Learning Leadership

Learning to be a Leader

I’m currently a senior software engineer for a large pharmaceutical company, and I’ve been a software engineer now for over 25 years professionally and 30 years total. I am an introvert that is not great with people in general, as I tend to be incredibly blunt. Next month, I will start leading a team on a large project that is critical to the success of our company. I asked myself, “What can I do to work on my leadership skills, my lack of tact, and generally being a good leader so that I can ensure our project is successful?”

Transitioning from an individual contributor to a leadership role can be challenging, but with the right mindset and strategies, you can develop your leadership skills and become an effective leader. Here are some suggestions to help you work on your leadership skills, enhance your interpersonal effectiveness, and improve your overall leadership style:

  1. Self-awareness: Start by reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Understand your own personality traits and how they might impact your interactions with others. Acknowledge your blunt nature and make a conscious effort to modify your communication style when necessary.

  2. Emotional intelligence: Develop your emotional intelligence, which involves understanding and managing your emotions and those of others. This skill is crucial for building strong relationships, empathizing with your team members, and promoting effective collaboration.

  3. Active listening: Practice active listening to improve your communication skills. Make a genuine effort to understand the perspectives, concerns, and ideas of your team members. This will help foster trust, encourage open dialogue, and make people feel valued.

  4. Empathy and understanding: Cultivate empathy to connect with your team members on a deeper level. Put yourself in their shoes and consider their motivations, needs, and challenges. This will enable you to respond to their concerns more effectively and build a supportive environment.

  5. Feedback and coaching: Develop your ability to provide constructive feedback to your team members. Offer praise and recognition for their achievements, and provide guidance when improvement is needed. Be specific, objective, and provide actionable suggestions to help them grow professionally.

  6. Delegate and empower: Recognize that as a leader, you can’t do everything yourself. Learn to delegate tasks and responsibilities to your team members based on their strengths and development areas. Empower them to make decisions and take ownership of their work, while providing support and guidance when needed.

  7. Conflict resolution: Learn effective techniques for managing conflicts and disagreements within your team. Encourage open and honest discussions, mediate when necessary, and strive for win-win resolutions. Address issues promptly and objectively to maintain a positive team dynamic.

  8. Continuous learning: Never stop learning and seeking personal development opportunities. Attend leadership workshops, read books on leadership and management, and seek mentorship or coaching from experienced leaders. Stay up to date with industry trends and best practices to enhance your knowledge and expertise.

  9. Lead by example: Be a role model for your team. Demonstrate the qualities and behaviors you expect from them, such as professionalism, integrity, and a strong work ethic. Your actions will speak louder than words and inspire your team members to follow suit.

  10. Seek feedback and adapt: Regularly seek feedback from your team members, peers, and superiors. Actively listen to their input, identify areas for improvement, and adapt your leadership style accordingly. Embrace a growth mindset and be open to evolving as a leader.

Remember that leadership is a journey, and it takes time and practice to become an effective leader. Be patient with yourself, celebrate small victories, and continuously strive for improvement. Communicate, listen, and ask and be receptive to feedback from your peers.