Leading the way: 7 essential skills that all inspiring leaders share

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It’s one thing to have the title of ‘Manager’, ‘Senior...’, and even ‘Director’, but leadership is a totally different ball game.

A leader is someone who motivates their team — and even their peers — to do and achieve more. A really great leader may just inspire someone to become a better version of themselves. 

Learning to lead isn’t as simple as reading a guidebook or even a blog (although we will try to help). You’ll need to put what you read here into action to truly develop your leadership skills — but where you should get started?

7 skills you’ll want to develop to become an inspiring leader

  1. Stellar, purposeful communication 

Leaders show rather than tell. They inspire rather than instruct. And a lot of that influence comes down to their style of communication. 

Think that being a great communicator is about being the loudest in the room or the one who talks most often? Think again. Communication is one part speaking and one part listening too.

Research from leadership consultancy, Zenger Folkman, goes so far as to say that leaders who prefer listening over speaking are rated significantly higher for leadership effectiveness. 

Be purposeful in your communication — maintain eye contact, respond to body language, and mirror emotions and nonverbal cues in a way that puts others at ease. The way you communicate has the power to bring people onside or not. When your colleagues and peers feel heard and understood, they’ll respond in kind with loyalty and hard work.

  1. An attitude of gratitude

Speaking of which, a true leader understands and appreciates the value of their team. They are aware that success isn’t a solo sport — that everyone involved plays a role in reaching the finish line, and so deserves credit for their involvement as well.

Recognition in the workplace makes people feel valued, but it’s also powerful intrinsic motivation. When a leader shows gratitude to their team, it inspires greater engagement and productivity. It’ll also increase employee loyalty and lead to higher retention.

In fact, recognition is such a potent form of motivation that many people find it more rewarding than monetary rewards.

  1. Authenticity above all else

Think about the people who inspire you: what is it about them that appeals? Sure, they’re probably hard workers and they’re almost certainly great at what they do. But more often than not, they’re also unashamedly real. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Oprah Winfrey. Bill Gates. Need we say more?

Being vocal about your struggles — and the many hurdles you’ve probably overcome — helps build meaningful connections with those around you. Anyone can puff out their chest and aggrandize their goals, but it takes genuine courage to just open up. And that’s incredibly inspiring for people to see.

  1. The courage to fail

Do you shy away from risk or run towards it open-armed? 

They say that risk-taking is an inherent trait of all entrepreneurs and that’s probably true to some degree. After all, in your role pushing the business forward, you’ll need to view failure as a part of success — and be willing to take a risk without the guarantee of a reward. 

Let’s not get confused between courage and recklessness, though. Inspiring leaders use the lessons embedded in their failures to teach others. And by taking ownership of their mistakes, show their employees they are just as human as anyone else.

  1. Approachability

Are you familiar with the term ‘psychological safety’? If not, you need to look it up

Leaders can help create a psychologically safe working environment — where everyone feels able to be themselves, to take strategic risk, and bite off more than they can chew — by simply being approachable. 

A ‘my door is always open’ policy is great to have, but how much do you act on it? Do you ask for upward feedback and happily answer anyone’s questions? Approachable leaders elevate many areas of the business including higher productivity, higher workplace satisfaction, and most importantly higher employee retention.

  1. Inclusiveness

Amazing things can happen when people feel united under a shared objective. But not everyone you meet will feel like they naturally fit in. 

Inspiring leaders work hard to get to know their teams and respect individual differences. It’s only by doing so that you can empathize with and include everyone. This can prove equally beneficial for motivating your colleagues but also when solving conflict. As soon as your team can move past “I” and “me” to “us” and “we”, you know you’re in exciting territory indeed.

  1. Passion, passion, passion

Last, but certainly not least, passion is the most important quality an inspirational leader should embody. How can you expect other people to commit to an idea if you’re not fully committed yourself?

Employees are 39% more likely to be engaged and passionate about the work they produce if their leadership team is equally as engaged. Are you sending out a message of shared purpose and team spirit — “we’re all in this together” — or are you distant, “sat up top”, and away from those you rely on day in and day out?

Leadership isn’t easy, but you’ve got the skills to make it work

Feeling ready to flex those leadership skills to inspire your colleagues and friends? We know you’ve got what it takes.

Check in with the rest of the Premier Financial Alliance blog for more pep talk content and other inspiring stories.