In order to be an effective leader, you need to first understand what leadership actually is. Many people mistakenly believe that leadership is simply overseeing a group or organization. However, there's much more to it than that. Effective leaders possess a number of qualities that allow them to successfully navigate through challenges and inspire others to do the same. This month, we'll explore some of the key characteristics of successful leaders and how you can develop them in yourself. By doing so, you'll be well on your way to becoming a more effective leader in your own right.

Define what leadership means to you

To me, leadership is the capability to inspire others and guide them through difficult tasks and times. It is about understanding people’s emotions and developing a trust that encourages collaboration towards a shared goal. Leadership also involves working with a team to develop innovative ideas and create efficient processes to maximize success. Above all, it requires being both humble and confident while possessing excellent communication skills to motivate and bring out the best in all members of an organization. In the trades, sometimes we have a false belief that we need to know how to do all the skilled work of any team member that we lead. This is simply not true. We need to understand the person, not the work

Understand your personal strengths and opportunities as a leader

Developing and understanding your personal strengths and opportunities as a leader is essential for success. Being aware of what motivates and drives you can provide tangible benefits to strengthen your leadership style; from increasing productivity to creating a better work-life balance to inspiring those around you to grow. Effective leaders invest in improving their own understanding of their strengths, whether it be personal skills or technical knowledge. Through this assessment of self, leaders can create positive impacts on the teams around them by building an action plan that supports their vision and maximizes their potential. It also allows them to identify areas for further development which will build confidence and help them recognize any new challenges they may face with enthusiasm rather than trepidation. One of the reasons I wrote my latest book, “Blue Collar Success Laws,” was to help leaders realize that focusing on personal and professional growth is not only good but absolutely necessary in order to be a peak performer as a leader.

Develop a plan for improving your effectiveness as a leader

Taking the time to develop a plan for improving my effectiveness as a leader has become increasingly important since the start of my professional career when I was by myself running sewer and drain stoppage calls. While I have always viewed leadership as being about excellence, knowledge, and integrity, creating a structured approach to developing each of these qualities can make a big difference in reaching organizational and my own personal goals. To make sure I remain focused on this goal, I have identified several areas where I need to focus my attention and energy, such as increased self-awareness, working on effective communication strategies and investing in emotional intelligence. By setting myself clear objectives and acting to achieve them, I am confident that my efforts will help me succeed as a leader. I subscribe to the adage that all progress begins with telling the truth. If you have a blind spot about yourself or your leadership style, you must get some feedback, coaching and clarity about how to move forward in a productive way.

In the trades, sometimes we have a false belief that we need to know how to do all the skilled work of any team member that we lead. This is simply not true. We need to understand the person, not the work.

Implement the plan and track your progress

Developing a plan and tracking your progress are invaluable tools for success. Having a well-thought-out plan can help to ensure that you are efficiently working towards your goal. On the other hand, regularly tracking your progress is crucial in measuring the effectiveness of your plan. Doing so allows you to make any necessary adjustments as needed, setting yourself up for the best chance at success. With the right strategies in place, making the implementation of your plan run smoothly and achieving your set goal is within reach. It’s also important to track progress for the increase in confidence it brings. Too many people are caught up in ego-based perfection rather than focusing on consistent progress. The Navy Seals say, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” I love this phrase and remind my team of this saying and concept often.

Evaluate your results and make necessary adjustments

Taking a few moments to evaluate the results of your efforts and making any necessary adjustments helps ensure that you are achieving your goals in an efficient and effective manner. It is worth taking the time to assess inaccuracies, deviations, or areas where improvement needs to be made to keep on track. Reflecting on the results and adjusting accordingly allows you to correct unproductive behaviors or actions without having to start from scratch or redo significant tasks. In addition, it is important to disassociate from emotion when considering adjustments, as making an alteration too hastily can lead to second-guessing and re-doing down the road. Taking the time to truly evaluate and make minor changes in accordance with what best serves your intended outcome will enable you to reach success in a more seamless fashion. Always be easy with yourself when closing the gap on discrepancies or making adjustments. Don’t get negative, it’s all part of the process (and progress)!

Being a successful leader means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, having a plan to grow and develop, and measuring the outcomes of your efforts. Leadership is about creating positive impact for yourself, for those around you, and for your organization's success. Everyone has the potential to become an effective leader if they take the time to recognize what works best for them and how to adjust their plan in order to reach the results that are most beneficial. When challenges arise, it is important to face them with confidence and resilience, using your previous experiences and lessons learned as building blocks for future action steps. Being a successful leader means understanding what leadership looks like for you as an individual, implementing strategies that reflect that knowledge effectively and evaluating your results honestly. Take this chance to define what leadership means to you today – be honest with yourself. Do your best and keep growing as an effective leader.