Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills (updated for 2023)

Leadership skills are crucial if you want to advance in your career.

In this article we share the top 10 actionable ways you can improve your leadership skills so that you can push for that next promotion.

Let’s dive right in…

1. Be Driven by a Clear Vision

In order to get where you want to go, you need to know where you want to get to!

This means you need to have a clear vision for your team, function or business. This should be inspiring and difficult to achieve in order to be effective.

Once you have defined the vision for your team, be sure to share it and communicate it effectively. Your team need to crystal clear on what the vision is.

But crucially…

They need to understand the ‘why’. Make sure that you are clear on why you and the team should work towards the vision.

Take time to explain how working towards your vision will benefit the business, and how it will benefit your team members in turn.

Encourage your team to critique the vision, and listen to their feedback. If needed, adjust the vision based on input from your team members and other stakeholders. This will generate greater buy-in and support.

2. Know Yourself

In order to effectively lead, you will need to have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses.

Know what your strengths are, and play to these. These can be skills or characteristics that you were born with, or those that you have developed over time through experience and training.

By knowing your weaknesses, you can draw upon the skills and expertise of others to support. Recognizing where you are less strong, and delegating responsibility to others is really empowering for your team.

3. Be Passionate

You have your vision. You now need to be visibly passionate about heading in that direction. Show that you truly care about achieving your vision to help motivate and inspire others around you.

You should also be passionate about your team members. This includes their welfare, happiness, ability to do their job, and both their career and personal development.

What can you do to help your team? Identify these opportunities through one-to-one conversations with team members, then follow through assertively to demonstrate your passion to their success.

4. Be True to Your Values

As a leader you will need to make tough decisions. And you will find yourself in tricky situations.

If you make decisions or take actions that deviate from your core values then two things happen.

1. You will feel uneasy with yourself. You will have a nagging feeling wondering whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.

2. Others around you will lose trust. Your team members need to see that you behave in accordance with your values. That you ‘practice what you preach’. Doing anything else will undermine your credibility.

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5. Be a Role Model

Don’t just ‘talk the talk’. ‘Walk the walk’ as well.

You need to be leading by example constantly, as your team members will constantly observe your behaviors. And whether consciously or not, they will copy your behavior.

So you need to be setting a good example at all times, by acting as a strong role model.

In particular, more junior members of your team will look up to you and respond to how you act. Embrace the responsibility and act accordingly.

6. Be Clear on Your ‘Commander’s Intent’

Whilst you have your overall vision, there will be many goals and objectives that you and your team need to work towards.

Avoid autocratic micro-managing by coming up with detailed plans by yourself, for the team to follow. Instead, set out your ‘Commander’s Intent’.

This means being clear on what the objective or goal is that you’re trying to achieve. The ‘what’. Then you can leave the ‘how’ to your team to develop.

They know what they need to do, but they get the chance to define how they will do it. You can review and improve the plan, but by letting your team come up with it they will have much more ownership.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

General George S. Patton

To be clear, in many circumstances there is a real need for detailed and specific direction. For example, in a crisis, leaders should step up and issue clear and precise instructions.

And some activity or tasks need very specific operating procedures that should be followed to the letter.

But in most situations, allowing your team to develop plans to achieve a goal is the better way to go.

The idea of ‘Commander’s Intent’ comes from the military (a more detailed description can be found here) and is one of the most important leadership skills you can master.

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7. Manage Your Attitude

As the famous saying goes:

You can’t choose what happens to you…but you can choose how to react.

Consciously think about your attitude throughout the day. People enjoy spending time with positive people, much more than with negative people.

By remaining in control of your emotions, you will find yourself better able to make decisions. You will also be able to better engage with people to get the most out of interactions.

8. Improve Your Communication Skills

Miscommunication can lead to errors, mistakes, and fall outs.

As a leader, you need to have excellent communication skills. This includes being able to get your message across to others, and being able to hear what others are saying.

This can be verbal communication, non-verbal communication (e.g. body language, facial expressions), and written communication.

A good tip to ensure effective communication is to ‘close out the loop’.

So for example, when you have just explained something to someone, ask them to play back to you what they’ve understood. This allows to correct anything they haven’t understood, or be reassured they have understood well.

Similarly, when you’re in listening mode, always para-phrase back to the speaker what you’ve understood from their message. They can then confirm you have understood correctly, or explain further / differently if needed.

9. Recognize Others

No matter how good your leadership skills, whatever great things your team achieves it’s because of the people in the team. You should take time to recognize individuals for the great work they are doing.

This can either be public recognition, in team meetings, or presentations. It can also be more discreet, on a one-to-one basis, to let the person know that you value and appreciate their input.

Both are powerful motivators. But select the most appropriate for the individual – some people enjoy public praise, others find it embarrassing.

And key to this working – be sincere. Don’t ‘recognize’ people as part of your daily or weekly checklist. Only do it when it’s warranted, and people will appreciate it more.

10. Embrace Failure

No individual, team or organization gets everything right all the time. Failure is a natural part of life.

Many people are scared of failure. Or embarrassed by it in some way. Other people try and cover up their failings, or blame it on others.

True leaders embrace failure as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn and to improve.

As well as being open with your failures, encourage your team to be open with theirs too. Create the type of environment where people feel safe to admit failures.

By doing so, you re-frame the situation as a learning opportunity, and can improve the team and business as a result.

Leadership Skills: Conclusion

So there you have it. Some key areas that you can work on to develop your leadership skills and become a better leader.

Head on over to our Quora space to ask any questions, or to share your ideas on how to become a better leader – it may just help someone out.