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What Does Leadership Mean?

February 14, 2020

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The success of a structured organization depends on effective leadership. Executive leaders are responsible for determining and guiding the direction and purpose of an organization by setting and achieving goals. There are many other leaders critical to the success of a business, many of which may not even have a leadership title. In this article, we will discuss what leadership means and how you can become an effective leader.

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What is leadership?

Leadership is the act of guiding a team or individual to achieve a certain goal through direction and motivation. Leaders encourage others to take the actions they need to succeed. To be a great leader, it is necessary to learn and cultivate the skills it takes to be effective. Fortunately, anyone can develop these skills with time and practice. 

Leaders exist in every company at all levels, from CEOs and high-level executives to supervisors and project leads. You may even use leadership skills as an entry-level associate when training new hires or leading a meeting. Each leader may have a defined leadership style or a mix of several depending on the team and situation. There are many leadership styles, including:

  • Transactional: Sets predetermined incentives for reaching goals 
  • Transformational: Focuses on setting and achieving company goals
  • Autocratic: Focuses on setting goals based on efficiency
  • Democratic: Works to listen and incorporate team member’s ideas

You can choose the leadership styles that work best for certain individuals, projects or companies.

Read more: 10 Common Leadership Styles 

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Benefits of strong leadership skills

There are many benefits to learning leadership skills, including:

  • You can quickly recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Growing as a leader means learning what you do well and areas you may need to improve so both you and those you lead can read your potential. You will learn your strengths and weaknesses quickly because they are often multiplied and reflected by the team, project, meeting or other entity you are managing.

  • You can better understand the company’s direction. As you take on more leadership responsibilities, it is necessary to learn more about the goals of your company. Learning more about your company’s outlook can help you align your goals to succeed within the organization. It will also help you set defined goals for yourself and your team. 

  • You can increase the motivation of your team. Learning more about becoming an effective leader may help you find the best ways to motivate your team, whether it is by recognition, rewards or incentives. Motivating your team well may increase their productivity and morale, helping you to achieve goals quickly. 

  • You can unify your team. Leadership works well when you have a clear vision or goal. Understanding exactly what you want to achieve will help you define the direction your team should take. When your team clearly understands the goals and their responsibilities in achieving them, they can work together to succeed. 

  • You can retain more team members. When you know how to lead your team well, they can achieve more and experience a feeling of accomplishment. Feeling accomplished will help boost your team’s morale and they may be more likely to stay with you and the company. 

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Qualities of an effective leader

Effective leaders should strive to possess several qualities or soft skills. Being a great leader also means having strong technical skills as it relates to your team and industry. Here are a few skills you should consider developing as you focus on building your leadership abilities:

Flexibility

As you lead, you will encounter a variety of people, processes and functions. These elements may change frequently. Knowing when you need to be flexible will help streamline processes and encourage members to grow and learn new skills. For example, you may notice a team member excelling at a new task. Instead of having them complete the rest of their original work, you may assign tasks that will help them expand on this new skill.

Empathy

Practicing empathy can help you better understand the people around you, building trust and developing relationships. Make yourself available to listen to their accomplishments and challenges, and offer suggestions and guidance in response if necessary. Understanding your team’s actions can help you develop better processes as you work toward your goal. 

Read More: Emotional Intelligence: Definition and Examples

Decisiveness

As a leader, you will likely need to make challenging decisions. When you make a decision, it is helpful to be as logical, thoughtful and timely as possible. Use decision-making tools such as data or SWOT analyses to help you make informed choices. Taking the time to learn from your past experiences and the decisions of others before you will also help you make better decisions. 

Read more: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Examples)

Communication

Communication can help reduce conflict and increase productivity. It can also increase collaboration within your team. Maintain an open line of communication with your team and explain your vision and any changes that happen as you work toward it. Active listening is another crucial aspect of strong communication to understand the needs and ideas of those around you. When you communicate with your team, try to be as clear as possible so everyone understands what you need and expect from them.  

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How to become a good leader

Becoming a great leader is a lifelong process that takes time and experience. Some people dedicate their entire careers to studying and identifying what it means to be a good leader. You can, however, begin to build basic leadership skills and hone your personal management style with the following steps:

  1. Find a mentor: A mentor can help guide you toward the leadership methods that work best for you. They can work with you to identify relevant strengths and traits and how to apply them. They can also help you set goals to develop areas in need of improvement. You can find a mentor at your current company, through previous jobs or from your professional network. 

  2. Conduct research: There are countless resources available you can use to learn more about becoming an effective leader, including books, online articles and podcasts. Further, you can study leaders you admire to understand the skills they possess and learn how they apply them to achieve their goals.

  3. Practice: To continue to develop good leadership habits, practice them. Practicing will help you continue to identify what works and where you can learn more to improve.

  4. Take a training course: There are many leadership training courses available online or in-person, including group seminars one-on-one courses. Taking a leadership course can help you learn more about effective leadership practices and how to apply them. You might also ask your organization if they have any leadership training available.

  5. Identify your leadership styles: It can be helpful to study and identify the leadership styles that work best for you, your team and your organization. Most leaders use a combination of several styles as the needs of their team changes.

  6. Ask for feedback. You can ask for constructive feedback from your team to help you improve, just as individual contributors should receive regular feedback about their performance. Your team should be able to identify what worked for them and offer suggestions for improvement. You can then apply that feedback to become a better leader.

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