Successful CEOs pride themselves on their leadership skills. One of the most notable business leaders is Seah Moon Ming, CEO of Singapore’s public transport company, SMRT. Ming once led two companies at once, Pavilion Energy and SMRT. But in 2017, he relinquished his position in Pavilion Energy so that he could focus on resolving his transport company’s issues during that period. His decision made it into international news outlets, with the media praising his actions because he took accountability instead of apportioning the blame to others.
CEOs like Seah Moon Ming show that to be a great leader, you sometimes have to make sacrifices. Effective leadership isn’t always determined by how many people or organizations you can manage at once. There would be times when you have to focus on one person alone, for example, because that person only has your guidance to push them through a challenge. If you leave them behind because you’re “too busy”, then you’ve already failed to fulfill your role as a leader.
Sadly, many people who call themselves leaders but don’t realize that they’re more of a boss than a genuine leader. They tend to attribute their ways to their “strong personalities”, or “no-nonsense attitude”. But in reality, they just didn’t develop the right leadership skills that will empower their organizations.
But it’s not yet too late for them, nor for anyone who hasn’t developed their leadership skills yet. This guide can draw out the leader in you.
Reason to Develop Leadership Skills
Leadership skills are among the top skills companies are seeking from candidates. If you’re applying for a managerial role, the skills are non-negotiable. Even if you’re only applying for a non-managerial role, you’ll eventually need some leadership skills in order to progress in your career path.
The following skills, when combined, result in the most effective leadership:
- Delegating tasks
- Providing Feedback
It can take time to develop all of those skills, and sometimes, you’d have one or two weak areas. But what’s important is that you took steps to learn them, and to apply them in real-life situations, especially difficult ones.
Leader Vs. Boss
Again, being a boss isn’t the same as being a leader. You may technically be a boss if you’re a manager of a company, but your attitude shouldn’t match that of a boss than of a true leader.
First off, a boss commands, while a leader influences. If you impose rules on your team and expect them to follow without question, you’re not truly leading them. But if you pose a good example and demonstrate how you follow rules, you’ll encourage your team to do the same, not out of fear, but out of your good influence.
Secondly, a boss explains, while a leader inspires. While explaining in itself isn’t bad, it may not be enough to teach a task to a teammate. You can’t just explain a procedure and expect the person to understand it completely without help. Instead, you have to guide and support them every step of the way, until they become confident enough to work on their own.
Thirdly, a boss disciplines, while a leader mentors. Though discipline is a critical life skill, it can sometimes be born out of fear, and thus result in authoritarian behaviors. So instead of simply reprimanding employees for their mistakes, encourage them to learn, and believe that they’d do better from now on.
Fourthly, a boss delegates tasks, while a leader delegates authority. When you guide and inspire your team, they can function efficiently even if you’re absent. They don’t simply handle your tasks for you; they can carry the team in your absence.
Lastly, a boss is above the team, while a leader is part of the team. You shouldn’t see yourself as a figure of authority alone. Instead, you should be a mentor, but one that is equal to your team members. You take on challenges together, share failures, and share victories. You don’t take all the credit when your team succeeds.
Developing Leadership Skills
Re-learning or developing leadership skills is surprisingly simple. Start by improving your listening skills. It will make you an excellent communicator. Then work on your critical thinking, discipline, delegations, motivation, and problem-solving skills. Every time you deal with a team member, remember the distinction between a boss and a leader.
Are you responding the way a leader would? If you find yourself acting more like a boss, go back to learning the ways of a true leader. Adjust your personality, and constantly work on improving yourself, until real leadership becomes second nature to you.
Don’t be afraid of failure; the most successful leaders have a trail of mistakes in their wake. But they used them as stepping stones to reach their greatest leadership potential.