“As we look ahead into the next century,” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates once said, “leaders will be those who empowered others.”
These words of wisdom add a helpful lens when considering how to improve leadership skills in the workplace. In a rapidly evolving marketplace and increasingly polarized society, organizations are looking for the types of leaders who will inspire, include and innovate—and who regularly seek to improve their leadership skills for the sake of their employees and those their organization serves.
Leadership Skills Matter for Everyone
It’s easy to understand why leadership skills matter for professionals who are in management or executive roles. However, it’s vital for professionals at all levels of an organization to understand their leadership styles and intentionally develop effective leadership skills. Leadership skills such as active listening, strategic thinking, and empathy contribute to markers of organizational success, ranging from employee morale to revenue growth.
Whether employees aspire to management positions or not, cultivating leadership skills, regardless of roles, can empower stronger teamwork and strengthen shared values within an organization.
Understanding the Difference Between Leadership and Management
While leadership and management share significant overlaps, they also have key differences. Management tends to focus on day-to-day resource allocation and task delegation toward a specific goal, such as project completion. Leadership generally focuses on vision-casting and motivating others to participate in reaching a large shared goal.
In general, managers have a designated role within an organization. They have strong organizational skills and are often good at handling various aspects of projects such as timelines and budgets.
While leaders may also share these skills, they do not necessarily have to be designated as managers. A new hire fresh out of college may have a strong collaborative streak. Long-time employees who prefer to remain in a non-managerial creative position may regularly develop ideas that catalyze their entire team’s ingenuity. Both the new hire and the long-time employee are displaying leadership skills.
Essential Qualities of Strong Leaders
While each leader is unique, there are several key qualities that strong leaders tend to display. Professionals who are wondering how to improve leadership skills throughout the workplace—whether within themselves or in the employees they lead—can start with the acronym MYRIAD:
- Motivating: Strong leaders inspire others by articulating a shared vision and inviting participation in realizing it.
- Yielding: By listening, asking questions, and demonstrating approachability, strong leaders know when to defer to others.
- Relational: Honesty, openness, and genuine interest in the well-being of others are key traits of strong leaders.
- Innovative: Strong leaders encourage and implement iterative practices that prompt collaboration, ideation, and willingness to fail and try again.
- Agile: Rather than being threatened by the ups and downs of guiding a team, strong leaders are flexible and creative in times of change.
- Decisive: Upon gathering information and seeking input, strong leaders have the confidence to choose and create a plan at the right time.
Leaders face a multitude of challenges daily, and MYRIAD can help them do so with the skills they need to succeed.
5 Ways to Improve Leadership Skills in the Workplace
Strong leaders are continually growing and changing. Intentionally cultivating one’s leadership skills is important for all professionals who want to make meaningful contributions to their organizations.
Consider these five ways to enhance leadership skills.
Research from The Workforce Institute states that 86 percent of employees feel their voices are not heard “fairly or equally.” 63 percent of employees believe that their employer or manager has ignored them.
Developing active listening skills can make a significant positive difference to counteract these trends. A Salesforce Research study revealed employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform to the best of their ability. Because disengaged employees cost U.S. companies $550 billion a year, cultivating active listening skills like demonstrating curiosity, providing relevant feedback, and engaging without judgment is a clear win for today’s leaders.
In 2019, opportunities to learn and grow ranked the ninth driver of workplace culture in the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report. In 2022, it jumped to number one.
Professionals are eager for opportunities to learn and develop, so their leaders must demonstrate a similar curiosity and proactivity. Continuous learning exposes leaders to diverse perspectives and new ideas that can expand and refine their understanding of how to guide their organizations. Lifelong learning is linked to higher self-confidence and self-esteem, stress and anxiety reduction, and a stronger sense of purpose—all of which benefit a leader and their team.
“What do you think?” may be one of the most important questions a leader can ask.
Forbes research reveals that diverse, inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87 percent of the time. Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions two times faster with half the meetings. They also deliver 60 percent better results.
By forming diverse teams and instilling collaborative processes, leaders can enhance their organization’s capabilities while growing in areas such as conflict management, decision-making, and team-building.
Build Emotional Intelligence
When leaders seek to understand their feelings and emotions, they aren’t just benefiting themselves. They’re also serving as an example of emotional intelligence that will influence their teams for the better.
When leaders at telecommunications organization Optus turned to emotional intelligence pioneer RocheMartin, for example, they saw significant improvements in their workplace. As leaders and employees learned how to better facilitate teamwork and trust through emotional intelligence skills such as empathy, adaptability, and optimism, Optus experienced noticeable increases in engagement, customer focus, and leadership.
When Bill Berry stepped up to lead strategic financial management at Tacoma Power, he thought the organizational change initiative he executed was a success. As it turned out, his actions had caused problems for his team. Even worse, says Berry, he had no idea there were issues.
A consultant brought confidential feedback to Berry that helped him understand some serious concerns. Berry realized that he needed to create a system for soliciting feedback. Now, he regularly asks team members to tell him what he is doing that works well and what he could improve. He listens carefully, seeks clarification by asking for examples, and thanks team members for their insight.
Berry has found that asking for feedback is not always easy, but it’s worth it.
Advance Your Career as an Effective Leader
Are you ready to develop your leadership skills? Do you want to grow in a rich educational community with diverse thoughts, backgrounds, and perspectives?
Consider the 100% online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation through Marymount University. The program can be completed in fewer than three years, offers flexible coursework, and features a practical curriculum that emphasizes social justice, ethics, and equity in leadership practices
Whether you want to make a difference in your organization or community, an online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation will empower you as a change agent ready to initiate and inspire. Connect with an enrollment advisor to get started.