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Leadership skills: 14 ways to improve them with no money

Published 1st March 2017 by Melissa Farrington
Leadership skills at work

“There’s no budget” - three of the most distressing words in the English language!

But never fear: if you’re a leader passionate enough about improving who you are, what you do and the impact you have on others, there’s loads and loads of things you can do to improve your leadership skills with no money.

We’ll kick start your no-budget leadership improvement journey below with 14 cracking ideas for really making a difference.

How many can you do?

  • Practice using your ‘second brain’: we’re trained to use logic in business rather than trust our gut, but our gut turns out to be directly connected to our brain - learning to better understand and utilise your gut reaction can help with decision-making.
  • Try another leadership style: from transformational leadership to inclusive leadership, adaptive leadership and hundreds more, the world’s not short on leadership styles, and you’ve probably got a natural preference. Trying another in an appropriate situation can help you gain perspective.
  • Leadership books: leadership books can be expensive, so join the local library - they will have hundreds, both modern books and classics. Don’t limit yourself to the traditional leadership manuals: think about what you could learn from biographies, or literary fiction.
  • Take a MOOC: not only on leadership, but something that really improves your overall effectiveness, such as Learning How To Learn.
  • Watch the TED Hard Choices talk: It will transform the way you think about decision-making. Check it out. It’s got almost 4.5m views and counting.
  • Try to gain someone’s buy-in: try to convince a partner or close friend with emotion, rather than logic. As leaders we must encourage people to buy-in to initiatives rather than pull rank on them. The more you practice, the more you’ll understand what makes people tick and how to tap into it.
  • Actively build empathy: there are many ways to practice building empathy and this is a fundamental skill as a leader - you must be able to understand the viewpoints of others. Try taking a political issue you feel strongly about and thinking about why someone would land on the opposite side to you, or read a news source that’s aligned with the opposite of your political leanings.
  • Nurture your identity: when we feel comfortable in ourselves, we feel comfortable recognising others as individuals, treating them with respect and establishing strong and healthy boundaries. Improve your skills at a hobby, pick up an instrument, take up rock climbing - choose anything that makes you feel like a better, stronger, well-rounded and purposeful human being.
  • Ask someone to mentor you: Don’t choose someone obvious - pick someone you’d never normally choose to cut across your current skillset and make you more well-rounded.
  • Mindfulness: The evidence on mindfulness is stacking up. It’s a remarkable route to better emotional control, less ruminating, better listening and a more peaceful existence. Try Headspace for a slick app-based modern experience.
  • Exercise: the positive effects of exercise feel almost too numerous to list. One of the most important effects is that it makes you feel good about yourself, which means you’ll feel good about others, and that is important to being a good leader.
  • Humble yourself: watch an eye-opening documentary, find out about the great work local charities are doing, or read a book that details someone’s incredible struggle for survival against the odds.
  • Gratefulness: our brains naturally look for negative patterns because this kept us alive in days of old, so we tend to focus on the bad points of any situation. Try spending a couple of minutes a day thinking about what you’re grateful for in your employees and what strengths they bring to the organisation.
  • Practice listening: there are so many times during the day we’re half-listening, not really caring what someone is saying. But good leaders respect their employee’s views and give them the gift of their full attention. But it’s like a muscle that needs exercising: you must practice to be able to maintain focus, block out distractions and take in what is being said.