Leadership skills have to be learned. Leading people such that they can develop and live their full potential is a masterpiece. Which is often still viewed too superficially and is afflicted with many clichés. In this blog I will provide you with five practical tips for mentally strong leaders.
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The universal image of today’s managers
As a manager, you get a nice title, a great compensation package, and more freedom to shape your tasks. Simply: a better standing, more self-efficacy and freedom to make decisions. This is the image most employees have of their management. But no one tells you what leadership and leadership competence actually mean. At least not in time. Often, you only learn the hard way over time what distinguishes a strong leader.
Have you ever found yourself thinking: “I wish I had known that earlier. Me too, I have felt this way time and again. I have learned from my experiences – some of them painful. I would like to share these with you, such that you can build up strong leadership skills without any major detours yourself.
You only develop leadership competence by making mistakes
I am not perfect and neither are you. However, the more responsibility you have, the greater the consequences and impact; you must be aware of this. However, this does not mean that you cannot make mistakes. In fact, you must make mistakes.
Thomas Watson already knew this when he said: “To become successful, you must double your error rate.” Because only on the basis of making mistakes, some of them big, painful and momentous, will you develop strong leadership skills. To do this, however, you must get back up after each mistake, pick up the pieces, learn from them, and recover from the interim low. Because that’s where growth comes from.
Learn to deal with pressure
Mental strength is essential. Only those who can handle pressure develop true leadership skills. Strong leaders know how to weigh up possible options, listen to different opinions and, as a result, make sound decisions – without losing their balance. The better you can handle this, the more successful you will be in leading your company and your team.
Think of yourself as an ever stand-up person who gets back up after every low blow and moves forward with renewed strength. You have it in your hands. Develop strong leadership skills by training your resilience, acquiring positive ways of thinking and necessary skills. This is the only way to withstand the pressure of a management position.
Leadership competence is based on authentic communication
Good communication is real communication. Talking it up doesn’t help anyone. Encourage authentic communication from your employees and set a good example yourself. Always keep an open ear for the views of others. However, communicate effectively and course-correct when necessary. This is how you and your team will move forward together.
True communication includes criticism. And remember, there will always be someone who disagrees with your approach. By all means, don’t let critics stop you from making progress. See criticism as a signal that you are being listened to and that your viewpoints are being reflected. I often see leaders delay decisions and important actions out of fear of criticism. Even when it comes to positive changes that will benefit both the company and employees.
Do your thing with credibility. By demonstrating strong leadership, people will follow you.
Leadership requires humility
In times when authenticity and transparency are becoming increasingly important, all eyes are often on executives. Every move is closely watched, commented on, and often shared by employees, customers, and shareholders. Executives must demonstrate their leadership skills on a daily basis. Missteps are exposed unadulterated in social media.
Decisions – usually taken out of context – are called into question. There is hardly any time to take a breath, let alone to reflect on the situation. Within a very short time, managers have to decide whether and how to take a stand on certain facts. They have to face both qualified and unqualified opponents.
This requires enormous strength and, above all, humility. It helps immensely to be and remain humble. Share your ups and downs, report on what you are committed to and show yourself approachable. In all of this, however, don’t forget to draw a line in time. And always remember: You can only manage all this if you have humility about leading people and companies.
Without helpful support it quickly becomes lonely
Leadership competence does not mean that you have to manage everything on your own. You carry a large part of the burden alone – that’s right. Because you have to make decisions that no one else wants to make and are therefore often left to your own devices. These circumstance can be draining and isolating.
I know of numerous cases where an executive suffers from loneliness. This can affect their work performance and can even lead to burnout, or has already done so. Affected people tell me that it feels so lonely because they are faced with a mountain of tasks that they cannot delegate. They have to make decisions that only they, as the manager in charge, can make.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to and shouldn’t manage everything on your own. Executives are well advised to build a solid support system. Both professionally and privately. Supportive hands that intervene in time or lift you up again when the pressure becomes too much. In stressful times, a strong support system provides clarity. It helps to gain distance in difficult moments, to step out of one’s role and to perceive new perspectives. A sparring partner – a ‘neutral’ third person – is particularly helpful. This supports mental strength and thus leadership competence.
Leadership is not easy, but worthwhile
Leadership has its price. But it is worth investing so that you grow with and in the task. Develop your leadership skills and mental strength step by step. Believe in yourself and above all in others. Even if you are disappointed from time to time. That happens to me, too. But you know what, I have been positively surprised by people many times more. And never forget: What you radiate, you also attract.