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How can beginner leaders strengthen their skills and qualities needed for their position?

I am interested on taking leadership roles but I am still not confident enough and lack necessary skills. I want to take on more opportunities and learn to communicate better and be more connected with others.
leader skills

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Paris’s Answer

Hi Jenny! There are many ways to continue to improve and grow in a leadership capacity. But one thing that has always stuck with me is that "Leaders are Learners". I read leadership books (highly recommend John Maxwell). I listen to leadership podcasts (I enjoy Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast). I carry a notebook in case I hear something that I need to jot down and remember for later. I seek mentors for guidance, inspiration and accountability. Having a growth mindset is critical, and I see you are already passionate about it - that's awesome! Be proactive and use the resources around you - many of them are at your fingertips. Learn, apply, repeat.

Best of luck!
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Sabrena’s Answer

I see your question as having multiple parts to it. First don't worry so much about having all the skills you need before taking on a new role. You are looking to grow and build on skills which in itself means you need to take on a role that requires you to grow, That's how you build the skills that you need. The fact that you recognize that you need to grow is a plus. Leaders must be willing to learn and be open minded.

Second, a key to being a good leader is recognizing that you do not know it all. This forces you to learn from others and from your team. It will force you to recognize the value of your team and they will love you for that and support you. Good leadership skills equate to good people skills or put another way...people feel good working for you. It does not mean that you won't have to have difficult conversations regarding performance but it's how you have them, and in the end do they help to build people up and develop them or tear them down.

Third, to connect with others, be intentional about building a network of good leaders. To find good leaders, look for those that are successful, then listen to what their team has to say about them. Then decide if that is the kind of leader you want to be. If they are, then spend time with them. Ask them to mentor you. Be open to new ideas. Find ways you can help them.

Fourth, before you focus on the skills that you lack, determine what your strengths are. Unless you lack a critical skill, most people are looking for someone that is strong in a particular area. We can't be strong in every area of leadership. You will find as you seek out good leaders that they are proficient in most areas but excel in something specific and that is what drives their success. Figure out what those strength areas are for you and focus on improving them so that you become known for those things. For example, if you are strong at driving results, when a project comes up where it is critical to meet results, they'll look for you to lead the team. Focus on being proficient in the major areas of leadership, then strengthen what you want to be known for. If you have an area that you are lacking in, check in with the leaders that you have built a network with and see if it is a critical area. If it is make sure you at least proficient in then move on to focus on your strengths.

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Mike’s Answer

Hi Jenny - a huge component of being trusted to take on leadership roles in a company is doing the little things to help your team. You mentioned lacking the knowledge/skills to take on some leadership roles. Most good managers should know what their employees are capable of and where they need to grow. Research as much in your free time as possible to build some of these things on your own. During work, volunteer for things that you do know how to do and if you have questions, try to equip yourself with enough info. where your questions isn't "I need you to teach all of these things to me" to your boss. Try to understand as much as you can and then ask direct questions that then fill in the gaps. Your superiors will be impressed that you did your best to learn on your own and will realize you're a hard worker. Know your strengths and try to lean on them to assist with your team and your superior(s) and then lean on them to help with things that you need help with and your communication.
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Srinivasa’s Answer

Start with Time management. Additionally, getting an understanding between running the business and growing the business, Managing people and growing people.
Other key aspects that a manager should be doing to be connected to his/her team are,
1.) Keeping a fine balance between people and technology. Keeping abreast with latest technology and Industry trends is important for any manager in IT/technology industry. If not down to nuts and bolts, but at least at a high level. It helps you to be relevant to your teams as well as to your stakeholders.
2.)Connecting the individuals in the team and their work to organization goals is another important aspect.

Always having have access to some mentors who are genuinely interested in your success and who can share their learnings with you helps a lot.
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Robert’s Answer

This is a great question, Jenny. The first step to building leadership skills is asking other leaders what those skills might be. You'll get five different answers from five different leaders, but you'll begin to develop an understanding of what leaders believe are their most important skills. Absorb those answers and think about how you'd answer the same question to someone else.

As you join a company, organization, or group there are often hierarchies in place that make it feel difficult to establish yourself as a leader when you're new to to the team. My advice is to be vocal about what you think you can contribute, be forward about taking on tasks or projects that are outside of your skill-set, and be upfront about your desire to learn and develop in that area.

Robert recommends the following next steps:

Ask five leaders you admire what they believe are their most important leadership skills.
Focus on learning and developing skills in new technical areas.
Seek out roles that challenge you, and be clear about your desire to learn from those roles.
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Doloris’s Answer

Leaders should be in a constant state of learning, so kudos to you for recognizing you need to brush up on your skills. As a college student, I would first start with courses geared toward leadership. In addition, seek out different clubs focused on business, which traditionally have a focus on leadership and public speaking skills. In addition, participating in a club could provide opportunities to lead initiatives such as fundraisers and volunteering. Part-time jobs with potential development opportunities are great as well, especially if the company offers any type of online or in-person training initiatives.

I hope this helps!
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Scott’s Answer

Bill Gates says that Leaders and readers. Stand on the shoulder of giants - read leadership books from people who have been successful. This makes me think about books like, "Winning" by Jack Welch. There are a lot out there. You can pick and choose from different leadership styles and start to form your own. It's also important to study and learn about different personality types. You will need to cater and adapt your leadership style to the people you lead. Not everyone responds to the same approach and you will need to be able to identify what motivates people and how you can get the most out of them.
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Karen’s Answer

Start by identifying a specific skill you want to strengthen such as your presentation skills or listening skills. Then find a comfortable  opportunity to practice these such as offer to present updates on something that you're very familiar with or tell a friend that you want to improve your listening skills and ask them to notice when they think you are being a good listener and ask for their feedback each week.  Find out what you did well and suggestions for improvement.  Take small steps and your confidence will build.  Use volunteer opportunities as practice opportunities as well.

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Daniel’s Answer

Volunteer! I cannot recommend enough volunteering for an organization where your ability to lead is not based on a title (e.g. manager, director, etc), but on pure influence. That way you get to practice what it means to lead by influence and the relationships you've built with your teammates.

This volunteering doesn't need to be a specifically "leadership" role. The leader in the room isn't always the person with the "leadership role". Volunteer and learn to build relationships with strangers and practice leadership there.

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

Find a way to volunteer at an organization and practice leadership by influence where you cannot a rely on a title for your leadership.
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Mark’s Answer

There have been some great answers on here already. Some items to add:

Firstly I'd like to differentiate between a Leader and a Manager. Managers tend to be a specialist in an area and are there to be a "super specialist", providing a higher level of subject matter expertise to their teams to help them get the job done, as well as the usual responsibilities of making sure teams hit targets, obey by the rules, managing career progression etc. Therefore, to be a manager you usually need to become an expert in your particular field and demonstrate an ability to up-level your thoughts to help drive a team of specialists to meet their goals.

Leadership is different and therefore preparing to be a Leader is rarely about the specific knowledge of field of expertise. Leaders aren't necessarily specialists in the particular field that they are leading - their teams provide those specialist skills (usually being managed by Managers as above). In today's business world the only constant is change.

As a Leader you are the one working out what needs to be done NEXT, not what needs to be done today. If you are in the weeds on the day to day operational side of whatever business you are in you will have no bandwidth to see the next challenge coming and you won't have prepared your teams to survive it! The role of a Leader is to look at the longer term objectives of their company, what changes, challenges and objectives they will be facing in the future, and define how their teams will need to operate to meet them.

- They need to consider people and process (and almost always nowadays technology).
- They need to provide clear direction for the teams they are leading, helping them understand where they all need to get to and giving them confidence they will get there.
- They need to listen to their teams and take on-board their input and consider it carefully - after all, the Leader is probably not the expert in the many fields they are representing.
- They need to continually review the decisions they made and processes they put in place to meet those future challenges to determine if they are still on track

Therefore, the skills and qualities beginner leaders to strengthen are:
- Being comfortable with not being the expert in the area(s) you are Leading
- Learning how to get input from multiple people, take it all into consideration, take the best of it all and come up with a decision
- Trusting your teams to be the experts
- Inspect what you expect - although your teams are the experts, you need to know what outcomes you are expecting and find ways to test those
- Providing a platform for growth for those trusted advisors, and for their teams
- Building an environment of collaboration - where people are comfortable making suggestions for change, raising new ideas without fear of ridicule
- Identifying who your Trusted Advisors are, usually experts in the areas you are leading, who you can be completely open with and who will help you make the right decisions
- Successor planning is vital. These Trusted Advisors often are your key candidates for taking on your current role. Embrace it! Work with them to help them do what you are doing day to day NOW so that you can prepare and be ready for what is coming NEXT. If you haven't got your successor lined up, you'll never get on to doing the next role!
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Joseph’s Answer

Look for the individuals that are in your role and doing well, then reach out for best practices. Many of the skills you need to learn can be shared with you from those currently doing the job. As I develop in my career, I reach out to high performing leaders for 1 on 1 feedback and peer coaching. It is also beneficial to look at skip level opportunities as well (1 on 1 with leaders 2 or more levels above you). They can give you insight to develop to the next level which will help you improve in your current role.

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Sabrena’s Answer

I see your question as having multiple parts to it. First don't worry so much about having all the skills you need before taking on a new role. You are looking to grow and build on skills which in itself means you need to take on a role that requires you to grow, That's how you build the skills that you need. The fact that you recognize that you need to grow is a plus. Leaders must be willing to learn and be open minded.

Second, a key to being a good leader is recognizing that you do not know it all. This forces you to learn from others and from your team. It will force you to recognize the value of your team and they will love you for that and support you. Good leadership skills equate to good people skills or put another way...people feel good working for you. It does not mean that you won't have to have difficult conversations regarding performance but it's how you have them, and in the end do they help to build people up and develop them or tear them down.

Third, to connect with others, be intentional about building a network of good leaders. To find good leaders, look for those that are successful, then listen to what their team has to say about them. Then decide if that is the kind of leader you want to be. If they are, then spend time with them. Ask them to mentor you. Be open to new ideas. Find ways you can help them.

Fourth, before you focus on the skills that you lack, determine what your strengths are. Unless you lack a critical skill, most people are looking for someone that is strong in a particular area. We can't be strong in every area of leadership. You will find as you seek out good leaders that they are proficient in most areas but excel in something specific and that is what drives their success. Figure out what those strength areas are for you and focus on improving them so that you become known for those things. For example, if you are strong at driving results, when a project comes up where it is critical to meet results, they'll look for you to lead the team. Focus on being proficient in the major areas of leadership, then strengthen what you want to be known for. If you have an area that you are lacking in, check in with the leaders that you have built a network with and see if it is a critical area. If it is make sure you at least proficient in then move on to focus on your strengths.

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