For the most part, great leaders evolve. They aren't made in a single moment, and rarely, if ever, is a person born with the knowledge and skill to be a transformative leader. In fact, there's lots of evidence that we can be coached to great leadership. A study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign showed that leadership skills could be significantly improved using a specific curricula, according to this piece from Psychology Today. Now that's just one study measuring a certain approach. But there are lots of ways you can improve your aptitude for leadership along the way -- especially if you want to.
Here are a few tips and tools that have made a profound impression on me and have influenced my leadership style:
Define your purpose
It all starts with why, as Simon Sinek explains. If you can't answer why you do something, you'll never have the confidence to fully see it through. Great leadership requires solid confidence -- to guide through uncertainty and provide direction at all times. Having a full understanding of your why is integral to developing that confidence, and in turn, providing strong, consistent leadership.
Adopt mind games
As a leader, it's essential to keep self doubt at bay for the health of your business and employees. But it isn't always easy to do this. Taking a page out of the athlete's playbook can help. Many elite athletes overcome negative thinking and self-doubt with visualization--they picture the end result of their success before they even start playing.
This is an incredibly effective technique -- one study that tracked the performance of Olympic athletes found that the group that did the most visualization performed the best. The takeaway for you is to visualize your success, and to get really good at picturing it over and over.
Learn to listen (really well)
In my experience, the best leaders never make assumptions about what is happening in their business. They rely on people to tell them, and then they listen really well. Without listening, you won't know what problems you need to solve and you won't know where to innovate.
I've written before about the importance of active listening and how to improve your listening skills. As the legendary Stephen Covey said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
The best leaders employ a growth mindset for their teams, but also with regard to themselves and are always looking for ways to improve and maximize their potential. But just don't forget to have fun along the way. By that I mean, make sure you take the time to get to know the people who help support your business on a personal level and find ways to create memories together. Not only will your employees like working for you so much more, but you'll enjoy your leadership journey a lot more too.
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