11 Essential Leadership Skills for Today’s Leaders

Being a good leader is a very difficult yet rewarding task. But what makes a leader a good one? It doesn’t matter whether you are a veteran or just starting out, knowing the main traits of a good leader is integral for you to do your own litmus test as to whether you measure up. After all, if you don’t know what it entails then you won’t be able to work towards getting better at it.

As you focus on leading yourself, here are eleven leadership skills that you will need to develop.

Humility

When we think of all the leadership traits, rarely does humility come to mind. In fact, humble leaders are often seen as soft, push-overs and gut-less. This has probably stem stemmed from our narcissistic nature as human beings with its vestiges of pride and pompousness. We love the display of over-the-top persuasion power which often lead to a win-lose outcome in negotiations. But Stephen Covey in his ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ encourages a win-win style of engagement. Humble leaders seek feedback, focus on the needs of others and as a result get buy-in from those they lead.

Focus

More than ever before, leaders are faced with a myriad of shiny objects vying for their attention on a daily basis. Ideas come at the blink of an eye. It is easy to become distracted from the vision. As such, it is very important for leaders to keep focused on the mission. When you are easily distracted you don’t earn the respect of those you are trying to lead. Your team need a strong sense of direction to carry out the mission. If they can’t count on their leader to be focused, this will affect outcome in a negative way. Staying focused is key.

Discipline

Some leaders are good, some are great. What separates them is usually discipline. While being flexible, adaptable and fluid are necessary traits of a leader, being disciplined must form part of the ingredient mix in order to win. Disciplined leaders get things done and they stand out as a result.  The ability to stand your ground and not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine and idea that blows your direction augurs well for your success as a leader.

Excellence

“The quality of a man’s life is proportional to the commitment it takes to excellence” – Ignacio Aranguren Castiello. Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well. Have you heard this before? If you have, then you’re hearing it again because it is true “whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well”. When leaders work to be extremely good and outstanding in their mission, they will stand out. Fitting in is easy but it isn’t quite as rewarding as being different. And this doesn’t have to be in what you consider big areas, it is the seemingly little things. It could simply be standing up for the voiceless or taking a stand against injustice.

Empathy

The ability to put yourself in the shoe of others is a gift. Leaders who display such qualities are able to build rapport with those they lead. This goes way beyond sympathy. It is a rare quality of being able to experience the emotions, thoughts and feelings of others without experiencing them in a literal way. This allows you to give the relevant support and sensitivity that is needed. It shows you care and that is critical if you are to lead effectively.

Creativity

Albert Einstein reminded us that doing the same thing over and again expecting a different result is insanity. This same old same thinking can’t resolve critical issues.  In fact, challenges cannot be resolved by applying the same mindset in which they were created. The onus is upon leaders to find innovative solutions to issues. How one treats with especially structurally complex situations determine their effectiveness as a leader. Whatever is necessary to find answers must be done. The leader who is able to do this increases his influence.

Vision

Without vision the people perish. You may not physically die from a lack of vision but then again, this may very well be the case since we are spirit beings housed in physical bodies. You must have a compelling ‘why’ to motivate others to want to follow you. Do you have a vision and are you able to be able to get buy in from team members? Get clarity on it  and communicate it to your team so they can appreciate that they are part of something bigger than themselves and you as the leader.

Character

So many people put forward one persona to the public and have a totally different one when they think no one is watching. Though it is important to have a solid character, few have come to grips with its impact. If you are perceived as one that others can trust to do the right thing regardless of the consequence and who is watching, you’re eons ahead of the game. When all is over and done, it is your character that will last.

Courage

As a leader have you ever felt uncomfortable? Scratch that. The question ought to be, when was the last time you felt uncomfortable as a leader? Stepping into leadership is an open invitation to discomfort. They go hand in hand like coffee and cream, milk and honey, bacon and egg, peanut butter and jelly (you get the picture). Stepping into the unknown takes courage. It takes a certain level of boldness to go against the grain and be the lone voice crying in the wilderness. But it is expected of you, even from those who criticize your actions. You must show up with ferocity, inadequacies, insecurities and all.

Grit

Are you able to work for an extended period towards a goal even when all the odds are seemingly stacked up against you? If the answer is yes then you no doubt you have what is called grit, a necessary trait of solid leadership. We need leaders who will keep going when the going gets tough. Team members need to be assured that you won’t bail at the first sight of a challenge. As a leader, you are most certainly judged by your willingness to push through the thousand ‘nos’ to get to the one ‘yes’. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Anything that is worthwhile will take enormous amount of time to build. Your ‘sticktuitiveness’ or grit can set you apart and win you more than ‘brownie’ points with your team.

Vulnerability

Leaders need crocodile skin to withstand the test of time. They must be willing to put their egos on the line, to publicly apologize for misgivings. In fact, they should be willing to go further, to not only apologize but to be able to say, “I was wrong”. This level of vulnerability isn’t weakness, it is strength. It takes guts to do but when done, is met with great admiration and acceptance. This vital and non-negotiable trait lets others be aware that perfection is not required but a willingness to learn and try and experiment with new ways of thinking and doing things.

How would you rate yourself as a leader? Comment below.

 

 

 

This Leadership Skill is so Critical (and Easy) Yet You Probably Don’t Practice It

From as far as I can remember there has been debates about what makes a good leader. When you analyze leaders across industries and cultures, you will find that leadership styles vary from one leader to the next.

Based on a study of over 3,000 Executives, Daniel Goleman identified six different leadership styles:

  1. Coercive (or Commanding)
  2. Pace-setting
  3. Authoritative
  4. Affiliate
  5. Democratic
  6. Coaching

What is clear however is that to be in the running as a ‘good leader’ candidate, there are some basic soft skills that are necessary.

As it turns out, there is no one right way to lead in all circumstance. In fact, one of the main characteristics of a good leader is their ability to be flexible enough to adapt to changing tides. They must be able to ride the wave of the moment. Whether the environment be that of church, school, government, non-profit, or the home, leaders must be able to exercise some level of fluidity.

Being flexible in your approach, allowing your team to feel at ease will win them over on your side. When persons are at ease they perform at their best. The converse is also true, you may get persons to respond to you in the short run by driving fear in them but you eventually limit their long-term output using fear as a driver for action.

If you are a Coercive leader, think about flexing your style to improve your relationships and become a better leader. For me this is personal. As I look back at how I was as a leader when I operated a ‘brick and mortar’ I realize that I was quite coercive in my approach. My firm demeanor would often be interpreted as bullyism. After a while, I had little or no impact on those I lead. Though that was never the intent, my retrospective look tells me that is exactly how it came across.

I’m thankful for those experiences as I am in a better place to understand what I did wrong and the things I must improve upon to be effective. I also assess the styles of others to see how they operate and note critical take-aways and of course acknowledge style differences and work to meet half-way.

Suffice it to say, I’ve always been open to new ideas (or so I thought). But even with that, I held on closely to doing things how I believed it should be done without much room for what others thought (I never admitted this though). I was rigid and stubborn. I have learnt well.

Now, I do things that no one has ever done before and have a willingness to ‘first seek to understand then be understood.”  This is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people, a book I recommend that everyone especially leaders ought to read.

Flexibility is essential to maintaining productivity during periods of confusion and uncertainty. When you become skilled at being flexible, you become open to new ideas and get to work with people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. The more flexible you are, the more effective you are at leading others.

Have you been holding on to your ideas and way of thinking without allowance for the viewpoints of others? If you are feeling resistance from your team and those you work with, your flexibility meter may need readjusting. Do this and watch things change in your favour.

If you have comments or reactions, we’d like to hear from you. Comment below.