We've heard of great leaders like Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg and Melinda Gates. But what makes them so great? Was it their natural proclivity to lead, or was it a set of particular skills that set them apart? When it comes to being a great leader, it's all about having the 4 critical skills.
Great leaders release that they have to develop a unique set of skills to be able to take care of their people and their company. In a 2014 study of 332,860 bosses, peers and subordinates; the most valuable qualities of a leader were finally exposed in detail.
We’re going to segment these qualities in 4 overarching categories – the 4 critical leadership skills.
The 4 critical leadership skills are:
Self-awareness – the ability to engage others in shared meaning
Communication – a distinctive and compelling voice
Influence – a sense of integrity that comprises a strong set of values
Learning agility – adaptive capacity – the ability to use creativity to transcend adversity
One of the greatest personal challenges that we’ll face is to know ourselves. Before we can understand ourselves, we have to look at our thoughts, who we are, what our purpose is and how we find meaning in life and work.
“I think therefore I am” – Descartes
We are the things that we think about, because our thoughts find a way to manifest through our actions, and our actions affect our future. That’s why positive self-talk is so powerful. It changes our physiology by telling our brain that we’re important and that we deserve success.
An important part of self-awareness is the ability to find meaning and lessons from our past experiences. Are you able to distill the lessons of your past success and failures? If you can’t, you can learn how to by starting a daily journal. When you force yourself to put your experiences and thoughts on the page, you have the power to analyse and learn from them. A journal is a feedback loop which tells us how well we’re doing and shines a light on the things that need improvement. It also acts as a counsellor, because it helps us to unload our mental baggage, leaving our brain less burdened and clearer.
Knowing yourself is about finding the reason behind why you do what you do. It’s the process of removing ambiguity and finding meaning, more than that, it’s actually about articulating your meaning so you can chase your purpose.
It a unique thing to find your purpose. But, you won’t be able to rally your team behind your cause if you can’t convey the meaning to them. No matter who they are, great leaders are clear thinker, clear writers and effective speakers. They don’t have a choice. A big part of leadership is unifying your team under a common cause. When it comes to strategic planning, organisational culture, management, building rapport – it all banks on the ability of the leader to communicate effectively with their team. Leaders are those who hold the torch and light the way for others. They don’t push people towards success, they pull them – because they have the vision.
Influence is all about understanding others. Your team members all have individual reasons for why they’re with you. Some of them love the organizational culture, some love the career growth, some just want to be part of the journey. A great leader understands this. Influencing people is about give and take. The underlying building blocks of influence is expertise, authority, trustworthiness and reciprocity. You can only be influential when you know yourself and can communicate your message.
But why do we care about influence? Basically, it’s the most efficient way to work with others and get things done. It’s about guiding and shepherding people in the right direction. Everyone has a degree of influence in life. However, the way they build their influence can come in many shapes and forms. Some work hard long to earn their influence, while others may enforce influence via authoritarianism. We don’t want to be the later of those – because it eats into trust – it’s a ticking time bomb to things falling apart.
“Early in your career, or in individual contributor roles, influence is about working effectively with people over whom you have no authority. It requires being able to present logical and compelling arguments and engaging in give-and-take. In senior-level or executive roles, influence is focused more on steering long-range objectives, inspiration, and motivation.” – The Centre for Creative Leadership
Leaders are not static. Often, they’re frantic. They need to be learning constantly – the problem is, there’s too much to learn. Leaders have to focus on different things at different levels. For a manager, it’s all about driving results, and for a CEO, it’s all about strategic prospective and driving the vision. There has to be a shift in one’s personal belief to look at everything as a skill. Because skills can be learned through practise, what’s more, skills can be mastered. Leaders have to move from being a passive learner to an active learner.
“This involves recognizing when new behaviors, skills, or attitudes are needed and accepting responsibility for developing them.” – The Centre for Creative Leadership
When we learn, we grow, and when we grow, we have a fulfilling career. It involves having a beginner’s mind, failing fast and distilling the lesson. This means we have a rapid feedback loop for learning new things.