Even before the COVID-19 pandemic led many to take a step back and reevaluate their priorities, leadership development has long been an area of importance for executives across all industries. Three-time CEO Elise Mitchell understands the challenges many executives face on their leadership journey and provides a path to success as an executive coach and leadership strategist. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, Mitchell has coached, consulted and trained high-performing leaders to help them achieve more. In a recent discussion with her on The Ghidotti Podcast, she shared four ways to improve your own leadership skills.
Establish Core Values
Much like a ship captain or the coach of a basketball team, one of the key components of leading as an executive is being a calming and steady presence in the face of adversity. The COVID-19 pandemic is just one example of an unforeseen challenge that can make or break an executive, but establishing a set of core values can go a long way toward improving valuable leadership skills. Your core values provide a list of certainties that members of your team can cling to in moments of uncertainty.
“COVID will come and go and there will be other challenges we face, but the point is there should be some things about us that never change,” Mitchell said. “When you can do little things, like reminding your team of these timeless truths that they can hold onto and cling to, it really does help them navigate the things that aren’t known.”
Invest in Your Team
As any cliche sports movie will remind you, there is no “I” in team and investing in those around you is a hallmark of good leadership. The goal for any executive should be to help guide members of their team along their own path of growth and success. After all, as members of your team continue to improve in their own abilities and confidence, it will only serve to help your organization be at its best. When it comes to investing in your team, Mitchell suggests having a growth mindset as a means to improve leadership skills.
“With a growth mindset, you’re on a journey and there’s challenges along the way, but you’re enjoying the journey and learning from it,” said Mitchell. “It’s what really empowers you and propels you as a leader, and as a team member to figure out how to be successful and go about the business of making it happen. We’re going to continue to try different strategies until we find what works and we’re going to learn as we go.”
Prioritize Mental Health
There was a time when being a successful executive meant leading with an iron fist, working late nights and staying at the office for long hours. Thankfully, times have changed and nearly all leaders at least understand the concept of work-life balance. However, part of improving as a leader requires not just an understanding, but also a commitment to helping team members maintain a healthy work-life balance. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness and prioritizing mental health is an essential component of leadership development.
“The only difference is that it’s become more common to talk about it, but the issue of mental health has always been with us in the workplace,” Mitchell said. “We’ve tended to hide it from other people when we feel depressed or when we have something that’s just really overcoming us. I’m glad that people are more willing to talk about it, but we have to do our part as leaders to help our team navigate the mental health challenges they feel.”
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Another shift in leadership development over the years is the need to maintain an open line of communication with those in your organization. In the past, team members may have accepted the role of the unapproachable executive that rarely, if ever, provided feedback or explanations. On the other hand, leaders that find success and guide others along the same journey are able to do so because of regular and consistent communication. With a commitment to improved leadership, there’s no such thing as overcommunication.
“The key to great leadership now is to be regular with your cadence of communication,” said Mitchell. “You have to be open and transparent with your team. You need to be able to say to them what you know and what you don’t know. Little things like that help people know that you’re a leader they can trust, who will share the good news and bad news and help them find the way forward.”