While it’s true that leaders are not born they are made, it is also true that successful leaders all have some things in common. Talk with any successful leader and you will find these four essential leadership skills they all have in common.
Recently, as I coached a leader, we discussed how difficult life had been over the past year but was now on the upswing. I then asked her to reflect on what had made the last year so tough and why was the present different?
The leader is involved currently in something that is very new and exciting, and she is passionate about it. So I asked the question, “How much of a difference is your improved situation tied to your involvement in something that you’re passionate about and is new and exciting?” The leader was quick to point out that although this new and exciting thing did help, it was not as big a reason as one might think.
What if you discovered that question today? Would you use it to help avoid mistakes in your decisions going forward?
I think I just heard your response: “Well, duh!”
The question is available to you, and you can start using it immediately.
Have you ever had the experience of being in a team meeting and felt the need to speak up but decided against it because you felt you would appear unsupportive of the leader or the team? With your desire of maintaining harmony and avoiding conflict, you decided to hold your piece. That my friend is your run-in with groupthink.
I am the kind of person who enjoys being in the presence of people who see life from my point of view. When I am with these people, I am happy, calm and in control. No tension or emotion is rising because all our conversations are agreeable. I don’t have to think outside my box because everyone is in the box with me, no disagreements. I like living like that. I suspect the same is true for you.
But if I want to grow as a person, and more so as a leader, I cannot afford to surround myself with only those who see things like I do. I must have some people around me who see things differently. People who can challenge me in my ways of thinking and doing things. This can be uncomfortable, painful and difficult. But this is necessary if you are going to grow and develop.
Leadership is first about those you lead and secondly about the results you achieve. So, are you focused on the task to be accomplished or the people under your leadership who accomplish the task? Many successful leaders will tell you that it was only when they became people-focused that they were able to achieve success.
Some leaders hold to a popular idea which says, “When you show up for work leave your personal problems at the door.” If this were possible, you would not have embezzlements, affairs, fights, drugs and alcohol abuse in the workplace. As a result of this kind of thinking, many leaders do not want to know about the personal struggles of those they lead. Very often these same leaders are seen as uncaring and demanding.
Good and successful leaders are approachable leaders. Their followers find it easy to approach them with whatever concerns they may have. Good leaders don’t hear things from third parties, their followers are comfortable with approaching them directly.
Approachability comes over time as you, the leader, intentionally create a culture of trust and openness so your followers can feel safe and confident in approaching you. There are a number of things you can be intentional about in your leadership that will make you an approachable leader.
Most of us grew up hearing the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” My friends, wherever that phrase came from, it is far from reality. The pain that words can cause is as deep as the deepest sea! Words can hurt and they can hurt deeply.
Think of how many conflicts you either have been a part of or have seen others engage in that were all about the words that were spoken. Wars have been started over words. People have been killed or physically hurt because of words. To say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is simply not true.
Simon Sinek, in his book on leadership Start with Why, wrote the following:
There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves.