How to acquire leadership skills when you aren't a natural leader
Not all of us desire to stand behind a podium and deliver an impassioned speech to an enthralled audience. There are those of us who are quieter, and who prefer to be in behind-the-scenes roles. But there may come a time when people who are naturally introverted or who lack confidence in their leadership abilities are placed in situations where they have to be in control of a larger group of people and lead them to success. The good news here is that nobody was born with perfect leadership skills. These skills have to be practised and honed, even for those who have them naturally, and, as paradoxical as it sounds, there’s no way to learn about being a leader if you don’t embrace your role as one.
1. Seek help from more experienced folks: Teams are diverse, which means there are bound to be people with more leadership experience than you in your workplace. If you find yourself feeling particularly out of depth, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for assistance. Leadership is about seeking assistance from capable people as much as it is providing guidance.
2. Mimic others: If you get the opportunity to work alongside a more accomplished leader or senior executive, jump at it. One way to acquire some much-needed skills is to observe and replicate the moves of one. By watching what they do and how they deal with challenging people and situations, you’ll be able to establish a basic script detailing how to act when you’re thrown into a similar scenario. It’s a win-win for both parties involved: they get to mentor a willing individual and you get to pick up practical knowledge.
3. Be involved: If you are overseeing multiple teams, make sure to check in with them on a regular basis. Request email updates or personally ask team members to fill you in during face-to-face catch-ups. After all, leadership isn’t about instructing people what to do – it’s about active listening and being in touch with developments on the ground. If you’re responsible for other people, you must be in tune with them, and the only way to do this is by being fully aware of their progress, developments and difficulties.
4. Practice resolving conflicts: Apart from laying out work expectations and monitoring subordinates, leadership involves resolving conflicts of a professional nature. This can be challenging if you’re a non-confrontational person by nature and don’t want to be involved in other people’s troubles. However, people working together are likely to have more than the occasional squabble and it will be your job to successfully mediate the situation and arrive at an outcome or a compromise that satisfies all. Start small – try to arbitrate an argument involving two people and remember to keep your neutrality and emotional stability intact.
5. Communicate clearly: If a leader is unable to communicate their values, goals and plans to subordinates in a clear manner, mass confusion will ensue. The way you phrase the content of your messages sets the tone for all future communication, both internal and external. When creating documents like memos, guidelines or releases, your aim as a leader should be to educate, inspire and motivate. If you are unsure about your abilities in producing such work, approach senior editors or content specialists in your company to glance over your draft.