How to be a better leader

Leadership often seems to be somewhat ephemeral. What makes a good leader? What makes a bad one? How can you improve? Try these concrete steps for determining leadership style, identifying where you can improve and developing a self-education plan to reach your leadership goals.

Leadership styles

There is a wide range of leadership styles, with the exact number varying widely. Generally speaking though, leadership styles fall on a spectrum. On one extreme, you have the autocrats who are the absolute dictators of their offices. On the other extreme, you have laissez-faire leaders who take the hands-off approach. Somewhere in the middle, you have more democratic styles, where leaders put things to votes.

The best way to understand where you fall is to ask. Create an anonymous survey for your employees to tell you what type of leader you are.

Creating a leadership manifesto

Once you know your leadership style, decide whether or not you want to continue as that kind of leader. Let’s say that you find out you are more of an autocrat and tend to micromanage — or at least you are perceived that way by your staff.

It can be painful to discover this, but it is an incredible opportunity for growth. You know that you want to be more democratic as a leader and listen more, but you aren’t sure how to get there. Or maybe you don’t even know that; you just know you need to improve.

To kickstart your leadership change, create a manifesto. This is a living document that helps you become the vision of the leader you know you can be. You can put in the manifesto whatever you think will help. But ideally, you want to outline your vision of leadership, role models for the kind of leader you want to be, core values, and most importantly, the growth plan.

Growth plan

The vision statement part of your manifesto is your compass. It’s what points you true north in your ideal vision of leadership. The growth plan is your map. It’s how you get there. At the most basic level, it’s a list of the areas you need to improve upon. For example, an autocratic leader may need to work on active listening skills.

Once that’s identified, you can list out resources for becoming a better listener. These can be articles, books, classes, or close friends and confidants. Then start using these resources. Pick the most pressing skill and focus on it for a set term, a month for example. It is important to look at your manifesto regularly and update it as you go. Shoot for once a week, with a more thorough review each quarter and year-end.

You don’t need to share your manifesto with anyone. It’s a tool to improve leadership awareness and track your progress. That being said, it can be a powerful way to build trust with your employees to share parts of your manifesto, especially your leadership vision and what skills you are currently working to improve.

When employees know you are a leader who prioritizes growth and learning, they begin to trust you on a deeper level. And when you put in the work of becoming a better leader, you start to trust yourself on a deeper level.

Learn more about how MDRT can help grow your leadership skills.

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