In part 2 of our “Start of the Year Planner,” we cover ways to fine-tune your leadership skills. ( Click here for Part 1: Achieving Business Goals )

With countless articles floating around about improving leadership skills, it can be difficult to decipher what’s important and what’s not. In last year’s edition, we moved away from the traditional topics covered and instead offered a few helpful changes to becoming a more balanced leader (TradePost, 1/12/12). This year, we are offering up three useful strategies to guide you throughout your work day and help you become a more thoughtful leader.

  1. Focus on your strengths. Since we were little, we have been trained to become experts on our weaknesses and areas that need improvement — some might even say we are trained to be “our own worst critic.” Interestingly though, the people who make it to the top of their industries are those that know what their strengths are and understand how to leverage them to their advantage.

    This year, we are encouraging you to do the same. What do you have to bring to the table? In what areas do you excel? If you have trouble answering these questions, find somebody you trust to give you honest feedback. That way you will be using your strengths to move forward in your career, so you can be the best leader possible (Forbes, 1/7/13).

  2. Focus on people. Take time to build relationships with your team. This will help you understand their individual motivations and goals. Not only will this earn their trust and respect, but it will drive performance and motivate them to work harder to meet company goals. In fact, research shows that leaders who are people-centered are more effective than their counterparts who are not.

    Some great relationship building strategies with your employees include: communicating with them one-on-one, speaking to them about their future with the company, and recognizing a job well done.

  3. Be assertive. As your team’s leader, it is your job to provide direction so your employees understand what’s expected of them. Your team looks to you for guidance, support, and constructive criticism. While being assertive usually carries a negative connotation, it is a critical component to effective leadership. An assertive demeanor shows your team that you are confident in yourself and your ability to lead. Make sure to be flexible and open with your communication pattern so you can find a way that works for your specific team.

Readers: what insight can you offer about improving leadership style?