How to develop leadership skills

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Whether you have your sights set on a leadership role within sales and marketing this year or somewhere down the line, your career trajectory is inevitably going to lead you in that direction.

Getting a head start on developing leadership skills - and keeping the leadership skills you already have up-to-date - puts you a step ahead of your competition.



In 2014, Forbes research showed that US spending on corporate training grew by 15 percent over the previous year - up to $70 billion. Spending on leadership and development training is the number one area companies invest in. “All our research on corporate talent shows that global leadership gaps continue to be the most pressing issues on the minds of business and HR leaders,” says Forbes.

If companies are placing such a high priority on leadership training, you can be sure they’re also looking to recruit well-trained leaders in the first place. If you’re on the hunt for a job, developing cutting-edge sales and marketing leadership skills up front gives you the advantage over your competition.

Managers versus leaders

Perhaps you’re already in a management job - does this make you exempt from pursuing leadership training? Not so fast.

"A manager is not always a leader, and as you move up the ranks toward executive status, that difference could become more obvious. Being a true leader at a company means being a generalist, able to oversee the big picture, making prudent recommendations, and ensuring that your entire team follows through." - Nick Louca, Associate Director, Robert Walters.

Being a sales and marketing leader may also require shifts in your own skill levels in other ways. A good leader is focused on enabling his or her team through intelligent and effective hiring and ruthless performance management. She is able to craft a vision for a company or product, then share and execute on that vision in a way that’s inclusive.

What’s your leadership style?

The first step to becoming a better leader is to recognize your own individual leadership style. Leadership is not a one-size-fits all sort of situation. You have particular strengths which will lend themselves to your leadership style; you probably also have things you’re not great at. Being honest with yourself about your abilities and flaws is the first step to honing your leadership abilities.

When evaluating your skills and talents, consider the following ways that leaders execute effectively in the workplace:

  1. They act as passionate, hands-on role models.
  2. They encourage creativity and new ideas from team members. They encourage team members to contribute and always offer rewards and recognition.
  3. They know how to listen and communicate well with all types of personalities and come from a place of pragmatic listening rather than emotional reactivity.
  4. They keep a positive attitude in order to motivate and inspire their teams.
  5. But they also know how to offer discipline.
  6. They are never afraid to try new things, and they possess courage in the face of the unknown.

Where are your weaknesses in the above list? Pinpointing the things you are not good at now might be a good place to start with developing stronger leadership skills.

How tech savvy are you?

There’s no avoiding the fact that sales and marketing roles are becoming increasingly more technology-focused. Being open to new tools - and quick to learn them - is a huge plus. Your job may call for you to be a “people person” most of the time, but being comfortable and efficient with tech is also imperative. If you tend to be better with real live faces than with computers, giving a little attention to your technological skills might be the best way to amplify your leadership skill level.

Tactical solutions to developing leadership skills

Aside from conquering technology, there are some simple tactical to do’s that can help you to improve your leadership skills starting right now. We suggest setting aside ten minutes a day, or an hour a week, to developing your sales and marketing leadership skills in some of the following ways:

  1. Find a webinar in your field and sign up to improve on your skillset.
  2. Seek out a mentor within your company or field, or hire a coach, and actively seek guidance by asking pointed questions about that person’s experience and advice.
  3. Find (and read!) books that offer both insight and inspiration. These could be informational books in your field or self-help books focused on leadership.
  4. Use social media to your advantage. It doesn’t just have to be about advancing your social life; Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be great places to learn more about what’s going on in your field and experience how other leaders are conducting themselves both online and in the real world.
  5. Sign up for some actual, in-person, hands-on training. This is not just a great way to improve your skillset, but can also be a priceless opportunity to network.

A good leader is on the forefront of new technology and, at the same time, has well-honed relationship skills based on both intuition and experience. It’s never too early to finesse your sales and marketing leadership ability.

For more information on how Robert Walters can assist you with your job search, please get in touch with a consultant.

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