11 Ways to Practice Leadership Skills in Everyday Life
Leadership is an essential skill for all young entrepreneurs. It’s more than being “the boss.” The best leaders inspire. They earn (not command) respect. They help others reach their full potential. They make smart decisions and take accountability for their mistakes.
As a high school entrepreneur, leadership is especially important. Colleges and universities want students who are good leaders. They want to bring in students who are bright, motivated, and destined for success.
Maybe leadership comes naturally to you. Maybe not. Whatever the case may be, here are 11 ways to practice (or develop) leadership skills in everyday life.
1. KEEP LEARNING
Well, of course! You’re still in school! Your job is to keep learning.
Beyond math, history, and English Lit, though, good leaders have the “soft skills” necessary to function in life. Soft skills include things that can’t be measured by state tests. They include:
- Effective communication
- Conflict resolution
- Time management
- Task delegation
As you go through your day, take note of people who communicate effectively or resolve conflicts well. What can you do to be more like them?
2. IDENTIFY YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Be honest. Don’t be overly modest, either. Make a list of things you know you’re good at. Next, make another list of things you’re not so great at doing. If you can’t be objective or you’re coming up blank, ask others what they think. People who love you might exaggerate your strengths or not want to hurt your feelings about your weaknesses, so let them know you’re working on self-improvement.
These lists will help you see where you can apply your natural talents – and where you need help to get better. Strong leaders are incredibly self-aware so that they know when they need to ask for help.
3. PRACTICE EMPATHY
Empathy is the ability to see, acknowledge, and understand others’ emotions. A good leader needs empathy so they can understand their employees and customers. Empathy helps leaders take care of others, which in turn earns respect. Think about yourself. Do you prefer to have your concerns dismissed or taken seriously?
You can practice empathy every day by:
- Really listening to others when they talk to you
- Being curious about the people around you
- Asking yourself how you’d react in someone else’s situation
- Sharing your own stories
- Finding things in common with someone else
4. FIND A MENTOR
One of the best ways to learn strong leadership skills is to find someone who’s already there. For high school students, this can be as straightforward as approaching a teacher you admire. Mentorships are 2-way streets that benefit everyone involved. You’ll learn by example and receive priceless advice. In return, your mentor will expand their skillset, help the next generation of leaders, and maybe even learn something from you!
5. MOTIVATE OTHERS
It’s so easy for everyone to get caught up in their own trials and tribulations. When we’re struggling, it’s hard to see past our own noses and notice what everyone else is doing. But remember that strong leaders are enthusiastic cheerleaders. They build people up, not drag them down. No matter how distracting your personal problems may be, try to give one piece of motivational support to at least one person. Even a simple, “Great job!” can make someone else’s day.
It’s human nature to look for shortcuts. We all want the easy way out. We all want to get more than we give. While you don’t have to be a complete ascetic, you should start practicing self-discipline now. It’s like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Again, this doesn’t mean never indulging in your favorite dessert, skipping vacations, or sleeping on a bed of nails. Rather, self-discipline is the part of leadership that shows everyone you know how to get the job done on time, under budget, and exceeding expectations.
7. OWN YOUR MISTAKES
If you or someone you know has never made a mistake, please tell us. For the rest of us mere humans, mistakes are a fact of life. Big or small, we all make them. And we never stop making them. The difference between a good leader and the rest of us mortals is that leaders know how to take responsibility. They do what they can to make it better. They learn and then they move on, a little smarter this time.
To practice this in everyday life, start apologizing when you make mistakes. Bumped into someone by accident? Apologize. Forgot your grandma’s birthday? Call her, apologize, and offer to visit.
8. CONSIDER YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE
Not all leaders are the same. And not all situations require the same type of leadership. Being captain of a debate team requires a different leadership style than hiring employees.
Learning your leadership style will be a journey of self-discovery. And it’s not written in stone, either! Maybe you’re a leader who can adapt your style to the circumstance. That, in itself, is one of the marks of a strong, respectable leader.
9. BE CREATIVE
Creativity isn’t just for artists! Creative leaders can think of new and better ways of doing things. They see the world differently than everyone around them. Where someone else might see a dead-end, a leader sees the chance to try something new.
Practice creativity by trying a new route between classes or looking for a new way to do a chore.
10. BE PART OF THE WORLD AROUND YOU
Leadership can’t exist in a vacuum. No matter how shy or introverted you are, if you want to be a good leader you must be part of the world around you. This means joining clubs and teams. It means volunteering and working alongside others. While it may sting a bit to get out of your shell, the long-term gains are well worth it.
11. JOIN A LEADERSHIP GROUP
Groups like the Future Business Leaders of America are designed with young entrepreneurs like you in mind! If you can’t find a local chapter near you or at your school, consider asking a teacher or other mentor to help you start one. That, in itself, is leadership!
The Kantner Foundation offers college scholarships to young Florida entrepreneurs. Ready to learn more? Click here to see if you are eligible!