5 Key Leadership Skills

One of the lessons I got early in my career is that business is about people. If you don’t like people, then you shouldn’t be in business. Yet, in practice many leaders seem to behave as though success is achieved not because of people, but in spite of people. They struggle because it is so hard to get diverse groups with their own agendas to march lockstep in the direction they are trying to lead. The struggle is not a failure of people, it is a failure of leadership.

In the business of economic development (or in life), if you want to accomplish anything transformational in your community, you will first need to develop strong leadership skills.

Five Skills

Here are five key people skills that will help you become an even more effective leader if you master them. I wish I could claim they were my ideas, but it is a collection of wisdom gifted to me throughout my career by leaders I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to follow and learn from.

  • Life Happens With People. The ability to accept people as they are, not as you’d wish them to be. Often it is frustrating when members of teams you sit on don’t understand the problem that needs addressing as quickly as you do, slow the solution process down by asking an unending series of questions, or simply don’t assign the same priority to the meeting that you do. The reality is that everybody is an individual with his/her own needs. It is important as a leader to understand what motivates each person if you want to ensure maximum performance and contribution.
  • Life Happens in the Present. The capacity to approach relationships and problems in terms of the present and not the past. There are two aspects to this. The first is a willingness to erase old tapes if they are detrimental to success. The second is to not take existing relationship for granted. People want to ne rewarded for what they are doing today. They want to be appreciated and listened to. Don’t count of past rewards to motivate current performance.
  • Life Happens Out Loud. The ability to treat people close to you with the same courtesy afforded strangers. Often best performers are taken for granted. Since there is a lack of negative reinforcement, it is assumed the person will understand that they are doing well. But the truth is that silence makes them feel undervalued and receptive to working on priorities other than yours. This is easily handled by providing frequent and heartfelt feedback.
  • Life Happens When You Give Trust. A key leadership skill is the ability to trust others, even if the risk is great. Conditional trust is sometimes necessary. But, if you want a high performance team you need to learn to listen and trust their input. If you have led anything in your life, there is a good chance you’ve been burned once or twice for trusting somebody who was untrustworthy. That is unfortunate, but not an excuse for you to become untrusting. In the long run, any team you lead will produce superior results if they know you trust them. The nice quid pro quo, it they in turn will trust you as their leader.
  • Life Happens When Nobody is Looking. The ability to do without constant approval and recognition. It isn’t necessary a leader be liked. The important thing is the quality of work that results from the collaboration. This is not the same as saying it is all right to be despised. The fact is that many times a leader will need to assume a risk that makes others uncomfortable and some people will be displeased with the decision. Seeking always to be viewed as “a good friend” can actually jeopardize the final quality of the effort. When in doubt, always do what you think is right rather than what is popular. Leaders make the tough calls and live with the results.

What Are Your Thoughts?

What are some of the traits you have observed in great leaders?  What are some go the skills that have served you well when leading groups of diverse people with differing agendas in your community?

You can read more about leadership skills by clicking HERE.

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3 Comments so far

  1. Dara Barwick

    February 21, 2012

    Agree! Agree! Agree! I managed teams for over 20 years, and many times I was an imperfect leader. I did learn a lot along the way, and finally became a better coach and leader than manager. I hope those I worked alongside would agree.
    A trait I’ve long admired in leaders is the ability to stay calm in the storm, keeping your team calm as well. Change and disruption are going to visit the workplace, and it is nice to work for a leader (who)and strive to be a leader who helps the team weather the storms til the ship is back in safe harbor.
    I really enjoyed your post, and I’ll share, giving you credit as the source.

  2. ajit

    February 24, 2012

    HAPPENS is not at all leadership skill but MAKING IT HAPPEN is.think

  3. Hossam hassan Nabih

    February 29, 2012

    Hi again , I like ur posts

    Team leader need the following

    1- living example
    2- brust the barier
    3- support members
    4- coaching
    5- customer advocate

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