Mastering a skill can take years or as Malcolm Gladwell says, 10,000 hours. Leadership is a skill that can be taught and developed. Unfortunately, it is a difficult one to master and in many ways it really can't be.
After years of research and personal experience, I have never been more convinced that leadership is a journey and not a destination.
Why is this so important?
Becoming a better leader is something that you are either improving upon or declining in. This is dependent on your current experiences and dedication to development. The natural question becomes, what are those things you can be doing to improve your leadership skills right now? Here are five ways to do just that:
The best athletes in the world spend an uncomfortable amount of time rehearsing the fundamentals of their game. Take a professional golfer for example. If you walk down the driving range at any PGA Tour event, you will see the best players in the world working on the fundamentals of golf like grip, posture, and alignment.
Leadership is the same way, the fundamentals do not change and you have to constantly be reviewing and working on them to get better. Here are a few of my favorites:
A habit is something that is done so frequently it becomes a part of the very fabric of your being. Your morning routine is instrumental to how you approach each day. This can include exercising, praying, daily meditation, or prioritizing your day with a focus on shaping culture and improving your teams performance.
Too often people are letting their email, slack messages, text messages or their work environment shape the rest of their day. In turn, this affects how they lead their team. A leader is put on the defensive, reactive, and in problem solving mode causing them to act the opposite of how they should be.
You may assume you know your strengths and weaknesses from a leadership perspective, but the reality is most people struggle with self-awareness. It's also rare for you or anyone else to be in tune with the most important competencies required to be a great leader. These are things like empathy, coaching for performance, setting standards, positivity, trust, vulnerability, and delivering feedback . There are many leadership assessments out there such as our Welder Leader 360°, but find the one that you like the most and go to work.
The strongest leaders know at the core of leadership is serving and empowering other people. I have come to define leadership this way,
"Someone whose actions empower, inspire and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time."
In order to improve your leadership skills, knowing this definition is not enough. You must model it every single day. Last week on the Follow My Lead Podcast, Jason Lippert the CEO of LCI said it beautifully, "I am trying to encourage and inspire every leader in our company to serve their teams every day."
With today's busy and noisy world, what matters more than your words are your actions. Be intentional every single day and have a relentless focus on being a great example of leadership and modeling it for those on your team and for others.
In our research of over 23,000 leaders, the competency leaders struggle with most is asking their people for feedback about how they are doing. It constantly amazes me how many leaders simply do not ask their team for feedback about how they are doing as a leader. It is some of the lowest hanging fruit just waiting to be pulled from the tree. Why? Because a leader's team thinks about and knows them well. What better people to ask how to improve?
Keep in mind, if you start to add these five things right now, that does not mean the results will show immediately. Leadership is a journey and not a destination so, be patient. Put in the work and I promise the results will come in due time.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.