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What Makes a Leader?

Do we always understand what employers mean when they state that applicants should be able to demonstrate their leadership skills? Does the hard work you put into your team project entitle you to claim yourself a group leader? It is vital to understand leadership skills, first of all, to ensure you are eligible to refer to the skill in your application forms. Secondly, it can help you to understand the role of a leader better and contribute to your group’s performance. Finally, recognising leadership qualities can contribute to enriched relationship between the project leader and team members. This can also be applied to graduate schemes where the relationship between the line manager and the group can be developed. Consider the leadership qualities below:

Leadership skills(4)

Delegation skills

Delegation boils down to the amount of control you want to have over tasks, how often you want to meet with your team and to what extent you want your team to get involved in the decision making process and undertaking tasks. If you consider yourself to be a “control enthusiast” and you prefer to make decisions individually, your leadership style is deemed to be autocratic. On the other hand, if you don’t consult your team and provide them with the freedom to do all the work, your style is laissez-faire (this type of leadership is not common due to the fact that leaders don’t have any control of the tasks and they let the team to go with the flow). Most leaders tend to apply a democratic leadership style whereby the team is involved in the decision making process and dialogue is essential. Why it is important to understand this, you may ask? The leadership style and extent of delegation you adopt affects your team’s performance.

Planning skills

Regardless of your leadership style, a fundamental role of a leader is planning. Knowing your objectives helps leaders to set a vision (hardly anyone will listen to a leader who is unsure about their goals). However, this doesn’t mean that your team can’t be involved in the planning process and they just react to the leaders plans. Conversely, ‘two heads are better than one’ (tip: invite your team members to your next planning meeting). Your team members will feel valued and appreciate their voice being heard. At the end of the day this is a great opportunity to create a motivational environment to foster your team’s work.

Negotiation and Communication skills

Negotiation skills serve as an umbrella for other skills aimed at agreeing, compromising and avoiding arguments and disputes. This is the skill of breaking down a problem and finding a solution, therefore, you can easily add ‘problem solving’ as a sub-skill to negotiation skills.

How do you actually negotiate, and avoid conflicts? This is where your interpersonal skills come into play. Building rapport and maintaining good relationships with your team members can assist you with conflict resolution. It is worth mentioning that communication skills, for example, finding a common ground and developing empathy, facilitate this process. Effective communication skills can also be developed by matching non-verbal signals. For example, whilst having a conversation two strangers can copy one another’s body language without realising it. From my experience, I had a conversation with a person I have never seen before and after a while I have noticed that we were sitting in a similar way – we were mirroring each other’s body stance. However, does this mean that a rapport is built? Not necessarily. Despite the fact that non-verbal communication can play an important role in our day-to-day dialogues (body language accounts for 55 % of the overall message) it is still essential to distribute information verbally in an easy and understandable way.

“All learning has an emotional base”, Plato.

The way you communicate tasks and timeframes for projects directly impacts how these projects will be completed. Whilst communicating, as a leader, you need to think how you set direction, how do you deliver messages and how do you support your team throughout the project.

What type of communication do you need to adopt to create an environment of trust where all your team members are willing to share and learn from one another? For this reason leaders need to consider the following: verbal communication, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence (EI). What is EI and why concern yourself with it you may ask? Success can depend on how leaders display their emotions. Releasing emotions in a positive way is emotional intelligence. When communicating with your team it is important to evaluate and respond to yours and your team member’s emotions in a constructive way. This can provide the team with an environment that fosters good team working and effective communication.

It is worth mentioning that there are other leadership skills you can adopt depending on your style and the projects you are involved in. Consider the points above and become a perfect leader.

Good luck with all your projects!



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