Leadership is the ability to motivate others to act towards a shared goal. This ability is important for success whether you’re seeking to catalyze action from an individual, a small team, a business, or an entire country. And, whether you’re the CEO of a tech company, a politician rallying her supporters, or a mother trying to instill values in her children, leadership requires confidence as well as responsibilities of goal setting, decision-making, conflict resolution, and communicating an inspiring vision.
The art of leadership is as old as human society itself - and, like society, it is continually evolving. For example, effective leadership in the 21st century requires more empathy than in the past, as communication skills must increasingly cross boundaries of age, race, gender, and nationality. And today’s fast-changing world benefits leaders that embrace flexibility and creativity, as organizational success increasingly depends on the ability to rapidly innovate and adapt.
Leadership skills are helpful for virtually any role that requires working with people. Whether you’re a chief financial officer in charge of a team of accountants, a data scientist working within a tech company’s software development team, or an elementary school teacher supervising a field trip, the ability to facilitate collaboration and inspire cohesion can help you and your organization achieve success.
If you’re in the C-suite of a company - or an entrepreneur aspiring to become one - strong leadership skills are an absolute must. The ability to direct and motivate an entire team to achieve a goal or hit a target is critical for success but also rare, and high-level corporate leaders are paid accordingly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief executives had a median annual salary of $184,460 in May 2019, and general and operations managers earned $100,780 per year.
Absolutely! While it is often spoken of as an innate talent or quality, the reality is that leadership is a skill that is learned and developed over time. Coursera can help you learn to harness your own leadership skills through courses and Specializations taught by leading faculty at top-ranked universities from around the world, including University of Michigan, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, HEC Paris, Macquarie University, and Copenhagen Business School.
Learning online lets you view and complete course materials on a flexible schedule, which makes it a great option for working professionals that want to improve their leadership skills. Coursera’s industry-leading online platform also enables you to have live sessions and video office hours with faculty and industry leaders to help you practice these skills as you learn.
Before starting to learn leadership, you might want to try to develop a good sense of situational awareness. This translates into knowing what’s going on in the bigger picture, having a strong sense of what’s really being said in meetings and conversations, and recognizing opportunities that others may not see. You might also practice being disciplined in your words and actions; this leads to having a stable character, which others will see as a strong attribute for leadership. Other skills may include being a good listener, speaking well of others, and taking on more responsibilities.
The kind of people who are best suited for roles in leadership are those persons who are confident, productive, engaging, and prominent. Leaders are often the kind of people who can show authority without being demeaning, holding others to high standards without being harsh, and being selective in coaching moments. These people intrinsically know what it means to be a leader. They also often have a pure, driven spirit, which serves them in knowing how to motivate and inspire individuals and lead talent to greater heights.
Learning leadership principles may be right for you if you are often the person who wants to take charge of a project or team or add more responsibilities to your schedule. You may want to add learning about leadership to your professional goals and grow in your capacity for decision-making, conflict resolution, and personal communication talents. If you are passionate about growing as a person and as a professional, acquiring these lessons in your professional background may lead to increased career opportunities.
The types of places that hire people with a background in leadership may be nearly every professional organization, as companies are always looking for good talent to mold and shape to fit into their organizational values. Tech companies, consumer goods companies, financial institutions, and auto companies are all looking to hire people with a background in leadership. If you are the type of person who clearly shows leadership characteristics, it's likely that you can step into most jobs and excel in the role. You may need to be patient and grow with an organization before being elevated as a leader. Showing these traits of patience and discipline may be the best signs that the company made the right decision to hire you.
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