The start of a new year often sees us reflecting on our skills, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for the future. Now two months into 2023, you may know where you'd like to take your skills this year.
Like many other leaders, you may wish to improve your communication skills to support you in enabling your team. You may also have a goal to increase your confidence in taking action – even in times of uncertainty – or learn how to inspire your team better.
If you are looking to enhance your leadership skills this year, you've come to the right place. In this blog, we share five ways to become a better leader with expertise from leadership coach Sue S.
What Does Leadership Mean to You?
Before you begin to determine how to enhance your leadership skills, it's beneficial to pause and reflect on the beliefs you hold about what leadership is about.
Do you believe that leadership is about leading a team efficiently? Do you think that leadership is about managing your people? Do you believe that leadership is about enabling your people?
"As a coach, I regularly observe patterns of behaviour being demonstrated by the clients I work with that no longer serve them in being most effective, and once they become aware of this, they choose to change how they behave." – Sue S.
As you reflect on what you believe leadership is, you can understand what skills continue to serve you and which skills no longer help you.
Our Top Five Ways To Become a Better Leader
With a better idea of what leadership means to you, here are our top five ways to become a better leader.
1. Provide Clear Direction
"The role of a leader is to set the direction and be an enabler for the team." – Sue S.
Leaders are commonly seen as people who can solve their team's problems. They are often viewed as those who can do many things, such as coach, inspire, resolve conflict, make important decisions, and achieve goals.
However, for leaders to be most effective, Sue shares that their role must be as an enabler of others. This means that leaders need to provide clear direction and priorities so that a team knows what is most important to focus on and what impact their activities aim to have on the overall direction of the business.
Unfortunately, if you are not clear, your team won't be either, which can be demotivating for others.
2. Learn How To Inspire Your Team
As a leader, do you inspire your people? Or do you motivate them? Although inspiring and motivating can often be seen as similar, there is a crucial difference.
Motivating your team often includes communicating with them, providing positive feedback, encouraging them to try new things, and engaging them. Meanwhile, inspiring your team engages your people's hearts and minds.
"Leadership is as much about inspiration as it is about perspiration." – Sue S.
But how can you inspire your people? Sue shares that leaders can inspire their people with how they behave. This includes:
Walking your talk – How often do you put your words into action? Nowadays, it's easy to list all the things we do as leaders and the things we can do, but without backing this up with action, we may find that our team lacks inspiration. However, if we act on what we say and show our people what is possible, they are more likely to do the same.
Showing vulnerability – According to Leadership IQ's report, only 20% of employees say their leaders openly communicate when facing challenges. When we fail to show vulnerability, it's harder for people to connect with us as leaders and trust us.
Sharing stories about what's possible – Throughout your career, it's likely that you've come up against some challenges. Over time, you'll have learnt to navigate them and seen first-hand what can be achieved and accomplished even when the going gets tough. But how often do you share these stories with your people? When we share stories about setbacks and how they were overcome, we can inspire our people and show them that anything is possible.
3. Learn When To Say "No"
Saying no can be daunting. But sometimes, it is necessary. In fact, you must be able to say no to good things to become a better leader.
Professor Rebecca Henderson, from Harvard University, talks about the dangers of overwhelm, especially when the list of objectives in a business becomes endless. Everyone knows this is impossible, but no one will voice that reality.
When it comes to saying no, consider what this means to you. For example, are you saying, “no, not ever?” Or are you saying, “no, not now?” or “no, not this week or month?”.
As tough as saying no can seem, providing clarity about what will be a priority and what will not get done within your organisation supports your people in avoiding becoming overwhelmed. Saying no also means that you can say “yes” to other things. This is because when we say “no” to one thing, we are saying “yes” to another. For example:
Saying “no” to a last-minute meeting means you can say yes to prioritising another activity that may require your immediate attention.
Saying “no” to attending an evening event after a long day in the office means saying “yes” to managing your stress rather than taking on more than you can navigate.
Saying “no” to taking on another person's workload means saying “yes” to being realistic about how much you can do and what the organisation will benefit from.
4. Take Action
"Leadership is being able to take action despite uncertainty." – Sue S.
Over the last few years, we have learnt that it is essential for us, as leaders, to be able to take action - even in times of uncertainty. Our ability – or inability - to do so sets the tone within our organisation and impacts our people.
As leadership coach Sue says, many leaders are reluctant to take action when the way ahead seems unclear. However, indecisiveness is not always helpful, and in our current fast-paced world, we will likely always face some degree of unpredictability.
What sets a great leader apart from a good leader is their ability to make a decision despite an unclear outlook. At times, this decision may be to take no action until all factors are known. However, waiting to decide until the outlook has been weighed up may result in a decision being made too late.
If your goals are to enhance your leadership skills this year, increasing your ability to take action and make decisions, despite the odds is a great place to start, especially as uncertainty can also demotivate a team.
5. Ask Powerful Questions
Last but not least in our five ways to become a better leader is asking powerful questions.
"A question can be more powerful than a statement to provoke thought in others." – Sue S.
The ability to ask powerful questions and encourage another person to think is a skill that leaders must embrace. By asking the right questions, we:
Encourage our people to think
Empower our people
Energise our people
Nowadays, people don't want to be told what to do - they want to be heard. Studies show that more than 50% of employees feel more motivated and strive to be their best when their leaders empower them.
Using questions, you can encourage your team to share their ideas and thoughts. You can then empower them to try, regardless of the outcome.
However, asking questions requires you to listen genuinely. If you ask questions, you must be willing to listen to the responses you receive without jumping in with your personal views.
As leadership coach Sue shares, "learn to take time to construct a powerful question and be amazed at the impact it can have."
As Sue S shares, there are many actionable ways to become a better leader. From enabling your team to inspiring them, the skills noted above can support you in taking your leadership capabilities to the next level.
As you read these five ways to become a better leader, you may question how to implement them. You may also wonder how to advance skills such as asking powerful questions. In this instance, working with a leadership coach may be a great place to start.
One on one coaching can support you in achieving your professional goals. Leadership coaching can support you in developing your skills, understanding your strengths, and identifying room for improvement.
Contact us today for a complimentary consultation if you'd like to learn more about one-to-one coaching. Alternatively, take a look at the difference between executive coaching and leadership coaching to see what might be best for you.
Co-written by Leadership Coach Sue S and Rebekah