By DeVry University
Becoming a successful leader is often a lifelong pursuit driven by a mixture of experience, education and self-learning – not to mention a pinch of hard work and a dash of ingenuity. How do you begin the process? Honing your leadership skills through self-guided and practical learning, in addition to your formal education, can make a big difference over time.
Below, we’ve listed some great ways to work on your leadership skills at work, during school and even at home as you strive to become a stronger leader:
1. Learn Directly From Leaders with Top-Rated Books
Call us old fashioned, but there is no better way to understand the practical applications of leadership skills than going directly to the source. Full-length books provide a unique opportunity to take a deep dive into complex ideas, read real-life stories straight from current leaders and learn ways to apply solutions to issues that affect your life.
Below are some highly-rated books that many professionals have leveraged to continue their journeys toward improved leadership skills at work:
- Power Up by Magdalena Yesil highlights her experience as an early investor in Salesforce and an immigrant in Silicon Valley, while exploring how to handle and overcome the challenges of entering the technology space as a woman.
- The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen discusses how successful companies can fail, even when they do everything right. It highlights why companies need to abandon traditional business operations in favor of “disruptive” innovation to maintain market leadership.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a self-help book filled with advice on how to maximize your potential.
- The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley explores how one company, design firm IDEO in Silicon Valley, fosters innovation, prioritizes culture and stays ahead of the game.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is, at its core, about building and running a startup and provides tips for tackling tough business problems.
2. Follow Leadership-Focused Social Media Accounts
It’s 2020, and reading books is certainly not the only way to hear directly from other leaders. Celebrities, CEOs and successful startup founders share their obstacles, guiding principles, lessons and success stories online. These individuals are regularly providing actionable insights that you can apply to your work and life – and at no cost to you.
Modern tools like social media allow you to derive inspiration, insights and tips from people in the roles you aspire to. Following the accounts of prominent business leaders can help you better understand complex topics on a regular basis. In fact, science shows that leaders learn best from other leaders.
We’ve listed some of our favorite leadership-focused social media personalities below:
- Doug McMillion: As the CEO of Walmart, Doug is ranked as the most connected leader by Brunswick Group. Find him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
- Adena Friedman: Adena is the CEO of Nasdaq and is an avid Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram user.
- Ed Bastian: Ed is the CEO of Delta Air Lines and has a strong LinkedIn and Instagram presence.
- Lynn Good: As the CEO of Duke Energy, Lynn is highly connected on LinkedIn.
- Mary Barra: Mary is the CEO of General Motors and is known for her engaging use of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Following local leaders within your industry can be highly beneficial too – but be sure to brush up on your online networking know-how before you get started.
3. Tune-in to Some of the Best Leadership Podcasts
Podcasts are episodic audio files that provide a convenient and enjoyable way to learn self-development skills from business leaders. You can enjoy podcasts during your commute or downtime at the office. Some of the best leadership podcasts include:
- The Tim Ferriss Show: Get advice on tactics, tools and routines used by successful investors, business professionals, athletes and more.
- Start Today Podcast with Chris Cavallini: Focus on personal development, mental toughness and self-mastery.
- RISE Podcast with Rachel Hollis: Explore topics to help you be the best version of yourself in business and your personal life.
- Leadership and Loyalty with Dov Baron: Hear Baron discuss business topics with top leaders and CEOs.
- Engaging Leader: Prepare to become a better leader with principles, tips and stories aimed to help you inspire trust, passion and action.
- LEADx Leadership Podcast with Kevin Kruse: Gain real world advice through interviews with leadership experts and top executives.
Always accessible, typically free and often more engaging than other mediums, podcasts offer a number of benefits to busy professional looking to grow their business knowledge. Did we miss any of your favorite podcasts? Tweet us @devryuniv!
4. Join Community Self-Development Groups
Meeting with like-minded professionals who share an interest in personal and professional development can not only help motivate you, but it can also help you develop new perspectives. Understanding the positions and views of others is key to leadership, so this is a critical step toward honing your abilities.
An additional benefit of finding a community group, local not-for-profit organization or low-cost club is the access you can get to regular meeting spaces and opportunities. These allow you to practice useful business skills such as public speaking, writing, negotiation and interviewing.
To get you started on the right path, we’ve listed a handful of business development groups that can help you improve soft business skills like communication, organization and networking:
- Toastmasters International: An organization focused on the improvement of communication and leadership skills.
- Enactus: A non-profit community for students with entrepreneurial aspirations geared toward helping others.
- Business Professionals of America (BPA): An organization that helps students build both networking and business skills.
Final Thoughts: Why Is Leadership Important in Business?
Being a good leader is more than just taking charge. From driving strategy and effectively communicating business goals to motivating teams and building colleague engagement, a strong leader brings a lot to the table.
In addition to their educational background and work experience, a good leader understands that they must develop their professional skills habitually over the course of their career. And with a little practice, a foundation of learning and consistent dedication, you can help yourself build the leadership skills you need to achieve your goals, too.
Products and resources within this article are included as suggestions and linked for your convenience. DeVry University and our Keller Graduate School of Management are not affiliated with these products/companies/individuals, nor do we make any type of profit should you choose to purchase.