Skip to Content

15 Best Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills

Great leaders inspire and motivate their teams to work together and achieve better outcomes.

Developing strong leadership skills is essential for anyone who wants to be successful and advance their career.  Great leadership skills, however, have far reaching impact well beyond the boardroom. 

Opportunities to inspire and motivate other individuals or groups are found throughout personal life as well and the true role of a leader comes in many forms – as teachers, as parents, as coaches and even as friends.

The importance of great leadership skills

Effective leadership not only benefits the organization or group, but a leader with good leadership skills positively impacts the lives of those they manage.  A more effective leader will naturally inspire those around them to create sustainable and meaningful change, leading to a more positive result for all. 

Different leadership styles are found throughout the workplace as well as in everyday life.  But no matter the type of leader, there is an opportunity to make a direct impact and affect positive change.   

Examples of leadership skills

There are a wide range of leadership qualities and skills.  Some of the most important leadership skills discussed in this post include:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Active listening
  • Critical thinking
  • Conflict management
  • Accepting feedback

Focusing on ways to improve even just a few of these key leadership skills will help you to become a more effective leader who naturally inspires those around you to work together and achieve better outcomes.

How to Improve Your Leadership Skills

The first step in becoming a more effective leader is to revisit your own desire and motivation to lead. Great responsibility comes with being at the helm and the journey is filled with bumps as well as celebrations.  Maintaining a strong leadership mindset, one that understands there will be highs and lows, is a key factor in your ability to be successful in further developing good leadership skills. 

Use the list below to become aware of the areas you want to improve upon and commit to practicing these leadership qualities.  Keep focus by developing a personal list of leadership skills you are building and ask a trusted mentor to help you stay accountable.

15 Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills

1. Develop your communication skills

The essential leadership skill of effective communication can be challenging for even the best leaders.  But focusing on a three key points will help keep your messaging relevant, clear, and engaging.  First, know your audience.  Whether you are preparing for a public speaking event or addressing team members in a weekly meeting, consider their preferred method of communication and their level of expertise. 

Second, be present.  In the virtual work environment especially, it’s easier than ever to become distracted, but it is also obvious to your audience when you are not fully engaged.  Remove distractions and offer your full attention.  Third, actively listen.  Leaders solve more problems by listening than speaking.  Make listening to your team members a top priority in your communication plan.  

2. Build your emotional intelligence

Technical skills are important, but they will only carry you so far.  Emotional intelligence is your ability to manage your own responses and emotions as well as influence or manage the responses and emotions of others.  Emotionally intelligent leaders empathize with others and can successfully navigate conflict management, demonstrating leadership qualities of highly effective leaders. 

Building emotional intelligence requires a healthy dose of self-awareness, an empathetic style, and the ability to self-regulate.  These skills can be improved upon by utilizing methods such as journaling, obtaining feedback through leadership assessments and even taking courses.

3. Listen

Strong leadership skills include the ability to actively listen, which helps you become a better problem solver.  Active listening, however, involves more than simply hearing another person’s words.  When you actively listen you are seeking to understand someone’s intent and meaning.  

Recognizing non-verbal cues, such as body language or even the pace and tone of speak, is also an important part of deep listening. Equally as important is to be fully aware of your own non-verbal cues.  A good listener will show signs of interest and presence including maintaining appropriate eye contact, empathy, and patience.

4. Be a critical thinker

At the root of a good business strategy is a solid critical thinker.  Critical thinking is an analytic approach to decision making and problem solving, utilizing available information, and making inferences based on evidence.  Developing your critical thinking skills allows you to set reasonable, purposeful goals which are more likely to be achieved and have positive impact on the organization. 

Improve your critical thinking skills by practicing active listening, questioning assumptions, reasoning through logic, and evaluating different perspectives.

5. Participate in professional development opportunities

A successful leader is one who knows there is always more to learn. Participating in ongoing leadership development activities should be viewed as an essential piece of your leadership role. Leadership courses can be a great way to go at your own pace and sprinkle in different topics throughout the year.  Leadership retreats can offer a more immersive experience, expose you to new ideas and provide an opportunity to grow your professional network.

Participating in professional development activities also demonstrates to your team the value you place on career development.

6. Be a mentor

The benefits of mentorship are often focused on the mentees, but mentors can also reap great reward from these professional relationships.  Mentoring others provides an opportunity for you as a leader to continuously reflect on your own skills and experiences, cultivating more self-awareness and reinforcing your purpose. 

The act of being someone’s trusted advisor also creates a learning opportunity for you as the mentor, as your mentee will bring different perspectives.  Remaining open-minded as you listen to their ideas and opinions will help you grow as a leader.

7. Seek a mentor

Chances are, if you are in a leadership position, you were mentored by someone along the way.  It’s important to recognize, however, that there is no expiration date on the benefits of being mentored.  No matter what level you reach in your career, there will always be a role model to look up to for inspiration and guidance.  Seek out, or continue with, a trusted mentor relationship.

8. Identify your strengths

A high level of self-awareness is critical in leadership.  Understanding and acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses can help you capitalize on where you excel as well as highlight areas that need development.  Focusing on your strengths can produce higher levels of confidence and bring more clarity to your role, resulting in a new appreciation for character traits you may have previously undervalued.  Strength finder assessments are easily accessible online, and some are even free.  The VIA Strengths Finder is free and simple yet provides personal, in-depth analysis alongside actionable tips to apply.

A simple way to ask for feedback about your leadership style is to use open ended questions when speaking with employees such as, “How did it feel when you read the email I sent?” or “What did you hear when I shared our quarterly results?”  There are also a lot of effective, trusted leadership assessment tools that can help to obtain feedback anonymously.

9. Ask for feedback

As a leader your primary role may be to provide feedback to others.  But leaders who truly excel make it a priority to ask for feedback as well.  Employees may not always feel comfortable or eager to provide feedback, especially about their supervisor, so it is important that you encourage them in a way that promotes a safe culture of communication. 

A simple way to ask for feedback about your leadership style is to use open ended questions when speaking with employees such as, “How did it feel when you read the email I sent?” or “What did you hear when I shared our quarterly results?”  There are also a lot of effective, trusted leadership assessment tools that can help to obtain feedback anonymously.

10. Motivate meaningfully

The ability to motivate your team members around a common goal or purpose is crucial to achieving result.  One thing leaders can sometimes overlook, however, is how to motivate meaningfully.  The phrase “motivate meaningfully” simply means to motivate in a way that speaks to the individual and what is important to them.  If you were to ask each one your team members what motivates them, you will likely receive a mixed response.

Often the assumption is made that staff are financially motivated, but that’s not always the case.  Some employees may be motivated by the opportunity to learn a new skill, the promise of a more flexible schedule or increased PTO time.  It’s important to understand what motivates your team members so you can encourage them in a way that is meaningful to them.

11. Roll up your sleeves

Perhaps the most effective way to gain a better understanding of your staff members workday experience and day-to-day tasks is to jump in and work alongside of them.  It can go a long way towards developing your empathy skills and allows you to show appreciation to your team in a different way.  You also have a first hand view into how certain processes come to life, which can lead to more efficiencies in solving potential problems down the road.

12. Practice empathy

Empathy, a key component of emotional intelligence, is arguably one of the most important soft skills to have in a leadership role.  It is also one of the most difficult leadership skills to improve, largely because understanding it and transforming it into actual behaviors are two very different things. 

But the value in further developing an empathetic style, one in which allows you to deeply understand someone else’s needs and wants, will allow you to grow other important leadership abilities such as negotiating deals, motivating teams, and increasing employee engagement.

13. Recognize others

Whether it’s a group of people or an individual contributor, make time to recognize and reward your team members.  A true leader will always be seeking different ways to lift up and identify future leaders to help move them forward.  While achieving result through hard work and commitment is an obvious accomplishment to recognize, don’t forget to reward the soft skills as well, such as having a positive attitude.

14. Demonstrate conflict management

Disputes and disagreements can push people out of their comfort zone.  The ability to mediate and resolve these types of differences through conflict resolution is a vital leadership skill.  Tactfully handling difficult situations in a way that is constructive and leads to positive result is viewed as an art among those in leadership roles. 

One of the best ways to work on building stronger conflict management skills is to first remember to pause and take a step back.  Pause long enough to listen so that you can recognize the true conflict or root cause.  Practice self-regulation of your own emotions and remain calm.  Consider taking a Master Class led by various business luminaries as a fun way to further develop conflict resolution skills.

15. Communicate a clear vision

A clear vision is one that is strategically connected to the team or organization and provides a distinct view of the future or bigger picture. Good leaders will have a well-communicated vision that compels support and a following. Conveying a clear picture of what is to come can help to motivate and inspire groups, paving the way for your team to achieve great success.

Becoming a better leader

Solid leadership is built on good leadership skills.  If you want to develop more effective leadership skills, identify the qualities above that you want to focus on building and create actions to support improvement.  Maintain a good leadership mindset along the way and you will become a better leader.