Strengthening Your Leadership Skills

Good news: Leadership skills can be learned! According to a Harvard study of 545 executives who participated in leadership development programs, 96 of the participants were identified as worse than 90% of their peers in at least one of 16 key attributes of leadership effectiveness, including skills such as establishing interpersonal relationships, leading initiatives for change, and character.

After focused work on developing the skills they lacked and also strengthening the skills they already possessed, a whopping 71 of the 96 participants were able to develop their leadership skills enough so that those who work directly with them—colleagues, subordinates, and bosses—could see improvement in those areas. In a little over two years, these low-scorers developed enough to move up 33 points on the post-assessment scale, placing them squarely in the middle of their executive peer group.

You too can develop your leadership skills. Here’s one way you can grow those skills:

First, read professional development articles or books on leadership to get a better idea of what makes a good leader. As you read, take notes on how to develop those skills. Next, look for opportunities in your department, at the university, or with your professional organization to take on a leadership role. After you’ve served in a leadership role, reflect on the experience. What worked well? What specific leadership skills do you want to continue to develop?

The next time you manage a project, draw on your experiences and focus on those skills you’d like to continue to grow.