Regardless of your educational background and career preferences, you will always have to develop good leadership skills. Ultimately, wherever you work, there will come a time when there are people who look up to you for guidance and direction. Therefore, it is in your best interest to work on acquiring good leadership skills.
There are some people who are born with an innate leadership ability, but leadership is also a trait that can be acquired. College is one of the best places to develop leadership skills. Your primary focus has to be on your studies, but keep an eye out for different things that can help you become a good leader. Leading isn’t about dictating; a good leader forms and sells the vision that is sought by their followers. They inspire, motivate and facilitate.
This perspective also means that teachers have a responsibility to impart these skills to their students so they can do well in their careers.
How education fosters leadership
Whether you are a high school student, a college freshman or a post-grad working to acquire another degree, it is never too late to learn something new. If you haven’t already picked up on leadership qualities, here is how you can get started.
Communication is perhaps the top skill you will need to master in order to be an effective leader in the future. Do you actively take part in classroom discussions? If not, start doing so because it will help you overcome the hesitation you feel. You should share your opinions about the topics that are being taught in the class. There are times when teachers actually encourage meaningful contribution to the class lecture. You should also ask questions so you have opportunities to communicate with your teacher and practice this skill.
Don’t be afraid to receive some constructive criticism from your seniors or teachers. If you are in a setting where there are good extracurricular activities available, try to spend time with people who you believe are influential and have good leadership skills.
If you have any teachers you admire, talk to them during your free time to see how you can improve your leadership qualities. It is okay if the initial feedback makes it seem like you have a lot of work to do; after all, your race is with yourself, not anyone else
Reading is important because leaders have the knowledge that helps other people grow. Choose a topic of interest and read up on it as much as you can; this is how you will develop an interest in reading if you don’t already enjoy it. Once you know a fair amount about the topic at hand, find forums online to participate in and share your take on it. You can also have these discussions in person with people at school. Show that you are a well-rounded individual by sharing your knowledge.
If you already have a career path selected, try to read as much as you can about the industry in question. This will enable you to provide valuable insight when talking to different professionals and will make you a credible source of information.
Courses and degrees
There are numerous courses you can take to develop leadership skills. It may be a skill that is best learned when practiced, but it still helps to study it formally in an educational setting. There are many generic courses that have no prerequisites, which means anyone can sign up. There are also degree and career-specific leadership programs that can help propel you into a strong leadership role at your workplace.
For example, if you work as a registered nurse and you now want to take over a much more demanding and senior leadership role at work, you can get a DNP in strategic leadership. This will equip you with the skills you need to direct and guide younger nurses at work. Spring Arbor University has an excellent online program that offers flexible study options.
Trust other people
How many bad experiences did you have in school related to group projects? Many students resent working in random groups because of the mistrust between group members. The group leader may turn out to be a condescending know-it-all, one or two of the group members may end up flaking on their responsibilities, and there is often one student who gives their absolute best but still gets a bad grade because of the dysfunction of the group overall.
The next time you have an opportunity to lead a project, empower people to use their judgment and skills without breathing down their necks. Show that you, as the leader, believe in them and want the best for everyone involved. Give the people room to speak their minds freely and allow them the chance to make mistakes so they can learn from them. You won’t be a good leader if you just tell them what to do.
Being proactive is a good skill to master if you aspire to be a good leader. If you have the habit of procrastinating in everything you do, you won’t be able to inspire other people to give their best.
Try to improve one thing at a time. Start by doing your homework as soon as you get home so you have time to do other things later. Make to-do lists so you can keep a track of your progress. Study on time for exams so you don’t have to be stressed out during finals. Finish your chores on time so they don’t pile up at the end of the day. Just take small measures to practice becoming a more proactive individual.
As a leader, you will have to appear confident, and that means you will actually have to be confident. Keep in mind that being a confident person doesn’t mean you have to have everything figured out or that you have to be the best or the most informed. Being confident means that you have a belief in your abilities to learn and to grow.
There will be times when you fail and there will be times when you don’t have any idea how to proceed in a situation, but you can’t let any of that hold you back. Your followers will have as much belief in your abilities as you do.
If you lack confidence as an individual, work on improving yourself. Learn a new instrument, language, hobby or anything to expand your pool of knowledge and skills. Try to reflect and understand why you feel a lack of confidence so you can work toward re-learning things and improving your self-esteem. Try to become a more active member of different clubs at school. Step outside of your comfort zone to build your confidence with people.
Creativity and innovation
Leaders are often required to come up with solutions in situations that seem hopeless. Some outside-of-the-box thinking is required to keep things afloat. As a leader, you should hone your creativity when it comes to handling tough situations. Don’t mistake creativity for being good with arts and crafts and aesthetics; as long as you train your mind to conjure up unorthodox or different solutions to emerging problems in your area of work, you are creative.
Keep in mind that a leader will have to assess a situation and determine whether innovation is needed; some solutions are best kept traditional and routine.
The bottom line
Being a leader is something nearly everyone experiences, both inside and outside of professional settings. Although there is no such thing as the perfect leader, it is always possible to improve these qualities. Keep in mind that there are always going to be people who rely on you to succeed.
Whether you have a business of your own or you are working for someone else, you will always have to step up as a leader at some point if you want to drive success. Don’t be afraid to work on acquiring the skills you need to make that happen!