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December 20, 2016

5 Ways to Effectively Develop Your Leadership Skills

Business Woman
Photo Credit: Victor1558 via flickr

Human existence is all about communities and societies where the presence of leadership becomes inevitable. Leadership is simply influencing individuals or group of persons toward a positive or negative objective. Synonymously, John C. Maxwell defines leadership as influencing others to achieve a purpose. John Quincy Adams,  who served as the sixth President of the United States, said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Today leadership is seen in government, corporate entities, institutions, families, and even the individual himself. If the act of leading is so paramount to human survival, then knowing how to effectively and efficiently develop its skills becomes necessary; thus these five ways below developing the leadership skills can be harnessed.

1. Influence: This is the most important skill of leadership. Influence is the application of power to achieve specific task or purpose. It occurs when leaders affect their follower’s emotions, opinions, or behaviors. A good leader uses the inimitable power of influence to create behaviors needed to achieve their desired goal and vision. There can’t be leadership without influence, because influencing is how leaders lead. Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence:

compliance, identification and internalization.

• Compliance is people behaving as others expect.

• Identification happens when people are influenced by someone who is well-liked and respected, such as a celebrity.

• Internalization of values leads to those beliefs being reflected in behavior.

If you are the president of a conglomerate, a CEO, director, manager or even the head of a family, it is time you begin to leverage on the power of influence to enhance on your leadership skills and achieve your set objectives.

2. Training: This is an essential skill that makes an effective leader. Leaders who constantly trained themselves always have the capacity to make things happen. A dynamic leader is also a successful leader who by training and learning 21st-century leadership skills applies concepts to the real world. A good leadership training program is able to exposed the leader to understanding the various good leadership behaviors; the leader learns also the difference between leadership and management; he gains insight into patterns, beliefs, rules, qualities and strengths of his followers. Training enables the leader to: determine how well he perceives what is going on around him, polish interpersonal and communication skills, learn about commitment and how to move things forward and enhance quality decision making. Without the import of training, a leader may not know how to handle his and other people’s stress. A leader must be trained to understand that he needs to lead by example. Good leaders constantly ensure they are trained to meet current trends in their industry.

3. Vision: The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. Visionary leaders are always successful leaders. Theodore Hesburgh, president of the university of Notre Dame, said: “Your vision has got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.”

Visionary leaders share their dream and chart a direction for their followers. It is important to note that this vision goes beyond the written organizational mission and vision statements. The vision of leadership permeates the workplace and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values and goals of the organization’s leaders. Vision includes a mental image or picture, a future orientation, and aspects of direction or goal. It provides guidance to an organization by articulating what it wishes to attain. It serves as “a signpost pointing the way for all who need to understand what the organization is and where it intends to go” (Nanus, 1992). By providing a picture, vision not only describes an organization’s direction or goal, but also the means of accomplishing it. It guides the work of the organization. Seeley (1992) describes vision as a “goal-oriented mental construct that guides people’s behavior.” Vision is a picture of the future for which people are willing to work.

However, vision is more than an image of the future. It has a compelling aspect that serves to inspire, motivate, and engage people. Vision has been described by Manasse (1986) as “the force which moulds meaning for the people of an organization.” It is a force that provides meaning and purpose to the work of an organization. Vision is a compelling picture of the future that inspires commitment. It answers the questions: Who is involved? What do they plan to accomplish? Why are they doing this? Vision, therefore, does more than provide a picture of a desired future; it encourages people to work, to strive for its attainment. Show me a leader without a defined vision and I’ll show you a leader who is going to fail in all ramifications. Jack Welch said “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

4. Listening: Listening is a critical skill that defines leadership. It is an overlooked tool that creates an environment of safety when done well. Several studies over the decades have estimated that we spend anywhere from one-third to half our time listening. And yet we don’t retain very much. Back in 1957, researchers found that listeners only remembered about half of what they’d heard immediately after someone finished talking. There’s no reason to think that ratio has improved since then. Successful and pragmatic leaders are those who listen effectively, by doing so they are able to feel their followers and carry them along to attaining its goal. It’s unfortunate that most leaders today do not see why they should listen also to their subordinates, this has led to several monumental leadership failures.

Career Journal defines listening as, “Knowing what others have said and meant to say, and leaving people comfortable that they have had their say.” This definition simply means letting people speak without undo interruption, understand the phrasing may not actually reflect what was said and do not engage in distractions so the speaker is confident that his or her delivery was well received.

Stop jumping to conclusions. Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, said that when he came to IBM in 1993, he made it a priority not to jump to conclusions. He stated, “For the first month, I listened, and I tried very hard not to draw conclusions.” Jumping to conclusions is an admission to the speaker that you are not listening for his or her input but are going to form an opinion based on unmitigated assumptions and not facts.

5. Performance: Performance, when it comes to leadership, says it all; it is the backbone of leadership. Performance leadership is the heart and spirit of leadership; it is the human side of what we do. This has to do with making decisions and developing employees. Great leaders are able to successfully put together the right team to achieve the desired goals and objectives. They understand personality dynamics and how different types work together. thereby enabling the individual to be a strong team member, regardless of his actual position. A good leader directs people and manages their performance. You can’t manage people solely through command-and-control methods. People are human beings, not machines, mechanical parts, or assembly lines. They respond best when they are treated like human beings, they work best when they have a voice in how the work is done, and they remain loyal and engaged when they feel respected, trusted, well informed and cared for.

Leaders lead by mobilizing people around a compelling vision of the future, by inspiring them to follow in the leader’s footsteps. They show people what’s possible and motivate them to make those possibilities real. They energize and focus people in ways that fulfill their dreams, give them a sense of purpose, and leave them with a profound sense of accomplishment when the work is done. Leaders lead by modeling ways of thinking or acting and by encouraging new ways of looking at situations, and by so doing they give people the words and the courage to make those new ways their own. The best leaders are teachers, mentors and role models — and they accomplish the vast majority of their work through influence, not authority. Finally I leave you with Harry Selfridge quotes:

• The boss drives his men; the leader coaches them.

• The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will.

• The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.

• The boss says “I”; the leader, “we.”

• The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.

• The boss says “Go”; the leader says “Let’s go!” The customer is always right.


Adams Amana is an experienced and a seasoned freelance writer and the editor at