Leading isn't always natural. In fact, more times than not it's uncomfortable. There's a misconception that great leaders are born with certain qualities, that make them so. Now, that may be true to an extent, but with deliberate practice and a focus on self-improvement, anyone can become a better leader.
Being a good leader is hard, not impossible.
There are endless amounts of tips and tricks to become a better leader. However, for the sake of this article, I wanted to focus on seven skills anyone can work on to become a better leader.
1. Focus on listening
Average and poor leaders don't listen, they simply wait to speak. Great leaders listen with intent, internalize what they hear and then respond appropriately. By listening more, you'll see that employees feel more engaged with their work because their opinions are taken seriously.
2. Be direct
Your team members are not mind readers. By being direct with action plans, feedback, company vision, etc., you're minimizing confusion down the road. Your clarity will give your team more answers than questions.
3. Act in the present
You can only handle what's in front of you today. Things like market conditions are largely out of your control -- so, control the controllables. Being in the present allows you to get the most output out of that moment, not stress about the future.
4. Be willing to get your hands dirty
There are two types of generals in war. One who sits back at camp, directing plans from a comfy tent, and the other who is on the first horse charging into battle. By being willing to roll up your sleeves when the time calls for it, and get in the trenches with your coworkers you'll gain more of their respect.
5. Check your ego, early and often
Realizing you don't know everything, internalizing and hearing criticism is a hard thing to do. Especially if you founded or are in a management role at your company. Now, though you ultimately have to make decisions around the company direction, day-to-day operations, etc., this doesn't mean someone under you in the corporate ladder can't have good ideas or valid criticism. By checking your ego, and listening to others, you open the door for more ideas and potential business growth. Remember, everyone knows something and no one knows everything.
6. Take accountability for company mistakes
Everything that happens to your team is your responsibility. If a junior employee screws up a report for a client, it's not their fault, it's yours. Great leaders are accountable leaders. They take accountability when things underneath them fail. In Jocko Willink and Leif Babin's book, Extreme Ownership, they talk about Seal teams in Afghanistan and how when things took a turn for the worst in particular firefight. It was easy to point fingers afterward, what was hard was accepting that Jocko, who was in charge of the operation was responsible for the whole thing. You don't earn respect from passing the buck, you earn it from taking responsibility when it's hard to do.
7. Become grittier
Having grit is having the ability to persevere through setbacks, not giving up at points of friction. Angela Duckworth, a Psychology Professor at Penn, found that in West Point applicants, the students who scored the highest on the Grit Scale ended up being the most likely to succeed. So when you're back is against the wall, become grittier. People want to follow people who don't give up - resilience is contagious.