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50+ Ways To Improve Your Leadership

        posted by , June 06, 2013

Leadership ability isn't something you're born with.

Most successful leaders will admit that leadership is something they had to work at.

The four leadership basics: influencing, politics, decision making and motivating are all challenges in themselves. Mastering all four while standing out front isn't easy for anyone.

Leadership style, strategy, habits and beliefs require continuous tuning. What works in one situation, doesn't work in the next.

The following leadership ideas may help. Take what works for you.

  1. Active Listening
    Listen to people. Understanding their ideas and emotions is the first step towards influencing them.
  2. Be Mysterious
    Nothing enhances your influence more than being a little mysterious. People tend to overestimate what's unknown.

  3. Publicize Wins
    Talk about your wins. Credit your team. Make it clear to everyone that you're always on a winning streak.

  4. Relationship Maintenance
    Influence can't be accumulated. It's a volatile thing that easy escapes. It depends on relationships that require continual maintenance.

  5. Simple Speech, Sophisticated Ideas
    Avoid big words and flowery speech. Represent the complex with simple analogies and examples.

  6. Success Momentum
    There's something to the old maxim — walk fast and look busy. People tend to be most influenced by those who are on a winning streak or who seem lucky. Establish yourself as both successful and lucky. Make it clear that your success isn't historical. Create the impression that you are always building momentum.


  7. Positive Change
    Changing things is good. Complaints are powerless. Avoid negative approaches to change.

  8. Leadership Style
    Leadership style doesn't just happen. It's cultivated and refined.


  9. Leadership Aesthetics
    A leadership style based on principles of aesthetics.

  10. Be Authentic
    Many leaders fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on perceptions. Such leaders seem-to-be successful but may not actually achieve much of anything. Be genuine even if it means letting down your guard. Focus on actual results over perceptions. It's almost always a long term win.

  11. Charisma
    Let your compelling personality or charm shine through. If you have natural charisma it's a waste to hide it.

  12. Lead by Example
    When you want your people to adopt a behavior, norm or principle — adopt it yourself first.

  13. Leadership By Walking Around
    Avoid hiding out in your office. Walk around. Talk to your team on a regular basis. Talk to everyone you'd like to influence and motivate on a regular basis.

  14. Magnetic Leadership
    Leadership has an instinctual, primal component that draws followers with magnet-like force. Your leadership style may improve if you can get in in touch with these primal leadership instincts.

  15. Principled Leadership
    Establish a set of principles or ethics. Publish them and try to live up to them. Review your progress on a regular basis.

  16. Defensive Wit
    Defending yourself in politics requires a quick wit. This can only be cultivated with time and practice. Throw yourself into the fray and your wit will develop.

  17. Call Out Hidden Agendas
    If you suspect a hidden agenda it's sometimes productive to call it out. Hidden agendas tend to weaken in the light of communication — that's why they need to hide.

  18. Positive Battles
    Remain positive (at least on the surface) when discussing your political rivals. Criticizing your rivals behind their back makes you look petty and powerless.

  19. Big Picture
    Inject a big picture perspective into everything your team does. Think globally, act locally.

  20. Big Vision
    A vision stands to inspire people. It motivates and breaks down petty political infighting.
  21. Critical Questioning
    Challenge ideas from their base up. Start by challenging relevance. Move on to assumptions, evidence, perspectives, viewpoints, implications and consequences.


  22. Fail Fast
    Make no big plans that haven't been validated by small pilots and prototypes. Never allow your team to fail big. Promote small failures as wins by highlighting what was learned.

  23. Foresight
    Take a hard look at consequences to seek solutions that are satisfactory in both the short and long term.

  24. Team Driven Strategy
    Partner with your team in strategy definition. Make it clear that you're calling the shots but genuinely seek and accept worthy input.

  25. Commit to Commitments
    Take your commitments seriously. They are the fuel of your reputation. If you can't meet a commitment — explain why. Never pretend a commitment didn't happen.

  26. Consistency
    Followers value consistency in leaders. Strategy and direction change with external pressures and new ideas. In some cases, you'll need to change course dramatically or reverse decisions. When this happens, be sure to carefully communicate the drivers of such changes. Establish threads of consistency from one strategy to the next.

  27. Continuous Foundations
    All too often, leaders set foundations such as mission, vision and principles and then they go stale. Foundations are powerful tools that can be continuously put to good use.

  28. Control Your Wit
    Many leaders have developed a cutting wit from years of dealing with intense politics. A little sarcasm can be an effective tool against intense political rivals. Spare your team your sarcasm. Sarcasm from a leader can damage a follower's morale.

  29. Critique Everything
    People want feedback. They want you to review their work. Reviewing your team's work not only generates appreciation — it also motivates you to assign them more interesting work. If you're not interested in reviewing it, they're probably not interested in doing it.

  30. Deal In Governance
    View your team has a mini empire — govern it. Grant power and verify performance. Establish frameworks and institutions that enable good governance.

  31. Delegate Milestones
    Delegating responsibilities adds to your influence. Instead of delegating tasks or goals — delegate significant milestones. For example, delegate the acquisition of 100 new customers this quarter to a sales manager.

  32. Develop Managers
    Leadership and management are very different abilities. In order to focus on leadership, develop managers in your team.

  33. Difficult Conversations
    Avoid letting problems fester for too long. If there's a problem with an individual's performance, give them a grace period to self-correct — then talk about it. Quick feedback is the biggest favor you can do for your team.

  34. Exciting Missions
    Never give anyone on your team a mission that doesn't stretch their abilities. Encourage your team to candidly share their abilities and ambitions. Design their personal missions to align with their personal goals and your goals for the team. Set milestones and follow up on progress.

  35. Facade of Certainty
    People desire certainty. One of the primary functions of leadership is to provide certainty in an uncertain world. By providing certainty, you will gain followers. As leader you need to make certain decisions in ambiguous situations. Continually reevaluate your decisions while maintaining a facade of certainty.

  36. Ideation
    Create a team culture that encourages people to share ideas. Make it clear that ideas aren't a threat to focus.

  37. Influence Over Authority
    You can't force commitment or motivation. No matter how much formal authority you have, influence is the key to leadership.

  38. Invite Commitment
    Explain the reasons for your goals and invite commitment.

  39. Leader Building
    Leading a team of followers isn't nearly as powerful as leading a team of leaders. Help your team to become leaders. They'll challenge your position — use their challenges to strengthen your abilities.

  40. Manage Knowledge
    Identify and manage critical knowledge that supports your long term objectives.
  41. Mastery of Tension
    Teams need a certain amount of tension to stay motivated. Continually reenforce the idea that your mission is important and urgent. Keep the level of tension constant — avoid peaks and valleys.

  42. Open Door Policy
    Make it clear to everyone in your organization that you're available for a chat. This improves open communication. Even if nobody takes advantage of your offer, it may have desirable effects (e.g. reduces toxic behavior).

  43. Political Mandates
    Give your team more than a workload — make each individual on your team a political ally. Ask that they establish a circle of influence.

  44. Positive Reinforcement
    Provide regular feedback on positives.

  45. Open Information
    Share information openly with your team when it might impact their work. In return, ask for openness from your team.

  46. Reward Loyalty
    Make it clear that you expect your followers to be loyal to the team. Create symbols of loyalty within your team. Reward team loyalty.

  47. Team Over Talent
    Make a collaborative, friendly, productive team culture your first priority. Discipline toxic behavior, even if it's coming from your most talented team members.

  48. Team Principles
    Set expectations for your team culture with principles.

  49. Think Ability
    Look for abilities in your team. Focusing on weaknesses, especially of your own team isn't as productive as finding abilities in people.

  50. Time Management
    Time management is the root of all personal and team productivity. Continually improve your time management approach.

  51. Vision
    The future is a powerful motivator. Paint a compelling picture of where your team is headed.


Next: 7 Leadership Lessons From Japanese Art »

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