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10 Crucial Leadership Lessons We Don’t Learn at School

A high GPA doesn't make anyone a leader. Instead, valuable experiences and relationships do.

leadership lessons

We’ve all been to school. But that doesn’t mean we are all ready to face the workplace challenges. Math and writing skills, for example, are important in many professions. However, being in a leadership position means your skills must be sharp to create the best work environment possible for your employees and the company.

Not all of these skills are taught and developed in a classroom. In fact, some of them take years of practice. Whether you finished high school, earned a bachelor’s degree, or even completed your master’s, there are some skills you didn’t learn. However, your job performance, organization, and overall effectiveness as a leader will benefit from your efforts to learn these 10 essential skills. 

1. Be Okay With the Idea of Failure

In school, we receive letter grades and percentages to measure accomplishments and progress. It’s easy to view the mark you receive as the sole determiner of your success. Grades, however, aren’t the best way to measure learning. 

Many times, you will learn a lot through failure. An inability to accept the possibility of failure can be damaging. 

Sometimes, when people are too afraid to fail, they develop an emotional block that slows productivity and discourages them from trying new ideas. This type of mentality will weigh organizations down. 

However, when people accept the possibility of failure as part of the learning process, they’re able to work through problems more quickly. This means that success comes faster and more often. 

2. To Inspire Others Through Powerful Communication

You might have taken a few speech and communication classes in school, and this is a good start. But, you need to develop those skills for the workplace. Poor communication not only causes wide-spread frustration, but it wastes a lot of time.

Powerful communication, on the other hand, can both inspire and create a more productive work environment. When everyone feels confident in what they’re doing, it gives them a sense of drive and purpose. This will lead to passionate and meaningful work that everyone can be proud of.

There are some software programs that can help you communicate with your employees. It’s important to keep the dialogue between manager and worker open. Managers should discuss employee performance and ask for feedback on a regular basis. 

3. To Deal With Stress and Anxiety

Burnout is a major problem that employees and bosses alike can struggle with. It can happen in any type of workplace. If employees get too stressed and overworked without anything being done about it, the organization as a whole will decline.

Depression, loss of motivation, and the inability to make decisions are some hallmarks of burnout. As soon as burnout starts happening, it will spread like wildfire. It is essential that employers and employees are all made aware of burnout and what can be done about it. 

No one is ever going to be without some stress in their life. Companies are successful, however, when it is managed properly. Consider bringing some educational material to the workplace, and allow everyone to learn about preventing and dealing with stress, anxiety, and burnout. Keep the dialogue open and allow conversations about it to be had. 

4. To Delegate and Trust People

Many get good grades in school by doing all of the work and checking everything themselves. This is great for school, but it’s not realistic in the workplace. 

Every successful organization needs leaders who can delegate responsibility. There are two reasons that good leaders do this. First of all, good leaders understand that they can’t do everything themselves. That’s why you hire employees with particular skills.

Secondly, good leaders know that they need to give employees room to grow if they want them to stay and be satisfied with their jobs. For these reasons, it’s important for leaders to let go of the “do it yourself” mentality, and learn to trust.

5. To Learn About Yourself

Are you aware of how you come across to other people? Good leaders need to know how they appear to and interact with other people. This allows you to better understand how you can lead effectively. 

It’s also important to monitor your own behavior so you can work on any flaws or toxic traits you may have. If you let negative habits slide, you will lose the respect of those under you. 

Effective leaders are also able to understand what drives them, which will help them stay motivated and focused. Leaders won’t have any drive to lead well if they don’t have a sense of purpose.

6. To Listen More Than We Talk

It’s tempting to think that we need to talk more when we’re in leadership positions. After all, how will employees know what we want if we don’t tell them? 

This is true, but an equal, if not more, important part of communication is listening. If you spend all of your time talking without hearing what others have to say, you will miss a lot. You will miss problems – whether potential or real. You will miss good ideas, concerns, possible solutions – the list goes on. 

Say what you need to say. And then, take some time to listen. Not just hear people, but actually listen to them. 

7. To Build a Support Network

If you’ve ever had a problem that you simply cannot solve yourself, you know the wonderful relief that comes with finding someone who can.

Good leaders build a support network of other people who can help them solve problems. For instance, you can go to a conference to expand your network. This network of people can help you stay on track. 

With the right people on hand to call, you don’t have to panic when something catastrophic happens. You will be able to calmly call on your support, and you’ll be back to your regular schedule in no time.

8. To Be Emotionally Intelligent

If you don’t have emotional intelligence, you’ll find it difficult to solve certain kinds of problems. People who are emotionally intelligent are better able to maintain their composure during stressful situations. This is a key component in handling urgent and sensitive matters. 

As a leader, you need to be able to put things into perspective and not get frustrated and strung out. You also need to be sympathetic to other people’s feelings and issues so you can help your employees when they are struggling.

9. To Be Flexible and Adapt Quickly

Many industries are constantly changing, and leaders need to adapt their strategies and think quickly to meet the demands of the market. They also need to be flexible to effectively cope with the unexpected. 

For instance, if you’re a manager, you don’t usually know beforehand when one of your employees becomes severely ill and needs to take months off of work. Adaptable leaders are able to come up with quick and effective alternatives until the employee is ready to return.

10. To Use Persuasion in Your Favor

Every workplace has menial and tedious tasks that no one wants to do. As a leader, being persuasive is important in getting these things done. You may have to get creative – such as offering an incentive that goes along with the completion of a particular project. 

Or, you might need to use your persuasion skills to convince a prospective customer who is on the fence about buying your product.

Focus on These Skills for Better Leadership

Plenty of people are interested in becoming better leaders to help their organization grow, but you need to know which skills to develop. Take some of these qualities over the course of a few months, and you’ll begin to see yourself develop into the kind of leader that your employees can admire. In fact, you might even be able to write a nonfiction book about your leadership journey.

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