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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

6 Effective Leadership Skills in the Workplace

6 Effective Leadership Skills in the Workplace

“Great leaders are born, not made.”

I believed it to be true for the majority of my career — and only recently did I realize how much this perspective limited my personal growth and career development. Maybe you’ve also fallen for the myth that leadership is a skill reserved for an elite few, and in the process, cheated yourself out of a powerful opportunity for growth.

While all of us do have talents and traits inherent to the personalities we were born with, some of the most important components of a successful career can be learned, including effective leadership skills.

If you want to become more productive and efficient in your work environment and inspire others to do the same, start by focusing on becoming a stronger leader. The good news is, developing these skills doesn’t require a special education or degree, or even an official management title; anyone motivated enough to grow can become a leader.

In my own career journey, I’ve noticed some of the most important traits most great leaders have in common. Want to be one of them? Here are six effective leadership skills to adopt and refine in your work, starting now.

1. Communication

To lead well, you have to have a vision — but you also have to know how to communicate it effectively.

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When I first started my company, I was so passionate about my vision. I developed my product with this vision in mind, knowing it could transform our customers’ lives. The challenging part was learning to communicate that vision as I grew my team.

It’s one thing to inspire people with a big-picture vision when you’re launching a company, but it’s an entirely separate skill to find creative ways to articulate aspirations for the future and rationale for transformation.[1]

Good communication isn’t just the ability to write a good email or nail a presentation. It’s the ability to inspire, motivate, and challenge people with a broader vision, even in the doldrums of everyday work — finding ways to help each member of your team understand the big picture of where you want to go and how their roles and projects contribute to it.

2. Integrity

When I think of effective leadership skills, the first thing I think of is integrity. And I’m not the only one. In one study of 195 leaders across 15 organizations, 67 percent of participants rated “high ethical and moral standards” as the most important leadership attribute.[2]

Taking shortcuts or being dishonest might lead to temporary wins. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s that cutting corners doesn’t lead to lasting success. And it certainly won’t be rewarding.

As author and business leader Jon Huntsman, Sr. writes in his book Winners Never Cheat, character is the defining trait of a successful leader:[3]

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“There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business or life. There are, basically, three kinds of people, the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character.”

I think of integrity as integrating your values with your words and your words with your actions. When you lead with integrity, you build trust among your team and stakeholders, which means they’re more likely to go the direction you steer them.

3. Decisiveness

It’s not always easy to make a high-stakes decision, especially if you know people are relying on you to make the right choice. More often than not, a critical decision you make won’t pan out the way you planned. If this happens, you will be faced with another critical choice: Will you assume responsibility? Will you be willing to take the blame? And, more importantly, will you be motivated to find a better way forward for your team?

The ability to make a decision under pressure is an important part of leadership, but the true mark of a decisive leader isn’t the ability to make the right decision. Great leaders don’t just know how to make good decisions for those they’re leading; they’re also willing to take the risk of knowing if things don’t work out, they will be the ones held accountable.[4]

4. Focus

Imagine you’re a passenger on a boat. There’s a storm approaching, and the waters are becoming choppier by the minute. Not only that, but it’s getting dark outside, and you’re not sure which way the shore is. Who would you look to for a sense of safety?

A leader is a lot like the captain of a ship. The person at the helm isn’t just responsible for deciding where the ship is going to end up at the end of the journey, but actually steering it in the right direction, even during a storm. That’s why staying focused is such a crucial part of effective leadership.

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Great leaders keep their eyes toward success, which requires planning ahead, staying organized, and thinking through potential scenarios and outcomes — all the while considering other paths forward if things don’t work out.[5]

5. Humility

If you want to encourage others to learn and grow, you have to be willing to learn and grow yourself. This requires humility, or a willingness to be flexible, admit you’re wrong, and even more importantly, openness to learning from other people. Another way to look at humility is teachability.

Practically, how can you implement this skill in your workplace? Problem solving is a great opportunity to practice being a teachable leader.

For example, if you’re trying to find a solution for an issue, try not to push your own agenda. When your team senses you’re open to (and eager about) their ideas, a greater diversity of potentially transformative ideas will emerge.

Plus, when your team knows you encourage free thinking, they will likely be more motivated to take initiative and work independently to develop their own solutions and ideas.

6. Connection

As a leader, you have the privilege of bringing out the best in the people around you — a key ingredient for success in your company. But to foster success, you have to focus on connection first.

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Neuroscience teaches us that if people don’t feel emotionally safe, they won’t be able to access the creative, strategic part of their brain. Instead, they’ll be focused on survival — which isn’t exactly a recipe for flourishing, in life or at work.

It’s the leader’s responsibility to facilitate connection and belonging in the workplace so that others can live up to their full potential.

To foster a deeper connection among your team — and empower them to live up to their potential — view them as people, not just as workers. Say hi with a smile. Remember details about their personal lives. Compliment them when they do well, and let them know you see their hard work and contributions.

As you build meaningful relationships with your co-workers, you’ll be able to live up to your potential as an effective leader, too.

More Tips on Leadership Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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