Your leadership skills can affect the well-being and success of two audiences: you and everybody else -- including those with whom you live, socialize, and work.
Leadership is not the same as rank, position or power, which is situational and often allows poor leaders to influence and control others based on fear. The great leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir John A. Macdonald, and others who dominate history books weren't in business in the traditional sense. Their "business" focused on uniting people to work toward a shared goal, usually in the face of great adversity and constantly shifting ground.
If you are a business owner or practicing professional, such as a lawyer, financial advisor, accountant, or architect, you are in a leadership role every day of your working life. This role can be as prevalent or as low-key as you wish, based on your personality type, desire to make your business succeed, and your skill in engaging, motivating, and leading others to a shared goal.
Regardless of the scope or nature of your business or profession, your leadership skills will ultimately determine your success or failure. Leadership skills are based on a sound, personal vision or foundation. They invite others to support you in effectively communicating your vision, ideally to everyone's betterment.
Here are eight tips on how to develop and deploy smart leadership skills to move your business and career forward.
#1: Before you can lead others, you must first lead yourself.
Self-leadership begins with gaining a true sense of your goals, strengths and weaknesses. To try to 'find yourself' through taking on a leadership role, whether it's running a business or a charitable group, will have you going in circles. Rather than adopting a series of "hit and miss" strategies based on your constantly changing sense of self and goals, you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses and how to put them to the best use in your role.
#2: Be Consistent
Rather than keeping business partners, employees, clients, and other stakeholders guessing where your behaviour is concerned, be consistent. A leader is someone who builds trust through collaborative, transparent, and empathetic behaviour. Keep your promises, as you will be judged without even knowing it when you start to deviate from your announced code of conduct.
#3: Embrace self-learning
Effective leaders are intellectually curious, good listeners, non-judgmental and open to new ideas that may test them and broaden their horizons. They surround themselves with those whose strengths in specific areas outweigh their own, and learn from them. They are not afraid to say, "I didn't know that. Tell me more."
#4: Share the credit
Be quick to recognize the efforts of others, whether they are vendors who have worked all weekend to help you reach a deadline, or an employee who has missed a flight and driven through the night to get to a key client meeting. When handing out kudos, be sure to spread them fairly so no one gets missed.
#5: Demonstrate your skills
Demonstrate your leadership skills before a prospect becomes a client. Give them a sense of what working with you and your team will be like. There is a fine line between rushing a prospect into "client hood" and being too standoffish to the extent that they begin to question your interest in working with them. For example, by describing the processes that will drive the business relationship and what the prospect will get for their money before the client asks, you are taking a leadership role without being pushy. Your ability to anticipate a prospect's questions well in advance and address them in a personable way will see you seated beside the client at the meeting table, versus across from them.
#6: Look out for those you are leading
Mistakes happen and employees must sometimes be held accountable for errors that have hurt your, and your clients', business. When assessing a misstep by a team member, get all the facts you can from the team member and others affected by the error. Rushing to discredit or devalue an employee on the say-so of a client or employee will send a bad message to everyone involved. Leaders are trusted for their judgment and fairness as well as their ability to make difficult decisions.
#7: Keep things in perspective
The phrase, "It's lonely at the top" is popular among leaders for good reason. You are expected to show grace under pressure at all times, which involves stepping back to look at a situation in a measured and rational way. You can seek advice from senior managers and partners, but sometimes a decision will rest on your shoulders. Move swiftly (yet thoughtfully) to address and resolve small issues before they grow larger. Should large problems emerge, assemble as many facts as possible before acting.
#8: Remember the power of interpersonal communication
Your business may have grown to cover the globe so intimate town halls are not as practical as they once were. You can still stay in touch with your employees, clients, and shareholders through digital communication. If audiences can see and hear you as you take the time to communicate with them, they will forgive you for not being in the same room with them on a regular basis. Successful business owners never forget the strategies that helped their business grow, and staying in touch with their stakeholders is at the top of their list.
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