This post is sponsored by Microsoft.
If you run a business, you learn leadership skills on the fly as you juggle clients, suppliers, red tape, and your employees. If so, you are already a leader. But what if you could take your leadership skills to the next level? What if greatness awaits? In the words of American leadership guru John Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
1. Strive for clarity
Exceptional leaders don’t re-communicate the complex—instead, they distill and prioritize their message. Some of the world’s most effective politicians have a knack for providing clear answers to remarkably complex questions. You can speak plainly to create clarity.
2. Do your homework
We live in a time of exponential complexity and are constantly on the brink of information overload. When information grows too complex, people glaze over. You must work through the complexity, searching for meaning, and come out the other side with a clear message.
3. Say it succinctly
Send a message so crystal clear that anyone can understand it. Try to actually use fewer words. When you write email or reports, challenge yourself to refine what you say and how you communicate it to maximize the impact.
4. Explain why
People want to understand that what they do has meaning and purpose. They need to know how their task contributes on a strategic level. When you strike an authoritative tone and keep people on “need to know” basis, you show leadership weakness, not strength.
5. Invite questions
Explain your objectives and the big picture. Invite questions. Check to ensure they understand. Hearing something does not equal them understanding it. People start at different places. Tune into their various communication styles then adapt yours to reach people meaningfully.
6. Direct your people
Tell them what you want them to do and keep it simple. Synthesis and understanding mean nothing without the payoff of action. Therefore, make your course of action easy to follow and urgent. And the fewer calls to action, the better. If you can ask for just one thing, great.
7. Show optimism
When you talk about the state of affairs with employees do you broadcast the quiet confidence and enthusiasm of a leader? Optimism fuels growth and creativity. When you believe in the best outcomes, you unleash unparalleled opportunities to make them happen.
8. Pick your team carefully
Apply big-picture, forward thinking to everyday decisions you make, starting with your team. Pick people who will grow with you, and plan for resilience. Accept short-term pain—such as investing in the equipment and training—as part of the long-term game.
9. Experiment and innovate
People love innovation that simplifies and improves their lives. Deliver that innovation to your customers and employees and you will win them over. And if something fails to work, so be it. Time to try something else. Stay nimble and open to new tactics.
10. Get feedback and learn
Don’t just review analytics. If you are not sure what more you can do, try asking for feedback. Actively seek feedback from your team, vendors, and—most importantly—your customers. Uncover new ways to improve the experience you offer.
Bonus tip: Go beyond boundaries
Look for inspiration and solutions outside of your industry orthodoxy. Consider non-traditional partnerships. Join business groups outside of your comfort zone. And look at the technology that you use, too. Could new tools transform your organization?
This post is adapted from the original by Harp Girn, “3 steps to building leadership skills,” on the Microsoft Canada small business blog.