Saying you want to be a better leader doesn't do much to propel your business forward without a strategy in place. If you're not sure where to start, you're not alone. In a survey by Deloitte, top executives in the U.S. are confident in their ability to innovate, but are divided on how to drive innovation. They also found that America's leaders just aren't that confident about tomorrow's leaders, mainly due to a lack of clarity and communication on how to actually rally their teams and get them motivated and moving towards a common goal.

What the study doesn't reveal is how struggling leaders are going to turn this around. Unfortunately, there's no secret formula on how to be a great leader (and if there is, tell me), but there are plenty of tactics and techniques to try. Make a commitment to transform your leadership skills in 2016 and watch your team thrive using these 7 techniques.

1. Invest in Training

Give your team, from management to support staff, the opportunity to rise to the occasion and hone their skills. But make sure they have the right tools and resources to succeed. I've said it before, and it still holds firm: Leaders can't inspire and guide employees that don't know how to do their jobs. They need proper training in order to build the confidence and skills they need to help your business thrive. You can invest in all of the idea generation you want, but without proper employee training, your business simply can't function.

On that same note, it's crucial to invest in your own training to become a better business leader. Think about what holds you back in your career and success. What will you do differently in 2016? If you have no idea, it's time to invest in your own training to break down those obstacles and overcome your limitations.

2. Don't Ask for Permission

Successful leaders are often non-conformist risk-takers who are ready to tackle the world without worrying who they tick off. No one is going to give you permission to grow your company. Sure, it may not be advisable to dive head first into a project your boss or business partner has never mentioned to you, but that doesn't mean you can't start being a leader today. If you're a leader, start leading. Practice being self-directed and get your hands dirty doing the hard work involved in building a business.

3. Inspire Others

Take risks and share your passion and vision, loudly, with everyone from your team members to your investors and business partners. Inspiring others is contagious and creates a domino effect. When others see how amped you are about your business, they can't help but want to follow you. The same holds true for the example you set. Doing phenomenal, focused work, and pushing yourself to grow your business or career shows others what's possible.

4. Create a Vision

Where are you trying to lead your company and support team in the first place? If you're not sure what your big-picture ideas and goals are, it will be difficult to inspire anyone else to follow along with you. Chart out what you want for your business, career, and even your personal life, and figure out how the three intersect. Each element can help inform your leadership style, from work ethic to work culture and the impact you want to leave on your industry.

5. Earn Their Respect

As a leader, it's still your job to call the shots and keep your team engaged. But that doesn't mean they'll blindly follow you without reason. Don't just ask and demand respect. You have to earn it. Start by carefully listening to others and considering their input, following through on what you say you're going to do, caring about others' contributions at work, and doing a phenomenal job with everything you do.

Think of earning respect as setting an expectation: Show your team what you expect of them by leading from example. If you want them to be more hands-on and engaged in their work, don't duck out of meetings and shrug off emails and requests to talk about a project. As a leader, it's your job to embody the qualities you want to see in those around you.

6. Challenge Your Staff

Your employees won't stick around very long if they're not challenged and motivated beyond a salary and bonuses. Research studies published in The Harvard Business Review found that money can only do so much for employee motivation and satisfaction. Sure, salaries should be competitive, but employees are really engaged by acknowledgment, teamwork, and challenging tasks that help them motivate one another.

Create challenges for your team by soliciting their input on your business ideas. You may find yourself newly inspired, but involving your employees also gives them ownership. Let your co-workers be responsible for their own success and see how they approach challenges and new goals. They may surprise you with their tenacity and fresh approach.

7. Find Great Managers

Before you pass off daily projects and operations, properly train managers to guide your team effectively. Without the power to delegate and trust in your managers, it will prove impossible to lead. Empower yourself and your business by handing over the reins to your trusted managers and lead your team to success.

What ways do you plan to be a better leader in 2016? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Published on: Dec 29, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.