This is the fifteenth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Leadership.
There are many different definitions of what it means to be a leader. For our purposes, we define Leadership as organizing and influencing people to believe in a vision while creating a sense of purpose and direction. Leaders can work at any level of an organization, regardless of their title or official level of authority.
Leadership is not just about being in charge of a company or a group within a company. It’s more about being able to align a group of people toward a common goal. To motivate them and earn their respect. As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog series, people only follow those they trust. Whether or not you have a title matters less than whether people trust you enough to follow you. Imagine if everyone at your company had a leadership mindset. How much more productive would your organization be?
Effective leadership depends on a mixture of capacities. Different leadership roles require different leadership skills. Great leaders have multiple styles of leadership that they can rely on when needed. They can tailor their approach to each individual situation.
Problem solving is a universal trait of Leadership though.
Leaders must be able to gain the trust of others and be able to solve problems that affect the group.
As you work with employees, you will find that they face difficult decisions and issues just as often as you do. Your natural instinct might be to jump in and solve the problem quickly. But great leaders don’t just solve problems, they empower others to solve them. They involve their teams in brainstorming possible solutions. And then encourage them to decide for themselves how to resolve the difficulty.
This requires you to have an open-door policy. You need to be accessible and non-judgmental when people bring problems or concerns to your attention. As a leader, you have to resist the urge to immediately place blame. Instead, you need to help everyone become a part of the solution by brainstorming ideas and finding the best path forward.
You can certainly spend time better understanding how the problem arose in order to avoid it in the future. But part of moving people towards a new vision is instilling in them the confidence to take risks and make mistakes. No company can effectively move towards its goals if every employee is too afraid of getting berated for a mistake.
Great leaders are authentic and trustworthy.
They show up every day as who they really are. And they interact with others in a straightforward way. Great leaders make clear what they stand for and do not play politics or try to manipulate others into doing what they want them to. Successful leaders know it is important to stand up for what they believe and to be direct and candid about what that is.
Part of being an authentic leader is having a sense of conviction about those things in which you believe strongly. And then acting accordingly. If you know what is most important to you and your organization, you can feel firm in your convictions about those things. Leaders must be able to make decisions that involve risk and be willing to take a stand in the face of adversity.
Their convictions may often force them to make tough decisions — decisions that will not please everyone — but they know that in the end, this will be worth it. They may not be popular decisions now, but they will serve the good of your company or organization. And eventually, it will be something to be proud of. Even when decisions are unpopular, others will be happy to follow them and join their cause. Thanks to their honesty and openness. Everyone will know it is worthwhile because the leader truly believes in it.
In contrast, someone who has not developed their skills in Leadership is more likely to cave to outside pressures. They will make decisions based on others’ opinions. Not having grounded themselves in their own authentic leadership style, they may change how they approach leadership frequently. Which will leave others uneasy and unwilling to trust them. No one wants to follow someone who is wishy-washy.
If you’d like to improve your Leadership skills, you can start by reflecting on your own personal core values.
What are the things on which you are not willing to compromise? What values do you want to be known for? Which issues are you willing to fight for? By taking the time for self-reflection you can better prepare yourself to show up authentically. You get to define what kind of leader you are, but you have to make the effort and take the time to do it.
These values make take some time to fully cement. Don’t be afraid to revisit the words or the phrases that you choose. You may try out a certain value only to find that in practice it is not something truly core to you. That’s okay. That’s what this process of self-reflection is all about. The ultimate test of a value is that you would still stick to that value even if it became a detriment to you.
You also should make sure that you know what each of your values means to you. Many people might hold the value of integrity, but it means something slightly different to each of them. What is the definition that you believe in? What is it about that value that means so much to you? Get clear on why that particular value is so important.
Leadership sets you apart.
As I mentioned earlier, Leadership is not just about a title. You can lead from wherever you sit. It is about how you’re showing up for yourself and for others. And great leaders are always in demand which makes Leadership one of the most employable skills on the market.
Being true to who you are, standing up for your convictions, and inspiring others with your vision will help you stand out of whatever crowd you happen to be in.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Leadership skills, download our Leadership Rx PDF here.