How to Develop Leadership Skills

how to develop leadership skills

In the realm of strategic leadership, as anyone in management would attest to, becoming a great leader doesn’t happen overnight; it often takes years of practice, failures, and determination – and even then there will always be plenty of room for improvement.

While you’ll always find some lucky people who possess an abundance of natural leadership ability, most will need to build on their leadership foundations before they are ready to take the helm.

Whether it’s directing a new initiative, being chosen to lead on a specific project, or even the opportunity to progress into a management role, we’ve put together some advice on building effective leadership skills in the workplace.


Lead Through Influence

Great leaders don’t simply exert power; they inspire and impact the people around them. Naturally, a number of advantages are borne from this influence, including a greater voice in meetings, the ability to tackle challenging issues while retaining a positive connection, and finding ways to motivate employees and generate support from both employees and peers.

Building influence isn’t just about acting as a role model or providing strategic guidance; relationships are the true catalyst. This might take the form of helping to enhance others’ competencies, conflict resolution, or taking time to provide coaching and mentorship.

The key here is to be consistent, strengthen trust, and lead through action. However, it’s also important to remember that without transparency, it is difficult to achieve buy-in and build rapport, especially during difficult conversations.

Whatever the situation, working with team members in this way helps to improve your leadership skills, whether that’s communication, decision-making, problem-solving, or relationship management.

Build Relationships through Mentoring or Coaching

Many Life Sciences professionals have benefitted from a mentor at some point in their careers but going a step further and building a strategic alliance with a coach can significantly reduce the learning curve. However, while most know of the importance of mentoring their teams, leaders often forget about their own learning and development. 

A coach, ideally from outside of the organisation, is a trusted person that has already walked the path that you’re already on. They can assist with:

  • Defining career goals
  • Building skill sets
  • Working through challenges
  • Highlighting key strengths
  • Recognising and managing your limitations
  • Sharing valuable networks

Develop a Strategic Mindset

When developing leadership skills, it’s worthwhile noting that the jump to management is about understanding more than just the day-to-day operations and responsibilities. Instead, there needs to be a ‘big picture’ focus. 

Ask yourself, what is the organisation’s purpose? What are the monthly/quarterly/annual objectives? 

How do these fit in with the vision of the whole organisation? 

Being able to connect these dots is part and parcel of leadership development.

Successful leaders take personable accountability for performance and should be able to gauge (and anticipate) what the business needs. They’ll know its strengths, its weaknesses and actively implement positive change, as well as address issues before they mushroom into problems. 

Similarly, as someone that is the first to step up and find solutions when things go wrong, they’ll be prepared to be liable for the results of both their own decisions and those of the people they manage.

If you’re just getting started, it’s all about being proactive. Could you speak to your manager about becoming more involved in other areas or potentially lead on a new project? 

While this sort of responsibility can seem daunting to those new to it, the key is honesty, seeking input from others and knowing your limits.


Improving your management skills takes time and is a work in progress. Even if your efforts don’t work out the way you’d like, the act of stepping into uncomfortable and confrontational situations will enhance resilience, the confidence to take action, as well as building trust in your own abilities.

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