Are you a leader?

If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur or an executive in a business or non-profit, you might answer “yes” to that question. After all, your position automatically makes you influential in the direction of your company and staffing decisions.

However, are you a successful leader?

Your answer might require some thought on how skillful you are applying leadership skills in your business.

Let’s First Tackle Leadership “Skills” vs. “Traits” or “Characteristics”

At first mention of the word “leader” who came to mind? Was it Winston Churchill? How about Steve Jobs? Maybe you pictured a parent or a favorite coach.

Most “Leaders” are defined by traits and characteristics. Great orator…inspires those who follow them…motivates those around them to always do better.

However, don’t the words “trait” or “characteristics” communicate an established personality or disposition? It can be daunting thinking that leadership is some innate ability seen in some, but lacking in others.

It’s not. Those leaders mentioned above, and countless others, weren’t born to lead; they honed leadership skills over time. Eventually, their active use of those skills characterized how we perceive them—successful leaders.

It’s our position that anyone can be a successful leader if they apply and practice the following four skills.

  1. Listening

Successful leaders continually practice their listening skills. People, including your employees and clients, want to be heard. When you listen to what they say, you can gain insights that can influence your decisions that positively impact them and your business.

Listening helps to create a trustworthy relationship. When people feel they’ve been heard, they’re more inspired to follow your lead knowing you have their best interest at heart. A wise leader once said, “You have two ears and one mouth…listen twice as much as you speak.”

Active listening skills can be practiced in a number of ways:

Eye Contact:  This helps the person speaking with you feel they have your undivided attention.

Pay Attention: Listen to the words the speaker is saying. Watch their body language along with voice inflections.

Ask Clarifying Questions: This helps the speaker know you’re trying to understand what they are saying.

Summarize What You Heard: This provides a reward to the speaker that they’ve been heard.

  1. Decision Making

Successful leaders exhibit strong decision-making skills. Decisiveness inspires.  Leaders generally don’t suffer from paralysis-by-analysis.

Leaders in business understand the urgency to make decisions and move quickly on available information. They also understand how to balance their emotions with reason. If new information makes their previous decision incorrect, they know when to decide to shift directions.

Decision-making skills can be practiced in a number of ways:

Be Decisive on Everyday Matters: Don’t dwell on what you’re going to wear today. Pick out your clothes and move on. Do you and your spouse experience paralysis-by-analysis on choosing a restaurant or a movie to see? Take the lead and make a decision.

Dedicate Time Each Day to Focus on Solutions: Got an impending business problem to solve, or a critical decision looming in the future? Take time each day to research pros and cons of various choices. Then, when a decision needs to be made, you won’t scramble for a solution. Your mind will be prepared to make a decision and take action.

Seek Well-Informed Opinions: See listening skills from above.

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes: Living or being influenced by past mistakes can lead to indecisiveness or paralysis-by-analysis. Learn how to let go and forge ahead.

  1. Delegate

Successful leaders know when and how to delegate tasks. When a decision is made, leaders allow others to use their skills, talents and experience to accomplish the goals set out by that decision.

Leaders understand that delegation unburdens them from countless tasks that can drain their energy and attention. Delegation increases the effectiveness of their organization.

How can you practice your delegation skills?

Evaluate Your Needs: Assess your business or organization’s needs. Clearly define business goals and tasks involved in accomplishing them. Then look at your organization’s strengths and weaknesses to find if you have the resources to accomplish those task.

Learn to Surround Yourself with Talent: Bring onboard team members with the strengths, skills and passion to accomplish the tasks you need to be done to accomplish your goals.

Don’t think you have to hire a staff. Virtual assistant firms like Business Solutions Unlimited can be invaluable resources you can delegate your task to without incurring additional staffing costs.

Learn to Entrust Others: Evaluate the skill sets, strengths and weaknesses of your staff. Hand-off small tasks appropriate for the skills of your team members.

  1. Communicate Clearly

Successful leaders communicate their message purposefully and with specificity. They never want their staff to leave their presence wondering what was communicated or asked of them.

How can you practice your communication skills?

Replace Lazy Language with Specifics: Remove the “as soon as possible” type of phrases with ones that convey specifics and leads to accountability.

Communicate with Appropriate Tone and Body Language: How you convey your message is often times more important than what you say. Practice speaking in front a mirror, spouse or trusted colleague to make sure you’re truly conveying what you want to be heard.

Speak Confidently: Learn to speak calmly and deliberately. Speaking quickly conveys nervousness and insecurity.

Remove Filler Words and Be Comfortable with Pauses: Words like “umm” and “ahhh” communicates that you’re uncertain about what you’re saying. Become comfortable with brief moments of silence—pauses—in your speaking. Doing so conveys thoughtfulness and mindfulness in your message.

Since communicating clearly is such an important skill for leaders, you might want to consider seeking professional training organization that can help you master speaking. Also, consider joining a Toastmasters International Club in your area.

If you would like to discuss these and other ideas to become a more effective leader in your organization feel free to contacts us at (904) 429-4588. Let’s all continue to be the best leaders we can so our people and our businesses continue to grow as well.