8 steps to develop your leadership skills

Know the traits to become a better leader

After the break caused by my doctorate, a second child, three moves and the publication of Best Leaders I have been able to take a breath. I propose a training divided into eight steps, which correspond to the eight traits that help us take action. These conclusions are the result of five years of research and more than a decade working with all kinds of teams and people. Coaches, athletes, management teams…

What are these eight traits and, above all, what do they tell us about us and how to train them to find our best version?

Here I share them:

1. Self-efficacy

What does it tell us?

If you don’t believe you have the ability to carry out a task, you will be less likely to start it.

That what you have studied does not define who you are, it is only your starting point.

Self-efficacy is related to self-confidence. And this confidence depends on our degree of self-knowledge.

How to enhance it?

  • With “Flight hours”. The hours of flight, of training, give us small situations of success and each small situation of success increases our level of self-confidence. A good book to delve into this is Off the charts by Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Carry out activities that connect with our “I”. Physical activity, yoga, meditation, mindfulness… Numerous studies show that there is a correlation between these practices and greater self-confidence. This was also one of the conclusions of my doctoral thesis. Check out more interesting articles on our Real Blog.
  • Take a self-knowledge test. They are free and can give you a good clue of what aspects you can work on.
  • Growing up outside our usual environment. In the US, for example, it is considered essential to develop professionally in various institutions, even in various sectors, in order to grow in your profession. For example, to work at a university it is an essential requirement to have completed Master’s or postgraduate studies at a different university. To develop in a professional sports league, having worked in another league or different sport is more valued. Staying in the comfort zone limits us more than it empowers us.
  • Asking yourself: “The last time something similar happened, how did I solve it?” You will surely discover that if you were able to do it in the past, you can do it now. The more we talk about the importance of skills or competencies, the more necessary it is to connect them with our life story.

2. Risk propensity

What does it tell us?

Managing risk is not doing more, it is doing better.

Entrepreneurs do not risk more, they manage risk better.

Is it riskier to undertake than to work for someone else? It depends. Entrepreneurship carries risks, but working as an employee, having a single employer, can be more risky than having 10 different employers or clients. In the second case we are diversifying and therefore reducing risk.

You can be an entrepreneur and fear risk. Prudence is a virtue for any person, also for entrepreneurs. The important thing is that this prudence does not paralyze us. You have to take action with caution, but take action.

What helps us to work it?

The anticipation. It is important to change when things are going well because, in this context, we have the confidence to try something new. We must constantly look for the gap, the creation of new opportunities.

“Opportunities and risks always come in pairs” – Bangambiki Habyarimana

3. Creativity

What does it tell us?

The question is not to be creative or not to be, but to take action, to provide new solutions to problems. Few consider themselves creative, but almost all of us perform numerous creative tasks every day.

What helps us to work creativity?

  • Autonomy, feeling free to be able to create and respond to daily challenges.
  • Understanding that decisions are rarely yes or no, A or B. Opening the possibility to a third option helps us reduce the impact of that decision. For example, if you manage the two options “stay in my current job” and “accept the offer of another job”, think about adding a third, such as “stay in my current job and ask for a raise or a change of department”. Or “stay in my current job offering the creation of a new position more in line with my current concerns”.
  • Understand that rules are best changed from within. The best changes are those that have been produced from oneself.

4. Critical thinking

What does it tell us?

That the more information there is available, the more important it is to encourage critical thinking in all senses. To embrace an idea it is essential to question it deeply.

When we question things, we improve as an organization, as a society and as people.

How to enhance it?

Training him from a young age: teach doubt, train questions, encourage debates in the family, at work, as a couple. The objective of communication should not always be to agree but rather to enrich ourselves.

Understand that we all have cognitive biases that impact the way we see our surroundings. Being aware that our mind also deceives us helps us better analyze what happens to us.

“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument” – Desmond Tutu

5. Tolerance for ambiguity

What does it tell us and how to enhance it?

  • Tolerance for ambiguity teaches us that starting out losing is not losing. In many situations we have to overcome adverse situations, the Coronavirus is a good example. These situations are a great learning opportunity, to bring out our best version, both individually and collectively.
  • That in times of great uncertainty it is not about making many changes, but about making the right changes.
  • That sometimes giving up is not only an option, but it can be the smartest option.

When there is uncertainty, it is because we are being given the opportunity to have a new project.

6. Control locus

What does it tell us?

That to connect with others we must first connect with ourselves. The greater our internal locus of control, the more tools we have to fight for what we want, to feel that we are in control of our lives.

What to do to enhance it?

  • Focus on what we can control.
  • Understand that discomfort is fundamental to growth. When there is comfort there is hardly any learning.
  • Understand criticism as levers for growth.
  • Be less harsh on ourselves.
  • Ask for help.

“I am the master of my destiny, I am the captain of my soul” – William Ernest Henley

7. Social impact

What does it tell us and how to work it?

  • That our zip code influences our health more than the genetic code.
  • That, despite this, we have the possibility and responsibility to improve our context. Leading is nothing more than improving those around us.
  • That it is not about fleeing towards something better, but about improving what we have; our work, our neighbourhood, our city, our country… It is not necessary to go far to improve our environment, we can all be agents of change.
  • Knowing other good practices encourages us to generate our own. Who do you know in your environment that you find inspiring for what they do? When are you going to invite them to a coffee, even if it is virtual?

When leadership is united with social responsibility, it becomes a weapon of mass construction.

8. Empathy

What does it tell us?

  • That the seven previous traits need an eighth, empathy, to be really effective.
  • What empathy is not putting yourself in another’s skin. It is to understand with what emotionality he is speaking to me.
  • That the first thing to develop our empathy is to want to work on it. And for this, we must be aware that we have to work on it. Self-knowledge is needed.
  • That we think we read the emotions of others well, but in reality we do it very badly.
  • That new technologies and social networks are catalysts for both the positive to generate empathy and the negative to act against it.
  • That the more empathic the leaders are with their workers, the greater their job performance. In the words of Toni Nadal “pressure works when it is accompanied by deep esteem and that is nothing more than empathy”.
  • That to generate an idea we must not start with the problem, we must start with the people. And that is also empathy.

How to enhance it?

  • Being exposed to different contexts, since it allows us to see things hitherto invisible to our eyes, like when we learn a language and suddenly begin to understand things that we did not understand before.
  • Talking to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. One of the aspects that measure our personal and professional development is our ability to relate to people who are very different from us.
  • If it doesn’t come naturally to us, we can fake it until we have it (“fake it ’til you make it”). If I don’t ask, I’m not interested, but if I ask, I might be interested.
  • Being part of a community, a tribe.
  • Comparing ourselves with ourselves. The important thing is not if I consider myself an empathic person or not, but if I think I am more empathetic today than a year ago. It is the advances that give us the motivation to continue improving.

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