10 Things You Need to Work On to Be a Leader

A lot of people think they are natural leaders, when they probably aren’t. It’s not easy to take on a leadership position even if you’re thrown into one at work after a sudden promotion. You have to work on a daily basis to become the right type of leader that will succeed. Here are ten things you need to work on to be a leader:

1. Keep learning because you don’t know it all. No one knows it all and you can always learn from other leaders within your company. Emulate some of their leadership styles and ask them to mentor you. Read leadership articles on blogs, business websites and follow famous world leaders on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. You will develop your own leadership style over time, as you receive feedback from both your peers and direct reports.

2. Over communicate. Many leaders think they are communicating the right way with their team but many leaders end up failing because they haven’t used the right medium or didn’t set proper expectations. Sit down with your team and agree upon deliverables and the medium in which you communicate, such as email or social networking. Instead of sending a few sentences in an email, it might be more beneficial to write a longer paragraph so that there are fewer emails back and forth. After you ask someone on your team to do a project, find out if they have any questions immediately so you know that they can handle the work.

3. Share credit. It’s easy for a leader to get caught up in their role. Many start to develop a big ego and start taking credit for the work of their reports. This can really count against them in the long term because their employees won’t be motivated and will want to leave. When more employees leave, it signals to the higher ups that there’s something wrong with the leader, which could result in termination. You should always bring members of your team up with you because they can support your rise in the corporation.

4. Don’t micromanage. One of the biggest challenges leaders have is that they want to continue to do all the work because they got their position that way. Micromanaging doesn’t work because you end up stressed out and not having enough time to execute projects at the highest level. Instead of trying to do everything, distribute that work evenly amongst the team such that each project plays into their own unique strengths. You should be overseeing the completion of the work from afar and having weekly check-ins to make sure it’s complete and on time but nothing more.

5. Accept the right criticism. Don’t take criticism to heart or it will bring you down. Instead, analyze all the criticism you get and do a self-assessment. Some of the criticism will be true and useful and some will be based on jealousy. Think about where the criticism is coming from and what it’s based on. Then, incorporate the right criticism into your daily leadership habits so that you improve.

6. Set clear expectations for your employees. When you don’t set expectations, you don’t get the results you want. Instead of holding back, and under-communicating, put it all right out there for your team. Tell them upfront what is expected of them, how they can accomplish the tasks and when they should check in. This way, you are creating a protocol that they can follow so they meet your expectations, and hopefully exceed them.

7. Adapt to change. Change is constant and for a leader it means that you need to adapt yourself to new people and work situations. You might be pushed into a new role in a different department or have to hire a new employee. You might not be able to implement the same leadership techniques with these new situations and people so you have to adapt to them. Some might need more direction than others, while others might be more independent instead of collaborative.

8. Be a good listener. Leaders can get ahead of themselves by always talking and trying to push people in one direction or another. Instead of doing that, listen to what other people are saying around you. Listen before you speak because you have more data and thoughts to go by. If you are speaking all the time, people will feel like you don’t care about what they have to say either.

9. Train and develop the people around you. In order to better distribute work and start positioning yourself for bigger roles at your company, you have to train your people. There’s really no other way to do it! Since you’re the leader, you know what skills they need. Start teaching them those skills and explaining to them how to best use the skills to help both yourself and your company push forward.

10. Hold yourself accountable. At the end of the day, it’s on you to make sure you are delivering your best work. If your team isn’t performing, then it’s your fault. If you aren’t leading them, then don’t expect them to perform at the highest level. Invest in your own personal training and development, while supporting your team. Take responsibility for your actions and don’t place them on the team.

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Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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