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Building the skills to lead confidently and competently in an ever-changing business world

Key Leadership Skills for a Changing Work Environment

Whether you’re stepping into your first role as a manager, or a seasoned leader looking to adapt your skillset to match the ever-changing world of work, understanding who you are as a manager, what makes your team tick, and how to build successful professional relationships at work are all vital skills to master when stepping into a leadership position.

As the world of business has advanced through decades of digital transformation, hybrid working models, advanced commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion, there is no longer room for a ‘one sizes fits all’ approach to leadership and management. Adaptability and a commitment to ongoing professional development continues to be the key to leadership success.

Effective leaders prioritise investing sufficient time and energy into both developing themselves and their team, but what are other key qualities which leaders should add to their toolkit?

Meeting the individual needs of your team members

Humans are complex by nature, with no two people being the same. Similar can be said about everyone’s individual management preferences, and what they deem as key elements in order to feel happy in the workplace and perform to the best of their ability.

Whether you’re managing a person who is looking to progress up the career ladder to reach senior positions, someone looking to broaden their skillset in a range of new business areas, or perhaps a team member who is content within their role and wants to maintain their performance, it’s important to understand everyone’s motivations and goals within their career.

By listening to feedback, providing clear meaning and direction, and ensuring those you manage feel valued within their role, you will be able to create job security and provide a healthy work environment for your direct reports.

Building trust through informal and positive interactions

Studies have shown that when employees feel they can trust their managers, productivity and wellbeing increases within the workplace.

Although hybrid working comes with many benefits, it has also caused several drawbacks including a decrease in the so called ‘water-cooler conversations’ – the informal, friendly interactions we have with colleagues whilst passing them in the corridor or meeting in the lunchroom.

The more positive, social interactions you have with your direct reports, the more they are likely to feel comfortable and trusting towards you, boosting their morale, sense of wellbeing and belonging within their role.

Understanding that you’re going to make mistakes

A common misconception of being a leader is the expectation that you should have all the answers to every question, right from the beginning. But the reality of becoming a manager for the first time is that you will face a very steep learning curve.

Looking to others for advice and learning from their expertise is paramount to becoming an effective leader.

Listening, learning, and absorbing the knowledge, experience, and support from successful managers around you will help you to learn from their previous challenges and implement best practice leadership techniques into your own management style.

Managing difficult conversations and conflict

Nobody enjoys having difficult conversations, especially in the workplace, but unfortunately it is almost certain that every manager will come across them at some point in their career.

Knowing how to manage and address these interactions is a complex but vital skill to master when becoming an effective and respected leader.

By keeping an open and honest dialogue between you and your direct reports, and dealing with conflicts quickly, problems can be resolved efficiently without allowing them to linger and worsen over time.

Discovering your own leadership style and focusing on professional development

Recognising and exploring your own leadership style is a vital part of delivering effective leadership.

Acknowledging your own leadership tendencies and investing time in continuous improvement not only supports impactful personal development, but it also creates a positive work environment which highlights your commitment to adapt with changing circumstances in a fast-paced business landscape.

By observing how you respond to success and failure, and understanding how to regulate interpersonal emotions, this will help to heighten your self-awareness as a leader, supporting you to achieve positive outcomes for yourself, your team, and the overall business.

Final thoughts

Many believe that leaders are born, not made. However, with a focus on investing sufficient time towards developing key skills that empowers yourself and those around you to make informed decisions and perform to their highest ability, leaders can be born from hard work and commitment alone.

Alliance Manchester Business School has recently launched a brand-new portfolio of short business courses for senior leaders and executives with a focus on supercharging their leadership capabilities.

During Professor Robin Martin’s course, Psychology of Leading People, you will discover, strengthen, and learn how to effectively implement your leadership skills within your organisation.

From in-depth insights on managing yourself and others, to best-practice examples from leader organisations, you will gain a greater understanding of how management is evolving in an ever-changing world.

This article first appeared in November 2023's issue of The British Chamber of Commerce Magazine in Singapore.

Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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