Contrary to popular belief, one is not born with leadership skills. Although you have probably heard the phrase, “he’s a natural born leader”, it is not always true. Sure, many people already have many of the important traits that leaders need to possess, but it doesn’t mean that one can’t learn how to develop those traits as well. There are master organizational leadership degrees available online that can give you a starting point to develop great leadership skills.Not every leader must have each and every trait of a successful leader, but they must develop as many as they can in order to offset those areas that may not be as strong. Following are a few areas in which to focus on to get you started on the path of great leadership.

Find a Mentor

A mentor is someone who will help to guide and teach you the things you need to learn for success. This person can be just about anyone who has the qualities that you wish to possess and is willing to help you to grow. If you have been working on your personal growth, most likely you already have a mentor and don’t even know it. Take a look at those influential people in your life to evaluate how you have been learning from them. Once you have found the right person, ask if they are willing to help you to achieve your goals.

Watching and learning from someone who has already traveled the road that you are on will help you in this journey. With a good mentor, you will be able to have someone keep you on track, you will have help with focusing on what is important, and you will have someone to steer you clear of many inevitable mistakes.

Learn to Listen

If you’re not listening, you’re not learning. There will be no way to be able to hear what others around you are saying, process that information, and then utilize that information for the betterment of others if you are too busy talking and barking out orders. Listening to others will help any good leader to learn what is going on in order to make an informed decision. Without hearing what those on your team or other members of management have to say, you will never know what is actually going on.

Listening is so much more than just allowing someone else to speak and appearing to hear what they say. As a good leader, you will need to hear what is said to you as well as understand what is being said. Once you fully understand, you are then in a better position to see what needs to be done with the information received, if anything.

Encourage an open communication environment inside the workplace, so that every member of the team has a voice. This makes it easier for all team members to share ideas with each other, as it creates a setting where everyone listens to each other and considers all ideas. This style of communication is important when brainstorming, as you do not want employees to believe that their ideas will be swept under the rug without being seriously considered. Listen to feedback from others as well. This creates a workplace culture that encourages employees to share their opinions with each other.

Be an Example

Do as I say and not as I do will never be a mantra uttered by a good leader. Reflect on the leaders that you admire and take a good look at their attributes. Most likely you will find that they are someone to look up to. Once you have established that, take a look at yourself and determine if you are someone to look up to. You do not have to drive a fancy car, live in a big house, or go on lavish vacations to be someone to look up to. Setting an example in your personal life will be recognized by how you relate with others, your relationship with your friends and family, and how you balance your life.

Being an example professionally will need to be established as well. You cannot expect your team members to show up to work on time, be productive throughout the day, and not cut out early if you are setting that example. In addition, you will need to think before you speak and never speak poorly about any one, work related or not. Setting yourself to a higher standard will put others in the position to look up to you and want to emulate you, which is an important place for a leader to be.

Developing leadership skills can be difficult, but with the right ambition, anyone can develop the necessary traits to be a strong and successful leader. There are a multitude of other attributes that go with successful leadership, however by developing these basics, you will be well on your way to establishing a strong foundation for success. One of the best ways in which to learn the majority of leadership skills is to return to school and for most busy professionals it would benefit you to check out top online MBA programs.

About author: Amie Gottschalk is a freelance blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @amiegottschalk.

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