By Eboni Elise
Do I really know what it takes to be a great leader? Before participating in the YNPN Chicago Leadership Institute, I would’ve prematurely answered this question with an emphatic “YES!” Now that my year long program has come to an end, I have a different answer to this question. An answer that is now based on new knowledge, a new perspective, and much needed experience. Here are 5 valuable lessons I’ve learned about being an effective leader:
1. Self-Awareness: This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s not often included when you research top qualities of an effective leader. Do you know what you naturally do well? Many of us only think about our strengths and weaknesses when it’s time to prepare for interviews or complete performance evaluations (and even then we’re coming up with things may not be true but just sounds good to an employer). Before you can lead others, you have to know what you're strong in and where you need to improve. Even more importantly, you must understand how your strengths are perceived by others. I’ve realized that being an overachiever can go two ways, it either motivates others to do better or drive my-coworkers completely insane. Being mindful of how my strengths can positively and negatively affects those around me is key.
A good test that reveals your natural strengths is Strengths Finders (strengths.gallup.com/). My results were eye opening and (after much reflection) right on target. It also comes with an action planning guide to help you build upon your natural talents and abilities.
2. You Don’t Have to Know Everything: I assumed that to become a great leader you had know a lot about various things and always have the right answers. The truth is, you don’t. It’s impossible to know ever-y-thing! Effective leaders know how to access the right people with the right skill set to get the information they need. They focus on their own natural abilities and hire those who are strong in areas where they lack. Furthermore, finding ways for others to maximize and celebrate their strengths is the key to getting the best from those you manage or work with on a daily basis.
3. Learn to have Crucial Conversations: Being a leader is being clear about your expectations and articulating your vision. It’s also being honest when giving constructive feedback or communicating with someone who you don’t get along with. It’s having radical candor, a balance of showing that you care while challenging directly. To learn more about this, Kim Malone Scott has a good Ted Talk titled “Radical Candor- The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss." Being authentic, not sugar coating an issue or addressing the pink elephant head-on earns you respect and really makes a world of difference in your professional relationships.
4. There is no “one size fits all” way to lead: Successful leaders adjust their leadership style frequently. When starting my program, I was eager to discover the one style that is most effective, but I quickly learned there is no one way to lead. Depending upon the situation or needs of your team, there are times where you have to be direct and times when you have to be supportive and coach others. Know your leadership style and when it’s necessary to adjust.
5. Continuously Invest In Yourself: Once you’ve reached a position or status that you desire, it doesn’t stop there. You have to continuously develop your skills, learn about the latest trends in your industry or work on any personal issues that you may have. You owe it to yourself and your career. When you pour into yourself, the better you can serve others.
Did this help you? Do you have any lessons to share? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
What to invest in yourself and participate in an awesome leadership development program? Applications for the 2017 Leadership Institute cohort are now open http://ynpnchicago.org/events/leadership-institute/.