7 Important Leadership Skills

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7 Important Leadership SkillsMany feel that leadership is a born trait or characteristic. No doubt, being aggressive, self-assured, good at building personal relationships and strong verbal skills certainly make it easier. However, leadership skills can be taught and developed.

No doubt, human dynamics in the workplace can become highly complex and politicized. However, aside from that intangible ability to “read people”, most of the skills of leadership are well known. That said, given today’s apparent lack of leadership, many are beginning to feel that real leaders are indeed born…..and not many have been born in recent decades. The question has become: “is effective leadership about being politically correct or much more about problem solving?”

Earlier this year, Inc. Magazine came out with an article on what CEOs felt were the most important skill set for effective leadership. As with much of the conversation about leadership, most of the skills are fairly intuitive. However, personality and experience can make these skills easy to talk about but not that so easy to implement on a daily basis. As you review these skills, try to give yourself a grade on how well you perform these skills as well as ways you might improve on each.

1. Assess Complex Issues
a) Facilitate discussions and look for consensus.
b) Attend team discussions on complex issues and projects or do you just delegate and ask for reports? A leader should make an appearance or two at discussions on complex issues. Indeed, good leadership realizes that personal contact is important. Call it politics but it is what it is.
c) Ask how you can help.

2. Clearly Communicate
a) Make sure expectations are clearly understood. Ask for feedback to confirm full understanding.
b) Messages are concise, coherent and courteous. Have someone review your emails and messages before distribution.

3. Demonstrate Honesty and High Integrity
a) Be transparent as much as possible….even if it hurts. Build trust and respect by doing what you say you are going to do.
b) Take full responsibility
c) Do “the right thing”. On issues that span gray areas, this is where your ethics will be tested. Trust your instincts to do the right thing. If it goes against policy and the policy is wrong or doesn’t fit the situation, change the policy.

4. Results Driven
a) Identify goals and metrics and clearly define the expected outcome.
b) Be able to build consensus and buy-in that the goals are achievable and the outcome is worth the effort.
c) Make others aware of success as this helps to build leadership credibility
d) Share the achievements

5. Know How to Inspire Other People (Charisma factor)
a) Be a good listener and make the necessary attempt to fully understand
b) Think before speaking
c) Express passion at the proper time.
d) Identify the critical drivers of the business and be able to keep reinforcing the message
e) Help inspire others to better themselves and reach their goals
f) Don’t try to become “buddies” or gossip. Leaders don’t gossip; they are usually the subject of gossip.
g) Leadership needs a certain elevated spiritual-philosophical ability to present the “big picture and vision”.

6. Ability to Motivate Others
a) Create a bonding feeling with others built around the task at hand.
b) Display a willingness to help and support others.
c) Learn what really motivates others. Each person may have different things that motivate them. Know what buttons to push to ignite “enlightened self-interest”.
d) Be able to create a sense of individual dedication to the group effort and how they add value to the group.

7. Solve Problems and Remove Obstacles
a) Identify and resolve problems that block progress
b) Solicit and listen to group ideas about problems and possible solutions.

In summary, we have a good idea of what should be done and how to do it. However, real world experience is filled with examples of where these skills seem to play minor roles. Indeed, these skills could be said to be bureaucratic and not about leadership. But one thing is for sure, certain situations may require different styles of leadership. Indeed, the listed skills are important but many of those can be delegated.

Think back over your experience and identify what qualities and skills you experienced from others that make for an effective leader.


Additional Reading

Developing Leadership in the Digital Age

Effective Leadership: Adaptive vs. Mechanical


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