The adage “behind every great man is a woman” has been around for a long time. But in today’s business world, there’s a saying that’s much more modern and apropos: Behind every great team leader – male or female – is another great team leader. And who knows what each might go on to achieve?
A business leader isn’t necessarily the senior-most executive of an organization. Leaders can be found at every level, equipped with the behaviors and skills that it takes to bring teams of people together and motivate them to do what it takes to achieve business success. Effective teams are instrumental to creating world-class businesses. But developing the capabilities to lead them is the challenge.
The starting point is a self-assessment to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. That’s the way to determine where the gaps lie and identifying what soft and hard skills need to be developed or improved to bridge them.
It begins with a big-picture assessment focusing on the type of leader you are. There are problem solvers, for example. Others are more oriented toward helping people coalesce around common goals and needs. And maybe you see yourself one way – but do others share that view?
Take a look at how you interact with others to uncover where you shine and where you don’t. When it comes to your peers or co-workers, for example, are you empathetic to their feelings and thinking, their opinions and point of view? And do you make the effort to help them shine and grow? And consider your own orientation – your willingness to accept responsibility or to explore new ideas or approaches to your work. How effectively you communicate is a critical skill to assess as is your strength at solving problems.
The evaluation should give you a good idea of areas to work on, but developing a plan that identifies specific strategies will be important to guiding your path forward. Formal leadership training is definitely something to look at as a means of adding structure to your self-improvement program. Many business schools offer this in some form, and in both the online or traditional setting. Plus, coursework that results in a credential such as an executive certificate will burnish your standing.
Such programs offer concentrations in different aspects of leadership that will always come into play. Techniques to acquire basic skills in decision-making and conflict resolution, for example, form the backbone of foundational leadership programs. Others look at common leadership challenges. They place participants at the crossroads of tactics and strategy and give them the perspective necessary to understand and respond to the kinds of situations that arise in today’s uncertain and complex business environment. A third area of focus, strategic leadership, places an emphasis on planning and foresight and how these capabilities synthesize to drive success.
The final step – and, of course, the crux of the matter – is that of implementing what you have learned by challenging your team and motivating them to new levels of success.
That should result in empowered team members who contribute to the outcome of projects that engage and excite them. They will run with their assigned tasks and hold themselves accountable for their work, even with minimal oversight.
Meanwhile, you will keep projects moving forward because everyone knows the goal, as well as their roles and responsibilities. Your decision-making can remain simple and straightforward, the buck stopping with you, ultimately leaving your organization far better off for your contributions.