How to Become a Better Leader
There are currently over 15,000 books in circulation on the subject of leadership.
It sounds like a lot, but this number proves the sheer demand to gain knowledge on the topic. It shows just how many people want to know how to improve their leadership skills.
There is, however, no end destination for becoming the best leader.
You can’t follow a step-by-step instruction manual, reach the final page and suddenly be the best leader you could possibly be.
Leadership, instead, is a journey. If you are on this journey, you must be constantly iterating and continuously learning.
You should also always be reflecting on what you’re doing, looking for how to optimise it and gathering feedback to understand what is and isn’t working.
Management vs Leadership
Management and leadership are often viewed as very similar, if not the same, concepts.
In fact they are quite different. Similar as Coach is to Mentor. Sounds the same but different capabilities. And this is an important learning as you look to improve your leadership skills.
Management is more about how you manage your team, how you get that team working effectively and how they operate on a day-to-day basis.
It is much more aligned to being the coach. You’ve got to be hands on with teaching people what to do and with coaching people on how to do things. You’ve got to get quite operational.
Leadership, on the other hand, is more than managing people. People must be nurtured, coached and mentored, and they must be provided with a vision and a journey. The best managers see themselves as leaders. Leadership is about inspiring people. Leadership is about caring more for the people around you, than yourself. Leadership can be found in anyone.
Leadership, as the late Zappos CEO Tony Haish said, is about delivering happiness to the group of people you are leading.
This idea of delivering happiness is the foundation of what will motivate your team. And, if they’re happy, they will be engaged and they will believe in the journey.
You will then be developing a successful group of people that will all be pulling in the right direction.
Leadership is all about taking people on the journey and about storytelling. People inherently wish to be connected to a journey.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to build the right habits of successful leadership.
The Habits of a Successful Leader
In order to achieve this and become a better leader, you need to get people believing in the journey you’re going on.
So what are the habits of successful leadership?
Good leaders understand their team enough to be able to communicate with them clearly.
This involves deep questioning and asking people ‘why’ enough times so the quality of their answers will transform.
Getting feedback from your team about how you’re communicating can be very helpful. Lots of leaders think they’re being clear but really they’re not.One of the best questions to ask, either in a group setting or one-to-one, is:
Am I being unclear?
Then you can ask further questions.
What am I making unclear?What am I making confusing for you?
This will allow you to tweak what you’re saying.
2. Have a vision
All great leaders set a vision for where the team is going, and the best visions are authentic, believable and inspirational.
If you don’t believe in the vision then that will be obvious and your team won’t get on board either.
So one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader is set a vision that inspires a group of people to go on a journey with you, and be successful.
If you can do that, you have the great basis for building a scalable, motivated, inspired team who are all excited about the journey and the possibility ahead for them.
All great leaders that I’ve come across are incredibly humble. As CS Lewis said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”.
The leaders who are very humble are also leaders with a very high EQ (emotional intelligence).
They’re not thinking about themselves — they genuinely care about how they can make others into the best leaders and managers, because they realise that it’s the people and the buy-in from people, that gets them to where they want to go.
The bad CEOs are the ones who treat people as a commodity. They constantly talk about how to make people more productive. They think that it’s all about getting the most work out of people. These types of leaders tend not to have as high EQ.
Being humble is putting yourself in the shoes of others, being open and transparent, and making sure that people can look up to and want to come and speak to you in a transparent way.
4. Having a coaching mindset
Being a coach is not telling people what to do but rather it is understanding the gaps that people have in their capabilities, the personal nuances of individuals and what people are motivated by.
It’s crucially about finding the point of engagement and motivation that drives people.
You as the leader must understand every single personal motivation and characteristic of an individual, and you have to define your strategy on how you engage them, how you motivate them, and how you develop them as individuals.
And if you do that and build coachability across every individual, you’ve got an extremely powerful unit of a team full of coachable, individuals.
5. Voracious learner
All leaders are readers and learners. As Bill Gates said, if you’re not learning for at least five hours a week then you’re slowly dying.
The best leaders want to go and learn how to become even better, and they’re motivated by seeing other people successful, not just themselves.
Also if you as a leader are promoting learning, then those underneath you will take that on board. I started managing my teams in this way many years ago, sending a daily motivation email with some kind of learning resources in it. If they read or not, in some ways does not matter. This is because it forces you to learn
5. Second Order Thinking
I believe that the best leaders understand and pay attention to detail. They think non-linear, in a lateral way. All scenarios. They look at problems in a different way.
They challenge the boundaries of what can be achieved.
“Stop being patient and start asking yourself, how do I accomplish my 10 year plan in 6 months? Elon Musk
7. Definable, clear individual USP
What you have to remember is, everybody is an individual.
Think of yourself as a product.
What’s your value proposition?
What’s your personality?
What do you care about and what’s your vision for people?
Sit down and reflect, and use your answers as your Unique Selling Point (USP) as the leader.
If you also create a really unique wrapper around your own personality vision approach, you get something truly magical.
It is distinct and authentic, and it turns you into a vision-driven leader who brings people on a journey with you and ultimately drives high performance in your business or whatever scenario that you’re working or operating in.
So, in conclusion, think about that unique USP.
Where do you stand out?
What makes you different?
Then apply that into the model of all the other habits to become the great leader you know you can be.