Leadership

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

— John Quincy Adams

What Is Leadership?

The term ‘leadership’ describes our ability to organise and motivate other people to achieve a shared goal. Leadership is all about leading by example. Think of individuals who distinguish themselves from others and influence group perceptions or decisions. They naturally draw others to them for guidance or direction, have a positive attitude, motivate others and often see and do things differently. 

Contrary to popular belief, anyone can be a leader. Leadership is not something we are born with or without. Nonetheless, leadership takes time to master and requires consistent practice and self-awareness. At times it can be difficult to stay determined, and to continue to motivate and inspire others alongside ourselves. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies we can use to improve our leadership skills and make a positive change, both in the workplace and in our personal lives. 

This module will guide you through seven skill sets that have been shown to differentiate those who see themselves as leaders from those who do not. Alongside explanations, you will be provided with practical tools you can use to improve each of these particular skills.

Can You Even Be A Leader?

When you think of a leader, do you consider anyone in your local community or personal circle? Or is it only those great, powerful individuals that have led countries, changed millions of lives and are now admired in museums and history books? Do you think of yourself as someone who can lead? 

It is a common misunderstanding that people are either born with or without leadership qualities. Leadership is not only for CEOs, managers or team leads. To the contrary, it is a powerful skill set that anyone can develop over time.

You encounter leaders in every aspect of life from your work, to your personal life and your community. In fact, you have probably shown effective leadership skills in yourself without even realising it. Think of a time where you stood up for something you believe in, where you listened to and supported someone in need, where you introduced people that are now close friends, or where you motivated those around you – maybe as a sports coach, as a team member or as a friend. All of these are examples of leadership.

So, the question is not whether you CAN be a good leader, it is whether you are ready to WORK on improving your leadership skills. 

Understanding Your MyMynd Leadership Score

Optimal

An optimal score suggests that you have strong confidence in your ability to influence others. You also have a belief that you possess, and are able to utilise, a variety of skills in order to do so. You may want to explore this module in order to maintain this confidence.

Satisfactory

A satisfactory score suggests that you have some confidence in your ability to influence others. You also have a belief that you possess, and are able to utilise, a few different skills in order to do so. You may want to explore this module in order to maintain this confidence and improve those skills which are insufficient. 

Moderate Concern

A moderate concern score suggests that you have little confidence in your ability to influence others. You may have a limited belief that you possess, and are able to utilise, one or two skills in order to do so. We recommend exploring this module to increase your confidence and improve the number and sufficiency of your leadership skills.

At Risk

An at risk score suggests that you have very little (if any) confidence in your ability to influence others. You are likely to believe that you neither possess nor are able to utilise any leadership skills. We recommend exploring this module to increase your confidence and develop those skills.

Why Developing Your Leadership Skills Is Important

Leadership allows you to create and sustain positive, lasting change in your own life and in the lives of the people around you. Expanding your skillset can boost your self-confidence, allow you to form positive relationships with others and support you in having a clear direction and staying on track. Self-identified leaders have also been shown to report more positive mental health than those who do not see themselves as leaders. 

Think about it. You might find yourself tackling challenges and difficulties that you would have avoided before. You might make decisions that you would have waited for others to make. Improving your leadership skills can help you advance in your career and while doing so, inspire others to follow. 

Leadership is, without a doubt, important in the workplace, but did you know it is equally as important in other areas of life?

Friendship

Social Life

Personal Goals

Parenting

How Can You Become A Better Leader?

Leadership is not a single skill but involves a whole skillset. 

Below is a list of important leadership skills, each providing you with an explanation and helpful tools on how you can improve that particular skill. Each skill is a unique predictor of leadership. That means that you can choose to focus on one skill at a time if you wish.

Mutual Trust

To lead, it is both important to instil trust in others and to be trusted by those around you. Without trust, relationships do not last. Openness and honesty are reciprocal, so by maintaining these virtues it encourages others to do the same.

Integrity is the foundation of trust. A person high in integrity constantly keeps their word and acts in accordance with their set of strong moral values. People highly value individuals showing actions that are consistent with their beliefs, even when no one is watching.

Tools to improve mutual trust can be found here.

Having A Clear Vision

Good leaders have a clear vision of what they want the future to look like and they stick to the goals and values they set for themselves. Leadership means turning setbacks into success; to learn from but not dwell on mistakes that were made. Leaders manage to see challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.

So, great leaders are not only able to motivate others, they are also self-motivated. They understand the importance of continuous personal and professional improvement.

Tools creating a clear vision can be found here.

Communication

Good leaders have mastered the art of communication. This applies not only to the words they choose but also their non-verbal communication; from their body language to their tone of voice. They are skilled active listeners and show empathy and compassion towards those around them.

Active Listening: really listening to what someone says, using eye contact, facial expressions and gestures to demonstrate focus. Together with asking thoughtful questions, this can show that you truly care about what others are saying.

Compassion: being in touch with your own feelings and those of others; showing that you care and are open to others’ concerns. Being able to see another person’s perspective (empathy) helps predict the effect that your actions and words will have on them.

Tools to improve communication can be found here.

Feedback

Constructive feedback is an essential communication tool, both at work and at home. Have you ever had an argument over seemingly irrelevant things just because the initial problem was not communicated well? Or have you received feedback on your performance at work and felt shattered afterwards? Effectively giving and receiving feedback is not something we are born with – it is a learned skill that has to be practiced well. You can read about feedback in more detail here.

Giving Feedback: if you want your feedback to be heard, understood and accepted, it is important to give feedback in an effective way. Good leaders provide open, honest, but constructive feedback. The recipient feels confident about what was said and knows how to work with the feedback that was given. Expectations are laid out clearly and the feedback provider listens closely to the recipient’s responses.

Receiving Feedback: it is equally important to be able to receive and act upon feedback adequately, especially when being told something that you do not want to hear. Skilled leaders have mastered active listening, that is they listen carefully to the feedback without thinking about what they can respond to as soon as possible. They ask questions that show they have reflected upon what was said. During the process they are aware and in control of their emotions, managing negative emotions accordingly if and when they arise.

Tools to receiving and giving feedback can be found here.

Motivation

Individuals that lead are able to motivate and inspire others. Every leader should understand the importance of motivation in others and know how to maintain it.

Extrinsic motivation: comes from external rewards (such as a bonus or pay rise).

Intrinsic motivation: refers to personal satisfaction from performing a given task or activity.

The latter is less obvious, yet often more important for someone’s life satisfaction. The intrinsic value of something is frequently termed the ‘why’ behind the goals we set for ourselves and others.

You do not need to be a manager or team leader in order to benefit from the ability to motivate others. It is a skill that helps you build rapport more quickly and be more productive, both as a team and individually. Further, it is helpful when trying to convince others of the importance of an idea you have.

Closely related to this is the concept of hope. Leaders that are hopeful have an easier time convincing others to be positive and excited about what they do.

Tools to improve motivation can be found here.

Relationship Building

As human beings, relationships are fundamentally important to us. Your relationship with your family, friends, and significant other as well as your professional relationships and your relationship with yourself are all linked to your leadership ability. Deep connections are beneficial for our mental wellbeing, allow us to pursue our goals, change our thoughts and behaviors, and provide us with support when we need it.

Good leaders are skilled at connecting otherwise unconnected individuals. They possess strong interpersonal skills that help them understand another person’s perspective and they are good at networking, thereby increasing their professional reach. True leaders go beyond building rapport to serve their needs but focus on truly understanding and appreciating others.

Tools for relationship building can be found here.

You can also find the social relationships module here.

Self-Awareness

The path to good leadership is primarily inward facing (focussing on yourself, your values, beliefs and character) before it is outward facing (focussing on others). It is a journey of understanding and managing one’s self.

Self-awareness: the ability to identify and monitor your feelings, thoughts and actions. It is the awareness of your own personality or individuality. It is also about self-acceptance and self-love while knowing your weaknesses.

Once you understand your internal experiences, it becomes easier to monitor their impact on the external experience of others.

Tools to improve self-awareness can be found here.

Tools To Improve Your Leadership Skills

Mutual Trust

Core Values & Operating Principles

Become clear about what your core values actually are.

Core Values & Line Of Consistency

After you have identified your core values, it is important to behave accordingly.

Clear Vision

Rate My Goals

An easy way to identify and track your progress towards long-term goals.

Overcoming Obstacles

Increase your ability to identify and overcome any barriers.

Communication

Active Listening Guide

To truly listen to what others want to tell you, listen attentively, paraphrase or reflect back and withhold judgments. 

Non-Verbal Communication Guide

A guide to improve both your understanding and use of non-verbal cues. 

Feedback

Emotional Triggers

Learn about your emotional triggers, how to identify and to cope with them.

Sandwich Technique

A three-step procedure that helps you to restructure the way you give feedback. 

Motivation

Convincing Others Of Your Idea

Before presenting your idea to others, write down your reasoning, so it will have the biggest impact possible.

Giving Compliments To Others

When done well, compliments are one of the best ways to show others that you appreciate them.

Relationship Building

Connecting Individuals

Relationship building thrives from your ability to network. Get involved and involve others. 

Daily Do Goods

Actions that you perform during the day, all in the spirit of doing something nice for someone else.

Self-Awareness

I Own It

Take some time in the evening to reflect on the things that you have accomplished during the day.

Personal Growth Project

Look for new opportunities and do something you haven’t done before.

Core Values & Operating Principles

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Mutual Trust

5 Minutes

Starter

Thinking

‘Practice what you preach’ means to behave according to what you believe in. Having core values but failing to act on them displays low integrity. So, in order to build trust it is important to stick to your values. This tool helps you to become clear about what these values actually are.

Write down your core values and their corresponding operating principles using the worksheet in the Download Materials.

Core values: the values defined by you for you. They are not likely to change with trends or your daily mood. Some examples are achievement, loyalty, sense of justice, honesty and reliability. 

Operating principles: the observable practices and actions of your values. It is how you and others will know if you are living up to your values. 

Core Values & Line Of Consistency

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Mutual Trust

10 Minutes

Intermediate

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Written

After you have identified your core values, it is important to behave accordingly.

In order to stick to them it can be helpful to get clear on your ‘line of consistency’ i.e. the behaviour that you would not show because it would mean breaking the values that are most important to you. 

1. List 3 to 5 of the values that you hold most dear.

Note: some examples of values include achievement, creativity, reliability, loyalty and a sense of justice.

2. For each value listed, what is the line you draw that you will not cross? That is, what will you not do that goes against this value?

3. How will you know if you are getting close to that line? How will you address it if this occurs?

Rate My Goals

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Clear Vision

20 Minutes

Intermediate

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Written

Checking your goals is an easy way to identify and track your progress towards long-term goals and can be split into two stages:

Stage 1: setting the goal and rating your current progress towards it (see ‘Rate My Goals’ worksheet).

Stage 2: breaking the long-term goal down into smaller, short-term goals and thinking about ways to overcome any obstacles you might encounter (see ‘Overcoming Obstacles’ worksheet).

1. Start by writing a list of all the major goals you want to achieve in your life.

2. Then, using the ‘Rate My Goals’ worksheet in the download materials, assign at least 2 long-term goals (to complete within the next 1-2 years) to each of the domains provided.

Note: goals should be both meaningful and reasonable to achieve e.g. “get a promotion at work”.

3. Once you have written down your goals for each domain, rate your current progress towards them on a scale of 1-10, where 1 means that you have made no movement towards the goal and 10 means that you are very satisfied with your progress towards the goal.

4. Repeat this process on a weekly or monthly basis as a way of tracking your progress and identifying which of your goals are close to completion and which require more attention.

Overcoming Obstacles

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Clear Vision

30 Minutes

Advanced

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Written

This tool is a continuation of the Rate My Goals tool.

Overcoming obstacles refers to your ability to identify any potential barriers that might get in the way of you achieving your goals and to come up with a range of appropriate strategies for dealing with those barriers. 

Note: strategies should not be limited to 1 or 2 but should include any realistic course of action that can be taken in order to overcome the obstacle and reach your goal. 

1. Look back at your ‘Rate My Goals’ worksheet. Now that you have identified what your long-term goals are, it is time to take appropriate action towards achieving them.

2. Using the worksheet in the Download Materials, write down 2-3 short-term goals that will help you to pursue each of the long-term goals you rated as lower than a six on the ‘Rate My Goals’ worksheet.

3. Once you have done this, think of any potential obstacles you might face when pursuing these goals and write them down.

4. Finally, consider the steps you will take to overcome these obstacles and put them into practice.

Active Listening Guide

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Communication

10 Minutes

Starter

Thinking

Active listening: listening attentively, paraphrasing or reflecting back and withholding judgments or advice.

When communicating with others we tend to focus on what we want to say next rather than truly listening to what the other person wants to tell us. When you listen actively and are really engaged with your conversation partner, you will be able to catch the subtle signs that tell you how that person is feeling. You can make them feel heard and valued. Active listening skills are also strongly related to establishing trust. 

The worksheet in the ‘Download Materials’ serves as a guide to listening actively. 

Non-Verbal Communication Guide

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Communication

5 Minutes

Starter

Thinking

Non-verbal communication forms the major part of all human interaction and communication. Your non-verbal cues – the way you speak, listen, look and move – tell the person how you feel, whether or not you care, and if you’re being truthful. Even when you are silent, you continue to communicate non-verbally.

Why does it matter? If your words do not match with the non-verbal cues you show, it can create tension, confusion and mistrust. On the other hand, when they match, it increases rapport, clarity and assurance. By improving both your understanding and use of non-verbal cues, you can express what you really mean as well as building stronger connections and more rewarding relationships.

The worksheet in the ‘Download Materials’ serves as a guide to non-verbal communication. 

Emotional Triggers

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Feedback

10 Minutes

Starter

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Writing

Sometimes we face certain situations in life that make us feel uncomfortable. We might feel anxious or stressed about them. Our palms may be sweaty or our tummy might be upset. The experiences that cause these feelings (and sometimes even an intense emotional reaction) are what we call emotional triggers.

The worksheet in the ‘Download Materials‘ will help you learn more about your emotional triggers, how to identify them and how to cope with your feelings.

Everyone has emotional triggers, though these look a little different from person to person. These might include unwanted memories, uncomfortable topics, another person’s actions or choice of words, and even your own behaviours. 

Some examples of emotional triggers are: 

  • Being rejected 
  • Challenged beliefs
  • Disapproval, criticism, or negative feedback 
  • Dishonesty
  • Insecurity 
  • Feeling controlled 

Recognizing what triggers you in order to adequately deal with those feelings is important to maintain good emotional health. Usually this involves a few steps:

  1. Notice your bodily reactions, feelings, and thoughts.
  2. Identify and label them.
  3. Identify what triggered you. 

 

Sandwich Technique

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Feedback

5 Minutes

Intermediate

Thinking

This is a three-step procedure that can help you restructure the way you give feedback. The goal is to ‘wrap’ negative feedback between two layers of positive approval. 

Note: If you haven’t done yet, you might find it helpful to look at the communication tools first. 

Giving feedback: 

Receiving feedback:

 

Convincing Others Of Your Idea

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Motivation

15 Minutes

Intermediate

Thinking

If you have a great idea in mind, you probably know the reasons for why it is so great, yet others might not. Before presenting your idea to others it can be helpful to write down your reasoning, so it will have the biggest impact possible.

Try and communicate the importance of your ideas by using logic, not emotions.

When selling an idea to others, think of three reasons why this would be beneficial.

Phrase it this way:

  • I have an idea [be specific what the idea is].
  • I think we should do this because [reason #1], [reason #2] and [reason #3].
  • We don’t have to do this, but here is what may happen if we don’t [list at least one reason why].

The worksheet in the Download Materials can help you brainstorm about your idea.

Giving Compliments

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Motivation

5 minutes

Starter

l

Doing

This tool serves as a reminder to compliment others.

Compliments are one of the best ways to show others that you appreciate them. The most memorable and impactful compliments are: 

  • Authentic and genuine
  • Specific and detailed

For a week, find three opportunities to compliment someone everyday.

Try not to focus on the same friends or co-workers. Instead, compliment an individual who is not in your friendship group or even someone that you don’t know. Be sure to observe the impact your compliments have on others and also how you feel after giving them.

Note: if you struggle to do this, you could start by writing the compliments down. You could then either give them to the person in written format or remind yourself to say them later that day. 

Tips: 

  • Make sure your phrasing, tone and style of communication is just as usual (to avoid sounding artificial or seeming like you have an ulterior motive). 
  • Start the compliment with “I really like….” and specifically let them know what they did that earned a compliment. 
  • Share how that person has positively impacted you or others. 

Daily Do Goods

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Relationship Building

5 Minutes a Day

Starter

Activity

As the saying goes, “if you want to feel good, do good”. 

Daily do-goods are actions that you perform throughout the day, all in the spirit of doing something for someone else. The action itself can be as simple as completing some housework that is usually done by your partner or, it can be something more time-consuming such as tutoring a colleague for an upcoming assessment. Whatever you decide to do, it is important that you are putting the needs of someone else ahead of yourself. 

For some examples of daily do-goods see the ‘Do-Good Checklist’ in the Download Materials.

Once you have completed all of the activities on the checklist you can start adding your own or look at the list of ”Additional Do-Goods’ we have created.

 

 

Connecting Individuals

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Relationship Building

15 minutes

Intermediate

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Doing

Among good communication skills and establishing trust, relationship building also thrives on your ability to network. Sometimes the best strategy is to get involved and to involve others.

At least twice per month, invite someone who you don’t know well to do something. The activity could be work-related (inviting them for coffee during your break) or something outside of the work day. 

The important part of this skill is to “learn about who they are”. Try to understand their world from their perspective and to find common interests. Once the connection is made, it is important to maintain it (e.g., invite them for other activities if you are both interested, or at least check in with them periodically through email or text etc.).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when physical distancing takes place, you could try these:

  • Set a weekly call with someone you do not know well or have not spoken to in a while
  • Organise an online social with colleagues (playing fun games, pub quiz etc.)
  • Find a pen-friend 

You can find more ideas for virtual activities here. 

I Own It

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Self-Awareness

15 Minutes a Day

Advanced

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Writing

Life often seems fast-paced. A lot of things can happen in a day and we often forget to pause and acknowledge when we did something well or achieved something (as small or as extraordinary it may be). For that reason, it can be helpful to take some time in the evening to reflect on the things that you have accomplished throughout the day. This will guide you to become more aware of things that went well, or did not go so well, and provide you with a sense of ownership over your life. 

The worksheet in the Download Materials is a kind of mini-journal – giving you a taste of how to write down and reflect on your experiences and feelings.

In the evening, think about how the day has been for you.

  • There were likely times when you did or said something that helped you or someone else.
  • There may also have been times when you did or said something that wasn’t really helpful for you or someone else.

The worksheet will help you in becoming more self-aware by focusing on things you can keep doing (if you did something good) and considering different strategies (when things didn’t turn out well). 

Personal Growth Project

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Self-Awareness

1 hour a Week

Advanced

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Doing

Leadership skills are best developed through new opportunities. This means doing something you haven’t done before.

It is also important to learn how you can move from your comfort zone into your growth zone. 

In this project, you will select one activity that you have always wanted to explore and learn but have not yet had a chance to do so.

The activity may involve a new skill (e.g. learning to play a musical instrument, a new language or a sport) or experience (traveling to a region or immersing yourself in a new culture) but must comply with the following requirements: 

  • Must be something completely new for you
  • Must be ongoing (at least for 6 weeks)

You can pick a project to do alone however, the best way to work on your leadership skills  is to perform a group project. Working on a personal goal with a group of people fosters trust, communication and motivation. It allows you to practice leadership skills within a social context whilst receiving constructive feedback from others. Your activity should preferably be new for everyone in the group. 

Reflection: either in a personal journal or using the ‘I Own It’ worksheet, describe your experiences. What worked well for you and what did you learn about yourself? What were some of the frustrations you experienced and what could you do differently next time to improve the interaction(s)?

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Another good way to get involved is through volunteering. Helpful platforms to discover volunteering opportunities are:

From Comfort Zone To Growth Zone 

One way to develop your leadership skills is to take on more responsibility. This does not mean that you should take on more than you can handle but leaving your comfort zone is what ultimately helps you to take on new opportunities and grow with them.

Comfort zone and growth zone are two well-known concepts in positive psychology: 

Comfort zone

Everyone knows the feeling of comfort – our basic needs are met, we feel secure and confident where we are and we do not feel any reason to abandon this place of inner peace. We are in full control. 

“The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”

However, it is a place of little progress and little change. It could be the sofa in the living room where we prefer to stay instead of going out to explore the world, the same shops we went to for years or the same holiday destination we like to pick. What holds people back most of the time is their frame of mind. We often do not even realize that we are trapped inside. We are so accustomed to our habits forgetting how we limit our possibilities for growth.

Into the Growth zone

It takes some courage to step from your zone of comfort into the unknown. It is normal to initially experience some anxiety and lack self-confidence when trying something new. It is worth it though as you will acquire new skills and deal with upcoming challenges creatively. 

With time, we are able to reach the growth zone. This is where we enrich our points of view, modify our habits, realize goals that we set for ourselves and find purpose in what we do. And in doing that we can safely return to our comfort zone now and then. In the end the comfort zone is not our enemy, it should rather be seen as an old friend that we do not see too often but shall be happy to encounter again.

Note: see the Download Materials for ‘6 Ideas For Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone‘ and ‘6 Benefits Of Leaving Your Comfort Zone‘.