Good leaders invest so much time in making their employees better that they sometimes neglect one important thing: themselves.
Leadership and management skills need honing. Yet many women in charge get busy and forgo efforts to stay sharp.
You want to take charge of your own development. (After all, your boss probably doesn’t have time to coordinate it all for you, either.)
Of course, you want to embrace the training and career development your company and industry offers.
Beyond that, here’s how you can take the reins and improve your leadership skills.
1. Make time
The best leaders continuously learn about what’s relevant to their personal and organizational success – business operations, employee needs, industry trends, new management tools. Allocate time at least weekly to broaden your knowledge in those important areas.
Try these quick-shot training tools:
- Watch a relevant TED Talk two mornings a week (they’re only about 15 minutes).
- Listen to niche podcasts on your commute.
- Subscribe to industry-specific news and blogs via Feedly or Digg Reader.
2. Boost your Emotional Intelligence
Research shows women tend to react more emotionally than men, and we need to keep that kind of emotion in check: Displaying extreme ends of emotions – stoic or frantic, for example – can be a leadership detriment.
On the other hand, women in leadership want to develop their Emotional Intelligence (EI) – which is the ability to control and express your own emotions and properly respond to others’ emotions. Showing a high level of EI is a research-proven sign of a great leader.
One way to improve EI: Practice observing how you and others feel. Between meetings, jot down or just think about the emotions you felt or others expressed – and possibly the effect they had on what happened.
It will help you become even more effective at “reading” emotions and acting appropriately on them in future, similar situations.
3. Communicate with sincerity
There’s a difference between relaying news and sharing information to nurture growth – and great leaders do the latter.
For instance, when leaders pass information up and down the chain of command they want to include the relevance – how it affects people emotionally and professionally. As a leader, you might give details on a new initiative that stretches your organization into a different market. Then you’ll want to explain how short-term extra work will likely lead to heightened stress and eventually new career opportunities.
Another best practice: Reflect on and share business lessons you’ve learned with your employees. Your mistakes can help them avoid similar situations and help you recall unique ways to overcome adversity.
4. Practice decisiveness
No leader makes all the right decisions. But every leader can become more decisive and on-target by taking these steps before settling on a decision:
- Gather information and data
- Look at past decisions
- Get several points of view, and
- Consider multiple options.
5. Be inspired
Almost every leader who reaches the top still looks to someone else for inspiration. Former GE CEO Jack Welch credits his mother, Grace, for much of his business sense. Hillary Clinton praises Eleanor Roosevelt.
Yet most managers graduate from mentor programs, become mentors themselves and then have no one to turn to.
That leaves it on you to informally work with a trusted boss or colleague to identify skill gaps and growth opportunities.
Good leaders coach and train when necessary.
Better leaders do that with a focus on inspiring their employees.
Here are two ways you can inspire those who work for you:
- When you critique, offer actionable options for people to try, and emphasize your confidence in their ability to manage it.
- Emphasize the big picture. People aren’t inspired to work because they’re directed to do it. Remind them of the value their efforts add to the company, customers and colleagues.
One of the best career investments women leaders can make is in their own development. Despite a busy schedule, it’s important to invest time at least weekly into improving your skills so you can manage people and projects better.