will you make the organization better? What changes will you make? How can you know if you reached your goal if you don’t know what your goal is?
Specific goals explain exactly what you want to do and how you are going to do it. In line with the goal mentioned above, what will you do to make the organization better? Will you increase profit by 20%? If so, how will you increase the profit by 20%? A specific goals would sound more like, “This year we will increase the profit by 20% by eliminating down time between shifts.” From there you would set specific subgoals that would break down how you would eliminate the down time. Each goal would be very specific.
When a goal is measurable, it is quantifiable. In the example above, the increase in profit by 20% is a measurable quantity. 20% is a measurable amount. If your goal is not measurable, how will you know if you achieved it or not? You won’t.
As the quote mentioned, you should not set a goal that is far beyond your capacity. Achievable goals are challenging and force you to stretch but they are not beyond reach. Achievable goals promote growth and progress. If you set unachievable goals, you will never reach your expectations which could lead to discouragement. Set goals that are within your control so they are achievable.
Goals need to be realistic. For example, if you are short, don’t have any athletic ability, and have never played basketball, you shouldn’t set the goal of being a professional basketball player. If, however, you are athletic, tall, and a basketball player, becoming a professional basketball player is a realistic goal. Set goals that are realistic so you can achieve them.
Do you have long, middle, and short-term goals? Timely goals have a specific deadline or time period in which they must be completed. If you set a goal that has no time frame, you have no date for completion, and you will most likely fall short. Timely goals are very important in the business world. Companies like Apple and Microsoft hit their product goals in their specified time frame, which allowed them to obtain their current market share.
Goals can be very painful or they can be SMART goals. If you set SMART goals, you will be far more likely to see consistent improvement regularly because you will have specific targets. I have found that as I have set SMART goals for myself and others, the goals have been more challenging and rewarding at the same time. They have forced me to exert more effort and try harder.
10. Find Leadership Opportunities
Since leadership opportunities are not always readily available at the workplace, seek out leadership opportunities wherever you can find them. You can volunteer in the community, join a service organization, become an active contributor in your church, join a club, coach a youth team, start a side business, etc. Just get involved!
Once you get involved, actively contribute. Even if you are not in a leadership position by title, take on responsibilities. Taking on responsibilities and doing your best to follow through will help you learn leadership qualities. As you do that, you will gain leadership experience.
Just as a recap, the 10 Easy Steps To Become a Better Leader Today are:
- Know/Learn Your Strengths and Weaknesses
- Surround Yourself With Great People
- Increase Your Knowledge
- Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
- Request Feedback
- Seek a Mentor
- Perform a Leadership and Self-evaluation
- Keep a Journal
- Set goals
- Find Leadership Opportunities
By following these steps you can gain a better understanding of yourself and your leadership abilities. That will help you to be a better leader in the future.
Which of the 10 points stands out the most to you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments sections below.