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Image Dear Career Coach

I have been criticized on my leadership skills in my assessment but my manager isn't being very helpful in explaining what he means. Getting this right is going to be crucial to promotion here. Can you help?

While the term leadership has become a bit of a management catch phrase for a number of different skills and attributes, it is an essential component of what makes a good manager and in assessing who will be suited to more senior roles within an organisation. In business, there are many examples of how good leaders have taken an everyday product or service to a new level simply by being able to inspire a vision and to create an energy that brings out the skills of those working in the company.

On the other hand, we have all seen situations where poor leaders destroy a brand or a business by losing touch with their people and failing to convince those they lead to go along with their ideas and approach.

In the wider world, you can see many examples of leaders, be they religious, political or simply transformational. While styles and tactics will vary, their ability to get people onside with their message and to deliver results is what unites them.

As the word suggests, being a leader is about having the ability to show direction and to inspire a following. In the workplace, this also translates into the ability to inspire and motivate the people you lead and to give them the encouragement and nurturing needed for them to meet their goals. It means being able to see the big picture in terms of what is happening in your division or company and understanding how you/your team relate to this.

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Being the boss isn't the same as being a good leader. From providing a clear direction to giving the mentoring and coaching needed, a good leader is able to bring on board all the skills within his team to reach and exceed targets and objectives. By keeping open channels of communication with those they work with, a good leader lets their team feel empowered to bring innovation and good ideas to the table.

You haven't mentioned what you do but the other thing to be aware of is that showing leadership skills is not necessarily about managing other people. Within the context of any job you do, showing leadership skills means being able to show confidence and assertiveness in the way you perform your work. It is also reflected in how proactive you are seen to be; do you wait to be told what to do or do you see what needs to be done and take the initiative?

Being the boss isn't the same as being a good leader. From providing a clear direction to giving the mentoring and coaching needed, a good leader is able to bring on board all the skills within his team to reach and exceed targets and objectives.

Leadership skills can also translate into how you work with your colleagues – do you offer support, advice and assistance to help others or just concern yourself with what you need to do to get your job done? Are you flexible and able to adapt your style of work to the situation at hand without grumbling and resisting? Do you take an interest in where the organisation is going and actively network to raise your visibility or simply come into work, do your job and head off again? Do you keep your integrity in the workplace or join in with office gossip and other unethical behaviour?

A final point to consider is clarifying how your manager is defining leadership because if this is going to be crucial to your promotion, you need to ensure that you are both singing from the same song sheet. Without being confrontational, as you go through your assessment process, ask your manager for guidance on what you could have done differently in specific situations to demonstrate better leadership skills. By getting him or her to define the behaviours they are expecting, it will help both of you to get a better understanding of what your company needs to see before you can get promoted.

Best of luck!

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From online CV checking to face-to-face coaching, presentation skills training to making the right impact at interview, our careers services will help you reach your goals.

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