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5 ways to become a better leader in 2020

“A great leader is somebody who understands that our idea is always stronger than my idea.” – Jasper Deprez, ESEI Skyrocket Programme Director and Mentor, ESEI Alumnus

If you’re interested in business management and entrepreneurship, there’s a good chance that one of your New Year’s resolutions has something to do with becoming a better leader.
As a student at ESEI, developing leadership skills should be one of your main focus points throughout the year. However, “become a better leader” is a bit too broad for a goal – if you really want to achieve it, you need to break it down into smaller goals and come up with specific, actionable strategies.

You also need to define what a good leader is to you. Is it someone who is dedicated, humble, and has a clear vision? Someone who’s good at communicating and has high emotional intelligence? Someone who’s a team player and always puts his team before himself? Thinking about what makes a good leader is the first step to becoming one. Then, you can move on to working on your skills!

To help you get started, we’ve rounded up five tips to help you become a better leader in 2020. If you stick to them, you will feel more confident and stop having symptoms of impostor syndrome whenever you’re in a leading position by the end of 2020. So let’s get right into it!

1. Ask for feedback and make a plan

Were you involved in a group project the past year? Did you organise an event or an outing with friends where you found yourself in a leading position? Did you finally take the plunge and start your own business? Have a chat with the people who were dependant on you at some point in the past year, and ask them for feedback – even if it was just one person.
Find out what they liked about your leading style and what you could have done better. Take notes and think about how you’re going to apply their feedback to new situations in 2020.
Make a concrete plan by asking yourself these questions (based on the GROW coaching model) and answering them with the help of the feedback you received:

  • What’s been going wrong, and what went well so far?
  • What could you do differently?
  • What concrete steps can you take now?

2. Pick a weakness and work on it

We all tend to try to do less of the things that we’re not confident doing or not very good at. Who likes to keep repeating tasks that make us feel like a failure? However, these are precisely the tasks that we should be doing the most of – if we ever want to get better at them.
Resist the urge to avoid your weaknesses. Instead of opting to do things that you’re already good at, always choose to work on your weak points first. Think of it this way: if an athlete has a weak muscle, you’re not going to see them neglect it. They’re going to train it harder and more often than their other, stronger muscles.

Do you hate speaking in front of a large group of people because it gives you anxiety? Grab every opportunity to do it. Are you reluctant to take charge and step into a leading role when working in a group? Volunteer as project captain whenever you’re working on something with your peers at ESEI. Do you keep procrastinating on asking for feedback because you’re not very good at taking it? Do it as soon as a project is finished.


3. Make a list of 12 books you’re going to read this year

Billionaire business gurus like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos all swear by reading as much as you possibly can. Musk is said to have read two books a day starting from his early teenage years. Now, you definitely don’t have to spend most of your waking hours reading, but you may want to consider why one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs believes that reading is pivotal in becoming a good businessman and a great leader.
In a nutshell, the main benefit of reading across different disciplines is something called learning transfer: you can take something that you learn in what context and apply it to another.

For 2020, pick 12 books (one for each month) on different topics that you’re going to read – and no, they can’t be volumes found on your course reading list. Make a pact with yourself that you’re going to read them, and you’ll be one step closer to becoming the leader that you aspire to be.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey are good ones to start with. If you need even more inspo, check out Elon Musk’s top 12 book choices.

4. Learn to delegate

One of the main characteristics of a great leader is that they recognise the value of time and resist the temptation to do everything themselves.
Having unconditional faith in your team can be hard at times – especially if you have a controlling personality – but it’s essential to curb your ego sometimes and know how to delegate. There is a good chance that someone in your team has more experience or a deeper knowledge of a certain area in your project, so let them take ownership of it!

Make sure you set a number of tasks you’re going to delegate to the people that you work with – for example, one per week. When you’re working on a term paper with your peers, don’t insist on doing all the research yourself, don’t pretend you’re good at some sophisticated software that you’ve never used before and don’t try to proofread your own paragraphs! Make a point of entrusting these responsibilities to your team members without constantly feeling the need to check up on them. And while you’re at it, ask for feedback on your delegation skills!

5. Pick a role model

Role models are one of the biggest sources of motivation that you can find. Choosing a role model whose values are in line with yours and drawing inspiration from their success can be super helpful for aspiring leaders.
Whenever you feel like quitting, think about the person you look up to the most and envision what would have happened if they had quit. Since you share their values and their outlook on life, this will give you a little boost of self-confidence that could keep you hanging on in the most difficult situations.

Don’t feel pressured to pick Elon Musk or some other tech superstar. Anyone can be a role model: a family member, a friend, a tutor or a mentor. Just think of the inspiring individuals that make up the ESEI teaching team or the mentors of the ESEI Skyrocket Programme!
Choosing a role model is not about comparing yourself to other, more successful people. Remember that everyone is on their own journey and you should only be competing with who you were yesterday! However, the right role model can show you that the result you can achieve is worth all the time and effort you put into.

So go ahead and become a better leader in 2020!

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