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How to Assess Your Leadership Skills

By Will Purcell
October 24, 2019

Developing your leadership skills is a great way to advance yourself both personally and professionally. Within the next five years alone, 84 percent of organizations anticipate a shortfall of leaders, resulting in many opportunities for workers looking to grow their skills and take on leadership positions within their organizations.

Leadership skills have come to be considered so vital among businesses today, that many companies are now investing in employee development programs specifically designed to help their teams become stronger leaders and fill that gap. However, before these professionals can effectively advance their skills in leadership, they must first have a solid understanding of how they stack up as a leader compared to other professionals. To do this, employees who hope to acquire a leadership position should first start by personally assessing their existing leadership abilities.

Read on to explore the tools you can use to assess your leadership skills and improve your abilities, and garner an overall understanding of why leadership skills are so critical in today’s workforce.

Why Leadership Skills are Important

Effective leadership plays a crucial role in determining an organization’s success. As with any other skill, it’s important to not only develop these qualities but enhance them over time. This adaptive process helps grow leaders into better managers, delegators, and influencers while also improving their organization as a whole.

There are several types of leadership styles professionals may choose to utilize in their workplace, and considering that 58 percent of all U.S. companies say their number one strategic priority is closing their current leadership gaps, there is certainly room for leaders to identify the best fit for them and their organization. 

Innovative market shifts of the digital age are also requiring the identification and honing of these relevant skills. Nearly 30 percent of businesses believe that implementing digital transformation initiatives is a matter of survival within their respective industries. 

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How to Evaluate Your Effectiveness as a Leader

Ultimately, assessing your leadership skills is about understanding your strengths and weaknesses. By achieving this understanding, you will be able to define the path toward improvement that’s best for you. Below are some tips, methods, and strategies to incorporate when evaluating your strengths and weaknesses.

Identifying Your Strengths

Identifying your strengths will be a crucial part of your evaluation, as it will allow you to understand where you truly excel and how you can best put those strengths to use. Collectively, this exercise can gather valuable insight for not only yourself, but for your organization as a whole.  

Though it’s not uncommon for people to take their best talents for granted, by taking the time to self-reflect and identify these qualities, you are giving yourself the freedom to improve upon your abilities and take ownership of your strengths.

For those who find self-reflection difficult, another way to evaluate your strengths is to gather input from other coworkers, higher management, and customers through surveys or face-to-face meetings. Relevant questions you might ask include: 

  • What am I doing right?
  • Have any of my tasks or projects directly benefited your work goals?
  • What departments are achieving the most success? Are any of my skills directly impacting these departments?
  • What can I be doing better? Do I have a quality or skill that your department or the company could not do without?
  • Do I have a quality or skill that your department or the company could not do without?
  • Is there a skill I could learn that would directly and immediately benefit your department?
  • Are there any potential opportunities I’m missing that my skills would directly benefit?
  • Do you see any barriers preventing me from achieving success?
  • Am I organized and managing my time well?
  • Is my communication effective and transparent within each department?

These questions create a transparent, open dialogue that not only focuses on your strengths but also identifies areas of growth in a non-intrusive, helpful way. By gaining perspective and insight from others, you will hopefully garner a level of confidence that can, in turn, help improve your overall performance and generate success. 

Identifying Your Weaknesses

To become a more effective leader, you also need to acknowledge where your current leadership skills might fall short. Once these aspects are identified, however, stop thinking about them as weaknesses—instead consider them among your key areas of improvement as you work on your overall abilities as a leader.

Some common weaknesses for aspiring leaders may include:

  • Communication – Are you properly defining your goals? Furthermore, are you effectively communicating those goals to your coworkers, management, and clients?
  • Empathy – Can you understand the problems or challenges clients or customers may have?
  • Adaptability – Are you adapting your skills to match the demands of the modern business world?
  • Organization – When it comes to completing tasks, are you organized? Can a manager or executive trust you to be organized and reliable with a larger project?

As with identifying your strengths, it’s important to engage the help of coworkers, managers, and clients about your potential for overall growth. Some helpful questions to begin an open dialogue may include:

  • In your opinion, what attributes does an ideal manager possess?
  • In which of these areas do you feel I can most improve?
  • Is my work organized and easy to understand?
  • Do you feel my projects are completed in a timely fashion?
  • Is there any communication I’ve provided with a project that is difficult to understand?
  • Are there any skills I could learn and develop to help with your department’s efforts?
  • In your opinion, what is the company’s biggest challenge?
  • What is your biggest challenge? Can my skills or work help in providing solutions to those challenges?

Keep in mind during this process that weaknesses do not constitute a dead-end, but instead highlight an opportunity for growth. As important as this concept is, however, some leaders still find it difficult to grasp. A recent study identified managing change and innovation as one of the largest challenges leaders face. Yet when it comes to addressing these types of challenges, a willingness to welcome failure is crucial on your path toward success. 

This type of humility also helps leaders garner respect from those they lead because it proves that perfection does not exist. Managers often lead by example, so when a manager highlights their weaknesses, it encourages employees to evaluate their own areas of needed growth. Ultimately, this type of collaborative workplace minimizes stress and creates an open, respectful environment conducive to improving the skills of each employee.

Developing Your Leadership Skills

Once you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, you can feel confident in creating a leadership development plan for yourself. The focus of this plan should be on finding ways that you can leverage your existing strengths while simultaneously closing gaps in your experience or skill sets.

Some potential solutions available to help you start building and exercising these skills include:

  • Utilizing free resources like books, podcasts, and events geared toward aspiring leaders.
  • Networking with others who share your aspirations and building relationships that could help you down the line.
  • Finding a mentor who has already risen through the ranks to become a leader. This could be someone in your organization or simply someone from your professional network. 
  • Attend a workshop or seminar that is specifically designed to help you assess your leadership skills and build a plan for improvement.
  • Ask for additional responsibilities at work, particularly those that will allow you to practice your skills in managing people and projects.
  • Earn a degree in leadership to help develop the necessary management skills required in today’s ever-changing world of business.

Professionals who utilize these various tactics to develop their leadership skills will likely find themselves slowly but surely gaining the abilities and experiences they need to succeed.

Earn a Degree to Help Improve Your Leadership Skills 

Especially in today’s professional world, earning a degree of any kind can be essential to gaining an advantage in your job search and overall career growth. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 40 percent of jobs require at least some level of education beyond high school, and that nearly one-fourth of all jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Given these statistics, the importance of earning a bachelor’s degree cannot be overstated.

If your primary goal is to eventually work in a leadership position, earning a relevant degree—such as a bachelor’s degree in management—can provide the foundation to develop and maintain your leadership skills. Similarly, while it may be possible to improve your leadership skills on your own, earning a degree provides a transferable record that you can take from one employer or organization to another, in a way that self-education cannot. 

Not sure what an effective leadership program looks like? It’s important that any program you consider offers:: 

  • Strong experiential learning opportunities such as internships and co-ops, which will allow you to put your lessons into practice and build your skills
  • Flexible learning options that will allow you to complete your degree in the format that is best for you—whether that is online, on-ground, or through a combination of both.
  • Industry-leading faculty members who have spent time working in the field and can provide advice, offer connections, and provide industry insight. 

Are you considering going back to school to earn a degree and improve your career? To learn more, explore Northeastern’s bachelor’s degree completion programs or get advice from an admissions counselor today.

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About Will Purcell

Will Purcell is a marketing specialist and contributing writer for Northeastern University.