Thanks to Muhammad Ubadah and Arjun Vijayanarayanan for contributing to this article.

Leadership is about thinking straight at the time of crisis, to endure turbulence and rise in the face of adversity. While many may believe leadership to be an innate talent, there are certain skills that one can learn and practice to be a good leader. This page aims to help you develop those skills.

Hierarchy of Life Management

  • Self-awareness: Knowing yourself is the first step to being a successful leader. If you’re not aware of your own attitude towards situations, your motivations, and weaknesses you might not be able to navigate a situation. Know where you are now before you can get better.
    • Focus on self-evaluation. Understand your own leadership style, find values that are important to you, develop emotional intelligence.
    • Open up to people who’ve known you in leadership roles and get their opinions.
  • Set priorities and goals: Most people having dreams and aspirations they never follow, mostly because they fail to set practical, smart, and objective goals.

Goal-setting is a process that requires diligence and focus. Try to set SMART goals.

  • S – Specific: A goal must be precise and not too generalized. It shouldn’t be “do better at time management;” You want to be able to monitor progress. Goals should say what, why, who, and with what resources.
  • M – Measurable: A goal must be defined quantitatively so it’s easy to comprehend the degree of completion. You should never be wondering if you’ve done it yet. You should know how close you are.
  • A – Achievable: A goal must be set considering the circumstances and available resources. Don’t make it something you can’t reach.
  • R – Relevant: Setting a goal for the sake of it will not yield anything. A goal must be relevant and in line with your target and aspirations. Ask why you want it, and make sure the goal you set is something you actually want accomplished. 
  • T- Timely: Give yourself a time limit. This helps you stay up to date with progress. It’s a clear marker of the effort required and work done. You should know what you’re doing six months from now, six weeks from now, and today.
  • Manage behavior: You cannot manage time. You can manage behavior towards it. A lot of people complain about the shortage of time— what they lack is not time but the optimum allocation of time for their priorities.
    • Use different tools developed to assist time management for instance; urgency vs importance matrix by Stephen Covey. This is a simple chart telling you what to do now (anything urgent and important), plan for (important but not time-sensitive), delegate (urgent but not important) or set aside (neither).
    • Know your priorities. These are driven by your values and affect how you allocate time. Once you know what you actually want, then you’re in a position to ask which of these tasks needs to be handled first.
  • Manage stress: Strong leadership rises out of difficult times. People in leadership roles have to endure relatively higher stress levels than others. However, If stressors are not addressed for longer periods, they can result in burnout.
    • The first step is to identify the origin of stress.
    • Eliminate stressors if you can.
    • When you can’t, try to develop resistance and handle stress in whatever ways work for you. We have pages on dealing with stress while doing other things here.
    • Stress management strategies are reactive (immediate and short term), or proactive (developing resistance) or enactive (completely removing stressors).

Locus of Control

Locus of control is a concept about the attitude of people towards events happening around them and how much influence and control they have over them. Locus of control is situational and varies with circumstances.

The three factors of locus of control are;

  1. Circle of control: Items within your control and you’re confident about.
  2. Circle of influence: Factors that you may not control directly but can affect with influence or clout.
  3. Circle of concern: Factors that interest you but cannot do anything about.

Internal locus of control is a positive attitude towards problems, and motivation to find solutions and incite activity. An external locus of control translates to the belief that success and efficacy are driven by factors beyond one’s capability to control. Both of these beliefs are often self-fulfilling, so as a leader you need an internal locus of control.

The following elements will help you to increase the circle of influence and develop a more internal locus of control.

  • Positive attitude towards life long learning.
  • Encourage gaining more experience.
  • Take on challenging assignments.

Problem Solving

The problem-solving approach adopted to resolve a predicament reflects mainly on the nature of the problem. It’s essential to evaluate the problem and accumulate information before diving in to find solutions.

If a problem has clear means-ends connections, predictable outcomes, and you know enough about the problem, use the Rational/ Analytical approach. The analytical technique uses methods that we frequently use in our daily lives; it starts with defining the problem, developing solutions, assessing those solutions, implementing them, and follow-up if necessary, it’s a more well structured and scientific method to solve problems.

Another approach in the problem-solving tool kit is Creative problem solving.  This is better suited for problems with insufficient knowledge, ambiguous answers, or non-traditional conventions. In creative problem solving, the first stage is to define the problem and gather information. However, most of the time in this process you will have to redefine the problem. Creative problem solving does not have a well-organized way of reaching a solution and requires a more lateral way of thinking. Lateral thinking is concerned with generating ideas and where the solution is leading towards, it is a more organic and imaginative form of problem-solving.


We humans tend to ignore information that is critical of our self-image. Hearing criticism may trigger a threat rigidity response, which often includes denial and rejection.

Successful leaders welcome criticism, as they incorporate adaptability and agility in their demeanor. Pushing further to move the line of what criticism is too sensitive helps to react pragmatically to constructive criticism and feedback. Assessing information that is inconsistent with your self-image and adjusting accordingly is an essential part of leadership development. This does not mean you need to believe every negative word you hear. It does mean you need to take criticism seriously as a suggestion for change and not as an insult. If you decide it really was just an insult, or if you thought about it and concluded the criticism was just wrong, ignore it then. But don’t start by assuming this.

The people you’re leading should follow the same advice. But as a leader, you can’t count on them doing it. You should plan for the worst: assume they do the natural human thing and take criticism as insults. This is why you praise publicly, criticize privately. This minimizes the risk: their primate brain is less likely to be threatened if there aren’t other people watching, and if they do take it badly then the situation is just you and them, not them and everyone else. Of course, hopefully they’ll take criticism the same way you would and hear you out rather than freezing and rejecting it.



[wp-team category="61" design="design-2" grid="4" orderby="name" order="ASC"]

Leave a Reply