There are far more than seven (7) leadership skills. I suggest if you happen to get thrown into a leadership position without adequate development you start with developing these seven (7) skills. They are a good start. Of course, a definition of leadership is also helpful. Check out my blog What is a Leader, What is Leadership?
We could all benefit from developing our leadership skills and we can do that in a variety of ways. And, who needs to develop leadership skills “You”. We all need these skills. The ways to learn and develop skills are vast – experience, courses, books, any form of media, and role models.
There are numerous leadership skills to learn. We can’t learn them all at once and as time goes by and we evolve, these skills might have to be adapted. Leadership has evolved over the centuries. I have seen many lists of ‘must have leadership skills’ and they tend to be similar, but I can support these as being ones that will most benefit you and your followers. These skills don’t even touch on communication, conflict management, and addressing change as just a few examples: These you need to work on, too.
Let’s Start with these 7 Skills:
- Remain focused on the vision.
- Set bold goals.
- Be a coach and mentor.
- Build a learning organization.
- Be a good role model.
- Flatten the hierarchy.
- Build and sustain diversity.
Maintain focus on the vision of the organization. As a leader you will be pulled in many directions. During those push and pull times maintain site on the bigger picture, the vision and intent of the organization.
Do you make easy goals that can easily be attained, or difficult goals that require work and dedication? Some think the goals should be easy so that everyone is encouraged because they achieved the goal. Others think the goals need to be difficult to keep the organization competitive and give the followers a sense of awe when they achieve them. I think it should be both; you want success for encouragement, and more difficult for challenge.
Coach and Mentor
Support your followers. Provide them with the resources they need (human and material), guidance, support, and your listening skills so they can achieve the established goals, working toward the vision.
Leaders are human, and so are followers. Leaders and followers make mistakes. What you do with those mistakes says a lot about your leadership characteristics and the culture of the organization. As a leader it is an expectation that you provide the necessary learning and development to achieve the goals of the organization, and additional learning for personal development.
You are on stage all the time when you are a leader. You set the standard. What will people see and hear from you? Are you demonstrating the qualities you want to see from your followers? This is where you might need to do some work on yourself. You want to make sure that you are demonstrating what you think you are demonstrating: active listening, non-judgmental, ethical, fair, a visionary, lifelong learner, honest, creative, and approachable. Consider a coach for yourself or for the whole team.
Many organizations continue using a hierarchy. Coming from a healthcare background, I know this continues to be a model followed by many. This is not a sustainable model. Rather than information flowing from the top down or bottom up, form networks to deliver information across numerous forums. Depending on your leadership position you might be able to direct the organization to change to a flatter, networking model. Or, you can at least have a network model for you and the followers. In other words, it isn’t you and the followers – it is the network.
In the hierarchical model employees can often advance up the ladder in their turn. This doesn’t necessarily work. Think of the Peter Principle – promote to the level of incompetence. What if other qualified people were admitted to the organization who had different ideas, beliefs, and backgrounds? We can learn from people who are different. Diversity allows new insights, embracing differences, valuing each person’s uniqueness, and using the differences to achieve the goals. A diverse team or workgroup can work cohesively with the guidance and direction of a good leader.
We don’t always plan to be in leadership roles, and it can be scary. Theories have come and gone and are still being developed. Some of the skills needed to be a good to great leader are what I consider life skills – communication, open-mindedness, respect, fairness, honesty, and well my list could continue. However, if you are thrown in consider these as the first ones to get down along with communication, and all those other things I have mentioned.
No matter how many skills you have they can all be honed, or as Stephen Covey would say “sharpen the saw”. Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a good read for anyone, but especially applicable for leaders.