There has always been lots of press about leaders; a veritable serpent of column inches that detail their famous – and sometimes infamous exploits.
Think about it: Richard Branson is a household name because he does not keep a low profile like less-renowned Rakesh Kapoor, the CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Group, the corporation behind such brand names as Dettol and Airborne.
Even so, Mr Kapoor also appears in print because he is consistently ranked as one of the business world’s top CEOs. He even has his own Wikipedia page!
Great leaders in business – Tim Cook, Elon Musk and Jack Ma, founder of China’s Alibaba have plenty to teach us about becoming a great leader... but what if you’re not interested in filling a managerial role?
What if you simply want to develop your leadership qualities and the soft skills that all great leaders are said to have mastered only for your personal growth – not with a desire to someday be rich, powerful and renown?
If that is the case, we commend you. Personal development is far more worthwhile a goal than a quest for power and money. At least, it will bring more satisfaction than all of the headaches you might be saddled with running a company or even being a team leader.
How does one get started, learning leadership skills? More importantly: does learning leadership competencies cost a lot of money? Not if you know where to look.
Your Superprof has taken matters to hand. We’ve combed every corner of the Internet to bring you the best online resources to guide you on your discovery of self-awareness, emotional intelligence and the path to effective leadership.
Put on your thinking cap; here we go!
Good Leadership Skills: Understanding Leadership Theory
To be a good leader, you have to know the theories and philosophies that leadership styles have shaped.
Since the end of the Industrial Revolution, several ideas about leadership have taken centre-stage, the first one being The Great Man theory, which averred that great men are born to rise up and take a leadership position when a situation demands it.
Mahatma Gandhi is a prime example of such a leader.
That theory now takes a back seat to these four, more prominent core theories:
- Power and Influence theories: closely related to the Great Man theory, it emphasises three types of power – coercive, reward and legitimate, along with personal power to get things done.
- Trait theories: helps identify traits and qualities that add depth to leadership
- such qualities include, empathy, integrity, honesty and self-confidence
- Behavioural theories detail how leaders behave. Behaviours fall on a spectrum from laissez-faire – a hands-off manager to autocratic: a leader who makes all of the decisions.
- Transformational leadership focuses on inspiring and motivating subordinates while transactional leadership functions on a quid-pro-quo basis. These leaderships styles are influenced by specific behaviours
- Contingency theories: how does a leader function in any given situation? These theories are predicated on the fact that one’s management style must adapt to every situation.
Of course, this is a nutshell version; the actual theories are expansive and often incorporate elements of other leadership theories.
In this table, we’ve listed some of the best pages to gain an understanding of the theories that define a leadership role.
Learn About Leadership Theories:
|Page Name||Web Address||What You Can Learn|
|Mind Tools||www.mindtools.com||Explanations on the four core theory groups|
|Leadership Central||www.leadership-central.com||Learn about individual theories and their premise|
|Very Well Mind||www.verywellmind.com||Search for 'leadership theories' to access articles|
Go on a life-changing adventure by learning how to develop strong leadership skills...
Communication Skills for Leadership
It goes without saying that an effective leader is an excellent communicator.
S/he doesn’t just have an extensive vocabulary and, should s/he be in a particular field such as finance or marketing, know all of the jargon.
Those in leadership roles have learned a particular skill set that enables them to pick up on subtle clues such as body language and tone to correctly interpret what people are actually saying.
According to Forbes magazine, interpreting body language is a key communication skill that every leader must have!
Listening is often overlooked as a part of communication because it is generally considered a passive activity, meaning you don’t have to do anything special; just let the waves of sound come to you.
Leaders take the act of listening a step further by practising what is called active listening: taking in visual clues as well as focusing on the words being said and the tone they are spoken in. A person adept at this skill will often paraphrase what they have just heard to demonstrate that they understand the issue at hand.
As your aim is personal development rather than a career in leadership and management, you may work on other types of listening, such as empathetic listening or reflective listening – a part of active listening.
Naturally, the flip side of listening is speaking; leaders are generally also good public speakers.
You don’t need to anticipate mounting a podium and addressing a crowd to develop this skill; you can practise speaking with a video camera, to an empty room or to your reflection, if need be.
The goal of speaking clearly is being as concise as possible without omitting any necessary details of the issue you are trying to convey, all while projecting body language suitable to your message.
For instance, if your job entails conflict resolution, you would adopt a non-threatening posture, a kind tone and lots of eye contact; maybe even a sympathetic hand on your listener’s arm.
On the other hand, if you’re conducting a team-building exercise, your body should convey the impression of energy (not mania!) and your voice should sound excited.
We found some excellent guides for learning and practising effective communication on these web sites.
Learn Effective Communication Skills:
|Domain Name||Web Address||What you'll find|
|Leadership Geeks||www.leadershipgeeks.com||A trove of articles and exercises to prepare you for leadership|
|Legacee||www.legacee.com||Lots of skills-based learning!|
|The Training Industry||https://trainingindustry.com||A host of articles on communication|
|Entrepreneur||www.entrepreneur.com||Search 'communication' for a list of articles|
|Virtual Speech||https://virtualspeech.com||Look under the 'courses' tab to find information on communication|
Remember that a large part of being a leader means delegating, whether you are running a company or a household. Mastering communication skills will make it so much easier to delegate chores!
The ability to communicate well is important is only a part of a leadership skills set...
Good Leadership Skills Include Critical Thinking
Cogito, ergo sum – Decartes
That French philosopher and mathematician was attempting to prove his existence by implying his thinking substantiated his being. At that time, there was little thought given to different types of thinking.
Today, much is made of thinking skills: strategic thinking, situational thinking and critical thinking among them.
There is a push in academia to help students in their earliest years to develop such thinking skills; skills that leaders of all stripes have long been using to think their way out of anything from conflict management to improving team performance.
In this table, we highlight particularly useful pages to practise your thinking skills.
Critical Thinking Activities Pages
|Agency Name||Web Address||What You Can Find|
|Wabisabi||https://wabisabistore.com||Lots of thinking and team building exercises|
|Teach-Nology||www.teach-nology.com||Free teaching resources, including critical thinking worksheets|
|The Balance Careers||www.thebalancecareers.com||a search for 'thinking skills' will yield many articles and activities to strengthen thinking skills|
|Ed-Helper||www.edhelper.com||Use their 'search' function to find the best thinking resources|
|Head Scratchers||www.headscratchers.com||Courses and resources to develop thinking skills|
|The Critical Thinking Company||www.criticalthinking.com||Toward the bottom of the page you will find free exercises to test and train your thinking|
You’ll note that most of those pages are targeted to young learners; as we mentioned earlier, much is being made of thinking skills training for children. That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from them as well!
Your input matters! Tell us why you feel it is important for people to develop leadership skills...
General Resources to Foster Good Leadership Skills
Leadership development is much more than the sum of its parts. It takes more than sterling qualities, the ability to think a way through any situation and becoming a master communicator.
One might say that knowing how to lead is a way of life.
That is why many management and leadership training courses address the whole person; they don’t consist of only academic exercises designed meant to hone basic skills of humankind such as speaking and listening.
What can you expect to find in leadership skills training courses?
Let’s say a CEO is planning to move its operation overseas because labour and legislation have simply gotten too expensive and onerous.
While overall such a move would probably benefit the company’s bottom line in the long run, aspects of such a decision require deep thought, such as:
- job loss in one’s own country and what such a move would do to the local economy
- Transportation costs of finished goods and the environmental impact thereof
- would the materials to produce the good be sustainably sourced?
- would the goods be legitimately produced (as opposed to being made in a sweatshop)
Business ethics pervade every aspect of leadership, from major decisions such as the one to move production offshore to recognising and correcting the dysfunctions of a team.
If you’re looking to improve leadership skills or even just determine your leadership style so you can be prepared to tackle weighty issues in your life, there are many online resources for you to do so and quite a few of them charge you little or nothing.
Materials for Developing Leadership Skills
|Domain Name||Web Address||What to Look for|
|Alison||https://alison.com||Free training in a variety of disciplines including leadership|
|Open Learn||www.open.edu/openlearn/||An entire course list relating to Business and Finance, arranged by level of difficulty|
|Coursera||www.coursera.org||Several entry-level leadership courses and many specialised ones|
|Masterclass Management||www.masterclassmanagement.com||A site specifically targeted to aspiring managers|
|EdX||www.edx.org||Several courses available in leadership and entrepreneurship|
|Linda||https://learning.linkedin.com||Courses in leadership and management, soft skills development and more|
|Sloan School of Business||https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/sloan-school-of-management/||A long list of graduate level courses on the many aspects of business and leadership|
|Skill Share||www.skillshare.com||Browse their leadership an management course catalogue|
While you’re exploring these online resources, don’t forget to also conduct a search for leadership podcasts and look for books about developing leadership. You may also consider reading biographies of great leaders.
What could be more inspiring than reading how a person overcame adversity to rise up and become a titan of industry!
Don’t laugh; in such tomes, you may find nuggets of wisdom that resonate with you, that you wouldn’t find or hear anywhere else.
The trick about leadership is once you’ve put on the mantle, it never comes off. You will function as a leader in all of your dealings – from arranging your holidays to arranging your life.
Isn’t it a good thing that there are so many resources for you to learn effective leadership skills from?
Now discover other ways you can develop your leadership skills...