Female leader standing confidently at conference table with team

It’s a common misconception that leaders are born, not made. However, recent studies have shown that this is not the case. Leaders are not born with inherent qualities that make them better than others – they are made through experience and learning. In fact, many now successful leaders failed when they were first promoted into their roles.

This is not to say that being a leader is easy – it’s actually quite difficult. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to learn the ropes and become successful. Leaders must be able to navigate through difficult situations, handle criticism, and make tough decisions. However, if someone is willing to put in the effort, they can become a great leader.

Leadership is not about being perfect – it’s about learning from your mistakes and proactively improving over time. As you might have heard before, becoming a transformational leader is a journey, not a destination. Here are five steps you can take to become a better leader.

Step 1: Understand Yourself

When it comes to understanding yourself, reflection and assessment are key. Taking the time to review your thoughts and behaviors can provide valuable feedback that can help you grow as a person.

There are many different assessments and tools available to help you reflect on your life, including self-awareness surveys, personality tests, and goal-setting tools. As a leadership development consultant, one of my favorite assessments is DiSC.

DiSC helps you understand your dominant behavior style. For example, are you more direct or indirect in your communication? Are you more compliant, or do you like to buck the system?

Want a FREE assessment that’s based on DiSC? Click here to take my Blind Spots assessment—100% free!

In addition to becoming more self-aware through assessments, you can ask for feedback. Feedback from others is helpful in understanding yourself. Seeking out feedback from family, friends, or colleagues can give you a different perspective on how others see you.

It’s especially useful to ask for feedback about specific behaviors or situations, so the feedback provider can hone in on what you need. Which question would you have an easier time answering? How’s my communication, or what opportunities do you see in how I communicate through email? More specific questions usually lead to more useful feedback.

Being self-aware is an important part of being an exceptional leader. By taking the time to reflect on yourself and seek out feedback from others, you can gain a better understanding of who you are and where you need to improve.

Step 2: Develop a Leadership Style

There are four main types of leadership styles: authoritarian, participative, delegative, and transactional. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Authoritarian leadership is very directive and usually relies on punishment to get results. This style can be effective in situations where quick action is needed or when there is a lack of experience or knowledge among the team members. When you think of a strong leader who’s very direct, that person is likely authoritarian.

Participative leadership involves sharing power and decision-making with their team of people. It can build trust and commitment, but can also slow down decision-making.

Delegative leadership gives team members a lot of autonomy but retains overall control. This style can foster creativity and innovation but may lead to confusion if not properly managed.

Transactional leadership uses rewards and punishments to motivate employees. It is goal-oriented and often results in fast decisions. This type of leader believes in the “carrot and stick” approach.

Which one is best? None of them and all of them! Different aspects of leadership are needed at different times. Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. What works for one person may not work for another. The key to successful leadership is to identify your goals, experiment, assess team needs, and embrace failure. Finding your own authentic leadership style is key.

For more on identifying your style check out this blog we posted a while back.

No matter what your style, identifying goals and embracing failure are two “must haves” of for all leaders.

In order to identify your goals, you first need to know what you want to achieve. Purposeful leaders identify their goals and then experiment with different methods of achieving them. Not all methods will be successful, but it is important to evaluate each method and determine what works best for you and your team.

Finally, the ability of leaders to embrace failure is paramount. Failure is an essential part of learning and growth, and it can provide valuable insights into what does and does not work for you and your team. If you don’t fail, you’re not trying anything new. Real leaders understand that failure is non-negotiable. They not only welcome failure for themselves, they welcome it for their team.

Step 3: Build Your Skillset

In order to be an effective leader, it’s important to build your skillset. One great way to do this is by finding a mentor. Ask someone you admire and respect to help guide you as you develop new skills.

Another way to improve your skillset is by giving and receiving honest feedback. Giving feedback that is specific, actionable, and timely leads to stronger individual performance and a more successful team.

Giving feedback that’s more critical or constructive can be difficult for leaders, but it does get easier the more you do it. As we discussed before, asking for and receiving feedback is also critical to growth. Solid feedback makes a meaningful difference to all.

Additionally, make sure you are taking leadership classes, reading leadership books, listening to leadership podcasts, etc. Building new skills is essential for becoming a better leader. By doing all of these things, you’ll be on your way to becoming a more effective leader.

Step 4: Lead with Integrity

You are a role model for your team. They are watching how you handle yourself, how you follow through on promises, and how you meet deadlines. They are also watching how you treat others and what kind of candor you display. Be the role model that you want your team to emulate and lead with integrity.

Part of leading with integrity is admitting to mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of life. We all make them, and the sooner we can admit to them, the better. Be honest with yourself and others, especially when it comes to mistakes.

There are many benefits to admitting your mistakes. For one, it can help you learn from them and avoid making the same mistake again. It also helps build trust and strengthens relationships. When you admit your mistakes, people know that they can count on you to be truthful and honest.

Admitting your mistakes can also help you become shumbler overall. It shows that you’re willing to own up to your failings and that you’re not perfect. This can be a valuable lesson for others, as well as for yourself.

Here’s one good rule on integrity. Just like grandma used to say, “If you’d be embarrassed for others to read about it or see it online, don’t do it.” (I added that “online” part, but you get the idea!)

Step 5: Be a Lifelong Learner

In order to be successful in business, true leaders are lifelong learners. The world of business is constantly changing, and if you don’t keep up with the latest trends and changes, you’ll quickly fall behind. Staying openminded and evolving with changes is important to being a lifelong learner.

There are many different ways to learn, and you should take advantage of as many of them as possible. Your company may offer its own leadership development program or online leadership training. Attending workshops and conferences, reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, and networking with others are all great ways to learn new things.

It’s also important to stay current with technology. Technology evolves rapidly, so it’s important to keep up with the latest trends in order to stay competitive. There are many online courses available that can help you do this, but don’t be afraid to ask a peer or team member at work to help you out.

In conclusion, becoming a better leader is not an overnight process. It takes time, effort, and practice. By being proactive and working on your skills, you can be the best leader you can be. By following these five simple steps, you’ll be on the road to becoming a great leader.