It’s no secret that the world is changing and we, as leaders, must change with it. At first, this may sound daunting; what happens to all of the skills we’ve spent our lives honing? Are they useless now? Of course not! The key to success in changing times is to update your leadership skills and use them in an innovative way. Here are some tips to update your leadership skills.

Shift Your Mindset

Start by realizing that leadership is not about charisma, dressing snappy, or giving captivating speeches. Leadership is not something you’re born to. Leadership is something you must continuously learn.

While charisma, a good sense of style, and the ability to captivate an audience certainly helps, the reality is simple:

Great leaders shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

What does that mean to you? It means you need to learn leadership skills the same way you might learn to be a programmer, to be an accountant, or to be a lawyer. It means you must embrace a growth mindset, understanding that every day is an opportunity to learn something new from everyone around you. Just as accountants and programmers are always learning something new, leaders should always be learning.

Practice, Practice, Practice

No one knows who originated the line, but there’s an old joke about someone asking for directions to Carnegie Hall in New York City. The answer given was, “practice, practice, practice.” This is true for leaders as well. No matter who you are and how long you’ve had leadership as a job responsibility, leadership skills are best honed through constant practice.

Practice, however, is more than just “do it” again and again. Practice is about doing something and then evaluating your performance. As a musician myself, this meant not only practicing a song, but listening to a recording of my performance, identifying areas where I could improve, and trying again.

As a trainer, I sometimes record my classes and then go back and listen to how I taught the class. Was I clear and easy to understand? Did I explain the material properly? Did I answer questions fully? Was I interesting to listen to? Even if I did everything well, I’m still looking for things I could improve next time.

Leadership is no different. When you ask for feedback on your performance from an employee, you should take a lot of notes. After, review what you heard from the employee and how comfortable they seemed sharing it. Evaluate what you plan to do with the feedback. At the same time, look for ways to improve HOW you asked for the feedback.

Keep a Journal

Start writing a journal about what you’ve done as a leader. Every day, take notes on actions you took, thoughts on how you could do better, and new skills you want to learn. You’ll benefit from journaling in a number of ways that are good for you as a person AND a leader. In a 2006 study, people who journaled saw the biggest reduction in symptoms like depression, anxiety, and hostility, particularly if they were very distressed to begin with. This was true even though 80 percent had seldom journaled about their feelings and only 61 percent were comfortable doing so.

Keeping a journal will be one of the most effective ways you can use to hone your skills and continually improve. Many people mock journaling without trying it. Don’t be one of those people. Try something new.

As your work day ends, review who you spoke with. What feedback did you give and how was it received? What feedback did you ask for, how was it given, and what do you want to do with it? If a crisis occurred during the day, how did you handle it and what could you do differently? Did you go through the day exemplifying the values of your team and organization or did you slip and get frustrated or speak poorly about a customer or colleague?

Plan Time to Learn

The work of business moves at such a pace today that learning has been sacrificed to “get more REAL work done.” The unfortunate cost of putting learning last on the list of priorities is a gross stagnation of skills. No improvement. No learning. In fact, even the organizational culture eventually changes, as the employee population becomes made up of people who are not interested in learning anything else – no growth, no innovation, no imagination. Employees are leaving organizations like this in droves right now (see my blog post on The Great Resignation).

Don’t be one of those people (a friend of mine calls them “RIPs” – “retired in place”). By making a little time in your schedule to learn new leadership skills on an ongoing basis you will

  1. Become a great leader faster
  2. Influence your organization to be more successful through your leadership
  3. Set an example for continuous learning
  4. Prove that learning (investing in yourself) is crucial to good business success

Set aside two hours every week to learn something new. Sound impossible? They don’t have to be consecutive. Check out my calendar for a day in April in 2021.

Take a look at the beginning of my day. From 8-9 am (that day, sometimes its earlier), I do my exercise and reading (sometimes simultaneously). I try to get about 30 minutes of reading in every morning (which adds up to between 2 and 3 hours a week). This works best for me as I learn and retain information best early in the morning.

It doesn’t always happen that way, however. Sometimes the reading might not happen because I attend a one hour webinar during the day. Sometimes I attend a half-day or full-day training event that replaces the 30 minutes of reading. Sometimes I’m teaching all day.

The key is that continuous learning is a major priority for me. It doesn’t get ignored because there’s too much to do. Learning is an investment in yourself and your team.

“Just Do As I Say”

It’s a common question. “I already know what needs to be done,” weak leaders say, “It’s easier to just tell people what to do.”

True. And short sighted. The world is changing every day and, with it, the workforce. Unlike the generations before them, Millennials (1981-1996) and Gen-Z workers prefer continuous feedback. They are always looking for advice and ways to improve.

When leaders don’t treat employees as they want to be treated, a toxic mix of unclear expectations, unrealized goals, and “do as I say” leadership develops. As we’ve seen recently, when the culture turns toxic, employees quit (see my blog post on The Great Resignation).

Yes, skilled leadership makes a difference.

Let us Help

We at Artisan want to help build modern leaders. We want to help you

  1. Put an end to people quitting because they hate their jobs.
  2. Enjoy leading and learning at the same time.
  3. Create environments where people can be challenged, innovative, and excited about their jobs.

I’ve spent more than 30 years leading and learning and the last couple years building Artisan Agility’s The Leadership Edge training system.

Join our growing community of inspired, modern leaders. Register for The Leadership Edge and begin your journey today!