Growing Your Leadership Capacity

If you’re looking to grow your leadership capacity, there are plenty of leadership 101 workshops and self-help books to provide the basics. Understanding of what you are supposed to do is not necessarily the same as just doing it though. Most of the time, action is the combination of experience and attitude that add up to how a leader functions, or doesn’t.

Some may be thrust into a leadership position without that as a main goal or even having basic leadership skills. Whether growing your leadership capacity is something that you need to move up in an organization or something that you are truly interested in, there are several ways you can get started.

How Can I Gain Leadership Skills?

Take some personality assessments

That might be met with a giant eye roll, but I really appreciate what these types of assessments can provide. True Colors, the Disk assessment, Myer-Briggs — they can all provide insight as to how you view yourself and how you view or work with others. If you have an opportunity to participate in one of these assessments, you should. They may help you find the balance point of skills that will help you become more effective.

Hit some classes

If your employer or local chamber of commerce offers leadership institutes or strengths-based workshops, participate. You may be putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, but that’s what many aspects of leadership require. If your employer is willing to invest time and money into their employees, they also see the value in cultivating effective leaders. Take advantage of it.


The adage that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has some clout to it. Get to know those in your field. Make efforts to know those outside of your immediate fields of reach or influence. For instance, when you see a connection that you think may benefit you or your team in the future, introduce yourself. Find some common ground and allow a real conversation to spark interest.

Find a mentor or two

If you can find a mentor in your office, field or town, go for it. Ask if the person would be willing to be your mentor. Then, see if they would be willing to meet regularly for coffee to discuss things — opportunities, frustrations, how to deal with new staffing issues. A good mentor will always have a few pieces of advice or seek to understand how you view a situation. If this is not a current option, find stories about people that you have heard about in the news. Chances are some larger-than-life public sector leaders may have some insight to share about their leadership skills.

Learn from mistakes

One of the greatest lessons you can gain from work experience, and a great way to grow your leadership capacity, is to learn from your mistakes. Don’t take the stance that it’s your way or the highway; that won’t get you very far. Learn to embrace your mess-ups. As long as you learn something from them, the embarrassment or regret will only be temporary. When you say or email the wrong thing or you jump in without doing enough fact checking, as long as you retain your integrity, own up to your mistake. Keep looking to better yourself from the experience, and you’ll be on the right track.

Amy Kay is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She has worked in municipal stormwater management for 10 years and has served as the Clean Water Manager with the City of Davenport since 2016. Here, she directs the resource conservation and watershed management programs along with activities of the Clean Water Program in compliance with NPDES and MS4 permits. You can read her posts here.

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Rose Taylor

Good leadership demands emotional strengths and behavioral characteristics which can draw deeply on a leader’s mental and spiritual reserves. Leadership is about behavior first, skills second. Start off slowly and see where it takes you, just possess that trust and respect and see if you will have people following you as a leader. Good Luck!