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How to develop leadership skills
14 min read

How to develop leadership skills and business strategy

We hear people referred to as ‘natural born leaders’ but effective leadership skills, just like all interpersonal skills, can be learnt, practised and developed. This article will show you some of the top tips to help you pursue your leadership development.

What is leadership?

Leadership roles are not necessarily to do with seniority, but involve the ability to motivate others to believe in, follow and work towards a common goal. Effective leaders are emotionally intelligent and enable and empower their teams to do and be the best that they can by supporting them with strategies and by creating inspiring visions of the future. There may be many different types of business leaders, all of which having different leadership styles, but there are key trait theory ideas that are proven to be effective.

  • Sheryl Sandberg
    Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

    “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

  • Bill Gates
    Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

    “Leaders need to provide strategy and direction and to give employees the tools that enable them to gather information and insight from around the world. Leaders shouldn’t try to make every decision.”

  • Dolly Parton
    Dolly Parton, actress and singer

    “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”

  • Vince Lombardi
    Vince Lombardi, American football coach, and NFL executive

    “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

Checklist: 8 ways to develop your leadership skills

A great leader will have top leadership skills. They will understand the importance of leadership and have a natural curiosity, a constant thirst for knowledge, and the willingness and desire for self-improvement – as well, of course, excellent communication skills. By considering the list below, and you can develop leadership traits and learn to be even better managers and leaders.

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Video: What it means to be a leader

by Capture Your Flag

Simon Sinek teaches leaders and organisations how to inspire people and develop leadership. In this video, he talks about understanding leadership and what it means to be a leader including how to articulate your vision and inspire others.

Managing a team effectively

The most effective teams will want to be led or managed by their leader, they won’t dread seeing them or fear receiving feedback from them.

5 ways to get the best out of your team

  1. Good leaders are emotionally intelligent and have organisational success and the ability to adapt to circumstances to get the best out of everyone. You need to know how to develop relationship building with team members who may not be performing as well as others, and adapt your leadership skills to that person. Being prepared for things to change and having a plan will instil confidence in the team.
  2. Lead by example – have the discipline to do the things that you say are important and ask of others.
  3. Effective leaders know that delegation skills are key and know when to take things on yourself – getting this balance right is key. You can’t do everything yourself and need to trust and develop others but taking on some initiatives instead of just directing them will help you learn. You need to remember that, as a leader, developing your soft skills is key. You will need to have good communication skills to ensure that your team thrives.
  4. Cultivating a culture of honesty and trust is one of the key management skills. Don’t talk behind other people’s backs and don’t tolerate others doing it. People managers aren’t well received. Problems should be dealt with and moved on from. Think about your management skills and leadership training, and how you act around your team – by treating them as people instead of your employees, they will then want to succeed in your business.
  5. Ask for feedback and act on it. The importance of leadership is to celebrate you and your client successes, and work on your weaknesses.
How to develop leadership skills

Coaching and mentoring teams

Helping your team members to improve through strong leadership coaching or mentoring is an obvious way to show you’re invested in their development. Team building exercises are a great way to bring your employees closer together and work well, making work more enjoyable for everyone. This will give them more job satisfaction and a greater desire to stay working for the organisation. Of course, better-trained staff will also help you achieve your business goals too.

“My aim is to make my team members feel so confident in their roles that they don’t need me anymore.”

Sally Lidmore, Owner at Foundations Recruitment

Not only can it help to develop leadership, coaching and mentoring can help with:

  • Increased thinking skills engagement with projects
  • Achieving specific goals within career paths
  • Becoming more productive
  • Being more self-confident and self-reliant within effective leadership roles
  • Seeing things from a different perspective
  • Gaining personal awareness

And you’re never too experienced to have a mentor either personally or for your business. It’s highly recommended.

Crisis management

It’s easy to be a good leader when you have the skills required and when everything is going well, but how leaders deal with crisis management situations can be the making or breaking of them. In a business, they are one of the hardest things to deal with and also require the most leadership and critical thinking.

Would you be ready if one of these incidents were to occur at your business?

  • Your premises were affected by fire or flood.
  • You had a data security breach.
  • There was a sexual harassment claim made against a member of staff.
  • A key person in the business was hit by a bus.
  • Someone had a severe allergic reaction.

Dealing with unexpected and unpleasant situations isn’t the way we choose to improve leadership, but it’s often where we learn the most. It shows the value and importance of leadership alongside how every mentioned skill for leaders is essential.

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Time management and productivity

When it comes to project management and productivity, leaders really must lead by example. If you find yourself taking on too much on or becoming overwhelmed with tasks, your business and the quality of your work will ultimately suffer.

Andy Cordina is the owner of Bettie Confetti, a greetings card business. Before that, she used to work on her business part time whilst managing a marketing team in her day-job. She’s shared some of her coping mechanisms and strategies for adjusting to life as your own boss. 

  • Feet sneakers walking on fall leaves Outdoor Autumn season
    Learn the seasons

    “Knowing how your customers behave at various points in the year will be the difference between being level headed to losing your head entirely. Something as simple as having a wall chart to highlight monthly focus points can help you get all your ducks in a row. Or if you’re more of a digital person, just use your email calender – you’ll most likely have it open all day long so you can make sure you’re referring back to it as often as possible.”

  • Teamwork putting their hands.
    Reach out for support

    “Often when I’m feeling the pressure, I take five minutes to bolster a bit of support from other people going through the exact same thing. It’s always a comfort to get a few words of encouragement, even if it’s from total strangers.”

  • Close up of female hands that holding notebook
    Plan and review

    “I’m the type of person that gets an idea and just runs off with it. Often, with my closest business advisor (and spouse) grabbing me before I’ve fled too far off into the distance. And, even though I don’t like being told what to do, sometimes you need to be reeled in, before you let that idea take over your whole life. So planning and reviewing are really the only way to do this.”

  • Stressed graffiti
    Don’t overcommit

    “Once you’ve learnt your seasons, you’ll know if you can spend three hours a week on something in the winter and up that time in the summer when you’re less busy. Be realistic – work usually takes longer than you think it will – so don’t overload yourself.”

  • Peaceful woman finding body and mind balance
    Inhale, exhale, repeat

    “I have an Apple Watch – I know, I’m so totally cool – and it has an app called Breathe. And every hour or so, it reminds me to take minute to just breathe. It also tells me when I’ve been sitting down for too long, so I get up and make a cup of tea.”

How to put in place an effective business strategy

A business strategy will define why you’re doing what you’re doing. It should form the basis of all business activities.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

To create your business strategy ask yourself the following four questions…

  • What problem are you solving?
  • What is your product or service?
  • Who is your target market?
  • What is your USP?

From these, you can create your story or your ‘why’. Whether you have a long-established business or a startup, you’ll need a clear business strategy. The message should be meaningful but simple and easy to understand by all stakeholders. Don’t try to be everything to everybody – your business strategy should have a real focus. It should be constantly reinforced with communication and should inspire your team.  

Need some ideas for your business strategy? Read about the different startup methodologies.

How to develop leadership skills
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