How to improve leadership skills

This article on how to improve leadership skills is the beginning of a whole new section of the site dedicated to helping you be the best leader you can.

Throughout this website, we present our “anti-establishment” approach to avoiding corporate failure, corruption in public and private sectors and ensuring an ethical and responsible culture that delivers Triple Bottom Line benefits: People, Planet and Profits. 

In this section we focus on leadership: clearly without competent and strong ethical leadership, an organisation will be at much greater risk from bad behaviour and poor performance. As leaders, therefore, we bear the responsibility of setting a good example and following through with hands-on action to ensure our organisation follows this example.

How to improve leadership skills: no MBA required!

Let me make one thing clear: you do not need an MBA or a masters in leadership to be a great leader. In fact, like an increasing number, I would say that while these qualifications can produce good leaders, most conventional wisdom taught actually prevents you becoming a truly great leader. 

Education, like leadership, is, or should be, about drawing out people’s natural strengths and abilities, not filling minds with facts and figures and how things “should be done”. One thing is being aware of what has been done to help guide what to do (and not do!) in future. Another is blindly following conventional wisdom when the world changes much faster than contemporary (especially most academic) theories and practices. 

We go into more detail on what leadership means, including the origins of the word “leader” and indeed “educate” in our leadership definition page

What you do need to be a great leader, fundamentally, is awareness.  Awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses and those of others, of the constantly changing environment in which you live and work and especially of the needs and concerns of others. Awareness is a synonym of consciousness: by becoming a conscious leader, actively seeking ways to serve the needs of others, you inspire others to do the same and so promote an atmosphere of solidarity and common purpose.

So when asking how to improve leadership skills, be aware that this development comes first and foremost from within you, not outside you. This may sound obvious, but many training clients start by asking how they can improve their team’s performance instead of first focussing on improving themselves. The good news is you already possess all you need to become a great leader - everyone does. It’s just that most people are not aware of their own power and/or choose not to act on it. 

In this section of the website you will find a selection of articles, tools and techniques, as well as our recommendations of leadership books and development programmes:

Leadership blog

This is a new blog section, in addition to our main corporate governance blog, bringing you our latest articles on leadership as well as our pick of leader blogs from around the world.

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What is leadership?

A lot is talked about leadership but few people actually stop to ask: “what is leadership?” In this article, Arthur Kendall gives you his answer but challenges you to go beyond simply reading other people’s opinions and think more deeply about why you are asking the question and what leadership means to you. 

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Leadership defined

A continuation, if you like, of the previous article, here we present our own definition of leadership and a selection of leadership definitions from around the web. We also remind ourselves, through etymology, of the original meaning of the word leader (and what it doesn’t mean!)

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Leadership and learning

In the context of your search for how to improve leadership skills, it seems logical - yet in reality far from universal - that a good leader should be constantly seeking opportunities to learn: learn more about their team, their organisation and arguably most importantly, about themselves and how to grow as a person and so as a leader.

One of the world’s greatest leaders, John F Kennedy, former US president, was due to give a speech on precisely this subject on the day he was assassinated (22 November 1963). As JFK put it, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another”.

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Conscious leadership

Most employee surveys these days show what many managers fail to see: that what people really want from their leaders is not material or financial but personal. This presents challenges but also huge opportunities. Money is a relatively simple concept to understand and manage; people are infinitely diverse and complex. On the other hand, conscious leadership provides a way of keeping people engaged far beyond economic resources can.

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The Water Cooler: leadership quotes and jokes

In this more light-hearted section of the site, we present some leadership quotes which have inspired us and leadership jokes which have amused us - and some which have both inspired and amused! We hope they do the same for you - and feel free to share your own. 

They are certainly all food for thought, and we will be adding to this section by commenting and drawing lessons for us as leaders.

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This new section on how to improve leadership skills is just the beginning. Given its importance in corporate governance - as Bob Garrett famously says in his book of the same title, “the fish rots from the head” - we intend to develop it into an invaluable source of help, guidance and open debate to inspire the new generation of leaders and appeal to existing leaders to serve their people and the planet with care and integrity.

Applied Corporate Governance > Leadership > How to improve leadership skills

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