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How to become a great leader in business (and life)


This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
Read more about our editorial process.

Reviewed by Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

At a glance

  • You have opportunities to become a leader in both life and your organization. Use the skills you learn to enhance your career.
  • Developing strong leadership skills requires the ability to adapt to change and new experiences and take advantage of training opportunities wherever they may occur.
  • Another major element of effective leadership is consistency. The same goes for authenticity. Honing these skills — and living them out — will get you noticed.
  • Get more career insights with University of Phoenix’s Career With Confidence newsletter on LinkedIn!

This article was updated on December 1, 2023.

Are you a leader?

It’s a question you’ve probably asked yourself at one point or another. As you progress in your career — and look to get to the next level — it’s one you’d better have an answer to.

As you reflect on that answer, you may start to realize just how much leadership training you have that’s not based on your job title. The fact is leadership development happens everywhere. If you’re a parent, you embrace leadership training at home. If you help out at the local soup kitchen, you’re a leader in your community. Got your own side hustle? Well, that’s entrepreneurial leadership at its essence.

Often, we exhibit strong leadership traits, but we don’t know we’re doing it. Let’s explore how you can develop the right leadership skills — and become the leader you were meant to be.

Explore the Bachelor of Science in Management degree at University of Phoenix. 

Leadership development 101

“Swim in your own lane.”

A manager at my organization gave me this advice during my days as an auditor. It’s something I never forgot.

Since then, I’ve taken it to heart as I continue to develop as a leader, content creator and business owner. That manager taught me not to get distracted by what other people are doing but to be the person I choose to be and work hard regardless of any negativity.

This is powerful in terms of authoring one’s destiny. I realized that I get to define the type of leader I am. Not my previous bosses. Not my parents. Not my neighbors. It comes down to who I want to be — and the perception that goes with it.

In my experience, developing leadership skills on your own terms provides a significant advantage. It’s no secret that we stand on the shoulders of giants. However, you have your own skills and talents. You can take what you learn from great leaders and apply it in your own innovative way.

I know I have. I decided early on that I didn’t want to be a business leader who was only concerned about the organization's bottom line. Not a chance. Instead, I want to be a servant leader who comes alongside others and helps them. I choose that every day.

Leadership training in real life

There is nothing in this world that prepares you for being a parent.

I’m sure most parents would agree with that statement. There’s no book, training regimen, five-step blog post or weekend course that can mimic the shock and awe that happens with having children.

What do we do instead? We adapt. Then, we adapt some more.

We respond to crisis after crisis after crisis (even if to outside eyes those crises seem insignificant). We adjust to lack of sleep and continue with our “on-the-job training.”

We’re tasked with leading our children from birth until we leave this earth. And we grin and bear it all — because it’s our duty and privilege to do so.

Tell me, how does that not describe what it takes to be a truly great leader? Parenthood, similar to true leadership in any era, is about sacrifice for the sake of others.

That’s just one example of leadership development in your personal life. But leadership is not the exclusive domain of parents. You can develop these same skills if you run a side business, serve on the board of a nonprofit or devote your free time to helping your neighbors. These are examples of real-world training opportunities. In all these instances, you are leading in place.

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Business leadership basics

How does your life experience apply to your leadership skill set in an organization? In my opinion, it’s all relevant. 

Think about honesty, hard work, collaboration and always being teachable. These are all great personal qualities but also transferrable skills and characteristics. These skills are as important in the boardroom as they are in the family room (especially on game night).

Beyond that, great leaders should aim to be consistent. As much as possible, show up the same way in life as you do in business. Even better, focus on developing your integrity and influencing others in a positive way.

Having that kind of leadership mindset — one that embraces self-reflection — can set you apart from others. And people pick up on it. Authenticity might be an organizational buzzword and something we all say we’re striving for, but it’s that way for a reason. We crave it, maybe because it’s sometimes hard to find.

When it comes down to it, business is about relationships. It’s the bonds you form with your colleagues and customers that help them to see you as an effective leader and keep them around for a long time.

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Your impact as a leader

As how we work changes and technology advances, great leadership will steady the ship. That means the need and demand for great organizational leaders probably won’t let up any time soon, even with artificial intelligence and other tech.

Now, take stock of your experience and skills, invest in opportunities for training and development – and use it to influence the next generation.

Portrait of David Domzalski smiling


David Domzalski is an entrepreneur, copywriter and storyteller. He’s an effective communicator with a passion for helping people better their lives financially. His writing has been featured on multiple outlets including AOL, FanSided, Forbes, GOBankingRates, MSN, Nasdaq and Yahoo. He lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two children. Connect with him on his website and check out his Copywriting Storyteller newsletter.


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