Good leaders are self-reflective and passionate

Improving leadership skills requires thoughtful evaluation and development of personal strengths.

It is not hard to find advice about how to become a better leader. A quick Google search will show nearly 3.5 million results in 0.13 seconds!

According to Daniel Goleman in “Leadership That Gets Results”, people typically say that leaders set strategy, motivate, create a mission and build culture – but if asked what leaders should do, the frequent answer is, “Get results!” So, how can I get better results?

In one study, personal qualities such as assertiveness, adaptability, intelligence and conscientiousness were cited as those most important for good leadership, yet research clearly shows that transformational leaders – leaders who are positive, inspiring and who empower and develop followers – are better leaders and get better results.

Margaret Buj, author of “Top Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills,” offers suggestions for how to become a better leader. Consider implementing some of these strategies to achieve better results:

  • Know and use your strengths and gifts – those you were born with and personal strengths you’ve developed over your lifetime.
  • Live according to your personal values and morals. People sense integrity and will respect your opinion and leadership.
  • Serve as a role model. The best leaders walk the walk and talk the talk. If you want to become a better leader, work on modeling the qualities that you would like to see in your team members.
  • Improve personal communication skills. Practice clear discussion of your vision, goals, skills, intentions and expectations to others. This also includes honing your ability to listen to what other people are saying. Be aware of body language messages, both observed and sent!
  • Maintain a positive attitude. No one respects a grumpy or negative person. People are naturally attracted to people who show a positive attitude. You will lead a happier life and be surrounded by other positive people with great ideas.
  • Be passionate! Great leaders are not simply focused on getting group members to finish tasks; they have a genuine passion and enthusiasm for the work they do. Let people know that you care about their progress and contributions to the overall team goals.
  • Have a clear vision for success. Take the time to explain why and how your plan will improve the organization, and how they will benefit in return. You have to know where your destination is before you can map out a plan to get there.
  • Set SMART (an acronym for “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound”) goals and follow concrete action plans. Include your team in strategic planning sessions, ask for feedback and use their ideas. Develop measurable objectives with appropriate timelines. Then, formulate action plans you can commit to that will lead to the results you want.
  • Motivate others to succeed.The greatest leaders recognize each person’s value. Look beyond the obvious and see others with insight. Many of history’s greatest leaders say that they rose to the top because another leader recognized and helped develop their potential.
  • Be willing to admit, and learn, from mistakes and weaknesses. The most successful leaders know that the key to success is not to avoid failure, but to learn from it.
  • Continue to educate and improve yourself. Great leaders continue to improve themselves in every possible way. Be receptive to everyone’s perceptions and information from around the world and beyond. Never stop learning.

Michigan State University Extension offers educational programs and assistance to organizations in areas of strategic planning, board member professional development, conflict resolution and many other topics! Contact your local MSU Extension office for more information.

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