Leadership is a critical function in the nation, our communities, and our organizations. Leaders empower, organize and direct human resources in the attainment of a larger vision. They inspire the people around them to achieve their best and actualize on their potential. They empower, educate, motivate and build confidence to foster cooperation, and enhance decision making and problem solving.
In business, leadership can foster competitive advantage, bringing creative solutions and organizing the companies’ human resources toward their realization. This is especially important today as human capital is THE differentiator in this highly competitive, knowledge driven economy.
Leaders formulate and communicate new strategic directions and increase dedication to the organizations’ goals. They boost morale and ensure the right resources get to the right people, at the right time.
Leaders also encourage the acceptance of diversity and drive cultural acceptance of all those in the organization. They encourage a culture of continuous learning. Inspiring collective identity that focuses on similarities and strength in differences.
Leadership involves some key skills one must develop to be effective.
Skills can be learned over time, with education and experience also but tend to be more broad based. Let’s look at the top 7 skills involved:
- Strategic Thinking
- Problem Solving
As you look at this list, think about the type of people in your life. The majority of these skills seem akin to the type of person you want to be around. They are the skills we look for in our friends and life partners. Let’s look at each one in more detail.
Leaders, by definition, are able to mobilize those around them into action. They inspire others to follow, using their vision. In order to get others to buy into your vision, you must first be able to communicate it clearly. Leaders must break down the vision into manageable pieces that others can action.
Communication also involves listening. Leaders must listen to their people – their ideas, their needs and their goals. Understanding what is important to your people, helps you to find solutions that are a win for everyone and this ultimately increases buy in and employee engagement.
Finally, communication is what enables leaders to build the relationships that are so key to getting everyone moving in the same direction. People work harder with and for people they like and that they feel care about them.
People are more than their work selves. They have stressors in and out of the workplace. Being able to empathize with their struggles and their challenges not only allows for better understanding but also for the possibility of creating change.
When we empathize with the struggles of our workforce, we reduce mental health related crises and increase employee wellness. You’ve heard it said that happy employees are productive employees and empathy is the tool for the job.
Leaders must be able to see the long game. They need to anticipate problems and opportunities, and have the discipline to prepare appropriately to end up the position needed to achieve the ultimate vision.
They need to understand how others in the market may respond to the changes made in their organization and know how to respond to changes in the competitive landscape. Leaders stay on top of a changing landscape, know how to be flexible, and pivot as needed to stay on target.
Problem solving is essential for leaders. To stay on target, they must rise to problems before they gain momentum and become bigger. Leaders use creativity to find solutions to problems as soon as possible. They use their critical thinking and problem-solving skills to eliminate any barriers to success.
Persuasive leaders can influence others, changing mindsets and behaviors to align with vision and goals. Persuasion skills are also utilized to inspire others to reach for their full potential and perform at their highest. Being a persuasive leader also inspires self-confidence and confidence from others around you.
The path of a leader is not always straightforward. They face challenges along the way and have to know how stay the course. In the face of a failure or setback, a leader knows how to rise, reorganize and realign toward success. Truly great leaders understand they won’t always face success on the first try and they inspire others to ‘fail forward’ with them. After all, nothing is learned from success on the first try.
Integrity in leaders refers to being honest, reliable and trustworthy. Leaders with integrity, lead by example, embrace their mistakes as learning opportunities, and have the humility to admit if they are wrong and to listen to others’ ideas. They model the values of their organization and take calculated risks while standing up for what they believe in.
Becoming a Great Leader
All great leaders have the above skills to varying degrees. If you are looking at the list and wondering if you could be a great leader, rest assured these are all skills that can be developed and strengthened over time.
Ultimately, leadership is a mindset and a social endeavour and great leaders understand that this is a journey, not a destination. They understand that a continual commitment to self-improvement, growth and development is crucial to becoming and remaining successful.