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How to Develop and Improve Leadership Skills?

How to develop and improve leadership skills?

How to develop and improve leadership skills?

All organisations need proper leadership. And proper leadership will be provided only by those people in the organisation with leadership skills.

Therefore, all organisations need to develop the leadership skills of those people occupying the key roles; managers, team leaders, decision makers. All these people need to demonstrate leadership.

Sadly, there are many managers, team leaders and decision makers, who do not display a great abundance of leadership skill. Consequently, they do not inspire "the troops" to give their best.

In fact there are some managers whose "leadership style" is such that is causes more disharmony, unhappiness and conflict than it does progress.

So, the question is this; how can you develop and improve leadership skills in your organisation.

Answer: You find a well written leadership training programme and send your managers on it, so that they might understand;

  1. The role of a leader.
  2. The language of a leader.
  3. The skills and attributes of leadership.

Question: Can leadership skills be taught? Meaning; I have heard it said that leaders are born, not made?

Answer: Leadership skills can indeed be taught. Leadership is not an inbuilt genetic trait that some are born with and others are not. Leadership is not like height, or eye colour; these are an expression of your DNA.

Leadership is a combination of complex communication skills. And all complex communication skills are learned behaviour.

Therefore leadership is a learned behaviour.

And since all learned behaviours are teachable, then leadership is both a teachable and learnable skill set.

Leadership is a learnable skill. You can teach yourself to be a better leader.

You can learn how to improve your leadership skills, by concentrating on these three topics:

1. What is the role of a leader?

The role of a leader is to decide upon the goal that is to be achieved; to communicate that goal to the rest of the team; to formulate the general strategy that will achieve the goal, and to inspire a positive attitude in the minds of the team and a belief that the goal is both worthy of achievement and possible of achievement.

This means the leader must be willing and able to:

  • Decide upon a definite goal.
  • Effectively communicate that goal to the others.
  • Formulate plausible strategies that will be capable of achieving the goal.
  • Possess a positive belief that the goal is a worthy goal.
  • Possess a conviction that the goal is an achievable goal.

All of the above sets are learnable skills. They should form part of your leadership training.

2. What is the language of a leader?

A leader's language should have two main qualities:

  1. His/her language should be clear and unequivocal.
  2. His/her language should be emotionally charged.

The leaders must be clear on the goal. The clearer and more distinctive the goal, the easier it is to get people involved. The less distinct and vaguer the goal, the less people will be drawn in.

Here is an example of leadership speech from Field marshal Montgomery just prior to the Battle of El Alamein in 1942. Notice how clear and unequivocal it sounds.

Our mandate from the Prime Minister is to destroy the Axis forces in North Africa; have seen it, written on half a sheet of notepaper.
It will be done, without a shadow of a doubt. If anyone here thinks it can't be done, let him go at once. I don't want any doubters in this party.
It can be done, and it will be done, beyond any possibility of doubt.

What are the skills and attributes of leadership?

The skills and attributes of a leader are many, but each one, taken singly, is a learnable skill and therefore, the whole is a set of learnable skills.

Here are three further attributes of leadership:

  • Personal initiative.
  • Courage.
  • An understanding of what motivates others.

Personal initiative.

Personal initiative is the ability to act without anyone telling you to act.

The leader's role is to give direction.

So, who gives direction to the person who gives the directions?

Answer; Nobody. The leader is the starting point.

The leader is the one who initiates the action. And the leader is a person whose centre of gravity is within himself or herself.

This means that leaders have to develop and nurture their ability to:

  • Decide what they want.
  • Decide how to get it, and
  • Have the courage to take action: and on their own personal initiative.


As alluded to above, leaders need courage.

Courage is an emotion that is a result of a specific way of thinking.

Courage is recognition that taking action in the face of possible defeat is still better than doing nothing.

The courageous person is the person who assumes that "Doing nothing means certain death".

The timid person assumes the opposite, timid people assume that, "Doing nothing is the safest play and that taking action will mean certain death".

So in some ways courageous people may be defined as those people who are too scared to do nothing!

Courageous people will act even in the face of hazard and danger.

And leadership requires courage.

Leadership requires courage because leaders must act in the face of:

Incomplete knowledge.
Uncertain information.
Changing circumstances.

For many this is too much to bear; and so many non-leaders will say, "Let's do nothing. Let us wait. Let us wait and do nothing until circumstances are more favourable".

Leaders don't speak that way.

The leader is more likely to say: "I don't wait for circumstances; I create circumstances!"

This mind set is a learnable skill and will form part of your leadership programme.

Understanding motivation

Leaders are able to inspire action in others.

And in order to do that, leaders must understand what motivates people to act.

There are two major motivators: Pleasure and Pain.

You do things because you think that by doing them, you will gain a pleasurable benefit. (Tangible or spiritual). eg money, reward, praise, a place in heaven.

Or you think you will avoid a painful consequence. (Either a tangible or spiritual painful consequence) eg avoid punishment, avoid a penalty, avoid being sent to hell.

Or some combination of the two: you think that by acting you will both gain pleasure and avoid painful consequences. For example you go to work because you figure that if you go to work, you will gain both, pleasurable benefits and you will avoid painful consequences.

Leaders understand how to motivate people by appealing to both sets of motivators.

They are able to link pleasure to acting in accordance with the leaders plan.

And they link the idea of pain to NOT acting in accordance with the leaders plan.

Pleasure and pain
Carrot and stick
Theory X and theory Y
Good cop, bad cop
Heaven and hell
Slap and tickle, etc

If you want to learn more about leadership, please attend our leadership training course.

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