As you reflect on the start of a new year and the beginning of a new decade, perhaps you have some big picture changes or improvements in mind. In terms of professional development and career growth, “building leadership skills” often rises to the top of the list.

Great! Strengthening your leadership skills can produce big results. But what, exactly, does that mean? Do you want to be a more persuasive communicator? Improve your ability to build relationships? Think more strategically?

“We’re often contacted by prospective clients who want to grow their leadership skills, or improve the leadership skills of their employees,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. “But ‘leadership’ covers a lot of ground. The word carries a lot of assumptions and is open to a great deal of interpretation. They don’t have a clear idea about what characteristics or behaviors that entails. As executive coaches, part of our job is to work with you to identify those areas that need work. What elements of leadership might you focus on in your particular case?”

A Strategic Approach to Developing Your Leadership Skills

The most effective way to develop leadership skills is to take a strategic approach — what do you want to accomplish? What does success look like? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Research conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman and reported in the Harvard Business Review identified 19 different capabilities associated with leadership. The research further shows that these 19 capabilities distinguish excellent leaders from average or poor leaders.

These characteristics also serve as a terrific way to move from a vague “I want to strengthen the leadership skills of my management team,” to a more specific “I want to strengthen the ability of my management team to inspire and motivate others.”

Here’s a sampling of some of the capabilities associated with great leadership (as referred to in HBR):

  • Inspires and motivates
  • Builds relationships
  • Collaborates and builds teams
  • Connects to the outside world
  • Communicates powerfully
  • Communicates consistently
  • Acts with integrity and honesty
  • Takes a strategic perspective
  • Exhibits resilience
  • Develops others

Not Sure Where to Begin? Start with a 360 Degree Leadership Assessment

It’s common to be uncertain about where to start. Asking others helps — they know! “We frequently begin a coaching engagement with a 360 Degree Leadership Assessment,” said Perry. “It’s nearly impossible to turn the mirror on yourself and see yourself clearly.” An executive coach will design and implement the 360 assessment properly, expertly interpret and translate its meaning, and help you leverage the results.

Perry adds, “In our executive coaching practice, 360 results are used for developmental purposes. The objective is to gather honest feedback needed to analyze and examine an executive’s performance, behaviors, and leadership skills — and then create an action-based plan for improvement and development.”

For more about 360 assessments, read Arden Coaching’s “360 Assessments Result in Big, Positive Changes: When Done Right,” and “5 Benefits of 360 Feedback.”

So move forward boldly this year, and build your leadership skills in a way that is strategic. Identify the characteristics of leadership most meaningful to you, focus, and get to work!

To learn more about how executive coaching can help you define and improve your leadership skills, contact Arden Coaching at info@ardencoaching.com or 646.684.3777.