Professional Development | May 1, 2019

5 Ways to Become a More Effective Leader This Summer


You’d be forgiven for thinking that leaders are everywhere. From politicians to business owners, or even club or class presidents, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that there is always someone just waiting to step into a role when they’re needed. The thing is, leaders only appear to be all around us because they have such a large impact on our lives, and great leaders aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as you might assume.

The Leadership Crisis

According to the Development Dimensions International (DDI) 2018 Global Leadership Forecast, the top priority of business executives worldwide is developing the next generation of leaders. More than 25,000 individuals were surveyed from 2,488 organizations, with the diverse group of perspectives lending considerable weight to the findings.

The development of future leaders was seen as a bigger challenge than other pressing issues such as cyber-security, slowing economic growth, a global recession and global political uncertainty, illustrating that there is a definite shortage of leadership in the business world. The other problems are certainly complex, but with the inspiration and innovation that comes from effective leaders, almost anything can be overcome.

More than Managers

No matter what career options you’re considering, if you’re thinking that your job prospects don’t ask for much in the way of leadership capabilities, hold the phone. Leaders aren’t just desirable in obvious positions such as management-level roles. According to national IT staffing agency Mondo, leaders are better at integrating into a new job, meaning they can hit the ground running and be more productive in less time. They also get along with colleagues, meaning they collaborate better and inspire others to do their best. And one more thing – since they’re leaders themselves, they don’t need to be led. Leaders push themselves to achieve more without needing their hands held, which is a trait that managers value highly.

Contrary to popular belief, leadership isn’t just an inherent quality. It’s a skill that, when consciously practiced, will develop and improve over time. The problem is, while almost everyone recognizes the importance of strong leadership skills, they’re rarely taught in an academic setting. With that in mind, here are five ways to take matters into your own hands and focus on becoming a more effective leader.


1. Lead a democracy

Totalitarian leadership doesn’t work, and Eisenhower succinctly summed up why: “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” True leaders ignore hierarchy and maintain a posture of humility, recognizing that everyone has something to contribute and that the best ideas can come from the most unlikely places.


2. Include everyone

At this point, most people have come to recognize inclusivity as morally just. What’s becoming increasingly clear, however, is that it has numerous performance benefits as well. In a Harvard Business Review study, researchers found that companies whose leaders exhibited both inherent diversity (traits you’re born with) and acquired diversity (traits you gain from experience) were almost 50 percent more likely to increase market share. When a leader includes diverse viewpoints, his or her team is better equipped to interact with the rest of the world.


3. Make mistakes

Leaders make mistakes, too. In fact, they make more mistakes than their peers – only they know better than to view it that way. It reportedly took Thomas Edison more than ten thousand attempts before he developed the filament needed for a viable light bulb, but he viewed these failed efforts a little differently, saying “I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Leaders aren’t afraid to make mistakes because they know mistakes can be far more enlightening in the long run.


4. Welcome evaluation

When you’ve done well on an essay or exam, it’s easy to look at the feedback. Everyone wants to read a glowing evaluation of their performance. When you’ve done poorly, it’s far easier to stuff the assignment in the bottom of your bag and never look at it again. Leaders know the importance of feedback, and they know that critical evaluation is even more valuable than a positive report. To become a more well-rounded individual, you need to focus on your weaknesses instead of your strengths.


5. Set goals

Leaders know that if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. Striving for improvement is a great start, but to ensure progress you need metrics by which to measure it. Goals serve to keep your efforts focused and deliberate, and they’re the best way to determine when you’re on track or when you’re missing the mark. Whatever goals you set, don’t stop there. Without a plan to achieve it, a goal is no more than wishful thinking. Having a step by step path to success will keep you accountable the moment you veer off course, and it will help make even the loftiest goals seem far more attainable.

The leadership crisis is real. In The Mind of the Leader, authors Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter point out a stark disparity: more than three-quarters of business leaders think they’re engaging their employees, but almost 90 percent of employees find their leaders disengaging – in fact, an astounding 65 percent of employees said they would pass on a raise just to see their leaders get fired.

That may be tough news for current leaders to swallow, but it’s not all bad. The lack of leadership in business provides young people entering the workforce with an opportunity to fill the void. Not only will exercising your leadership capabilities make you a more valuable employee, it will make you more fulfilled in everything you undertake. The best part is, you can practice being a better leader in almost any setting. Whether you’re at work, playing on a sports team, or collaborating in the classroom on a group project, any time you interact with other people you have an opportunity to lead more mindfully. No matter what stage you’re in, start practicing leadership now and honing this skill – it will serve you well for the rest of your life.