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How to Develop Leadership Skills

Some people are natural-born leaders, while others struggle to effectively manage, influence and support their employees. There’s sometimes a perception that a working mother can’t be a strong leader because of competing priorities, but that’s not true, says Hank Boyer, CEO of Boyer Management Group in Holland, Pennsylvania. While an excellent track record of handling responsibilities before you have children helps solidify her position as a leader, he says, a woman can also work on developing her leadership skills through self-reflection and targeted effort.

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Identify Your Leadership Personality

The first step is to determine which type of leader you would like to be. Alan Murray discusses what he calls the six styles of leadership in "The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management," reporting the ideas author Daniel Goleman presents in his book "Primal Leadership." Visionary style leaders push a team toward a new goal, coaching style improves employee performance, and affiliative style emphasizes teamwork. The democratic style uses collective team wisdom, pace-setting style promotes high standards, and commanding style is a military-type leadership. Ask yourself what your goals are for the organization and what your expectations are for the employees who you’re leading. If you have a good relationship with your co-workers, ask others how they see you as a leader to help you figure out how you’re most effective.

Determine Where You Can Improve

A good leader identifies her weaknesses and makes a plan to develop and improve those areas. Ask yourself some critical questions: Are you a good problem-solver? Do you communicate effectively? Do you appreciate other perspectives and opinions? Do you help to coach others to perform their best? You might determine that you excel at mentoring employees, but you need more work on accepting their unique perspectives and ideas.

Look for Learning Opportunities

Developing your leadership skills isn’t all about looking inward; it's also about seeking out relevant education. “Employer training programs can offer assistance” in developing leadership skills, Boyer says. “Tuition-assistance programs can help defray the cost of an MBA in leadership or management programs.” He also suggests enrolling in self-paced educational opportunities such as free online open courses. “I think the key here is to develop a plan before jumping in, which means researching options, identifying what activities will produce the desired outcomes.” At the same time, you can develop leadership skills by growing your knowledge and passion for the industry by continuing your professional development. When you become intimately knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the company or career field, you have a greater chance of becoming a leader in the industry.

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Seek Out Feedback

A strong leader grows and learns with her team, notes “Industry Leaders” magazine. Join your team for training sessions and workshops, even if you think you won’t learn anything new. Ask for feedback from trusted team members, both at the beginning of your supervisory relationship and after some time, noting both their expectations of you as a leader and how you've performed. Meet with all members regularly to discuss their goals and the overall goals of the organization. When the employee reaches his goals, reward them appropriately so he feels appreciated and encouraged to continue to grow.

Photo via monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

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