We see them everywhere: at our place of business, in our email inboxes; in coffee shops, libraries... maybe even at the gym! Those adverts promoting leadership training, a full range of leadership courses, workshops in essential leadership...
Blaring from the telly and the radio: “Do you have what it takes to be a leader?” Followed, of course, by an invitation to attend the next personal development seminar, retreat or self-assessment ahead of said retreat or seminar.
All of which seems to imply that only the good, the strong, the determined and the ‘chosen few’ can be leaders – and you, obviously not one of them, must be trained.
The thing is, you never wanted to be a leader; you have never had any intention of spearheading any remarkable discoveries, becoming chief executive officer of a multi-national corporation or making earthshattering decisions that would affect millions.
All you ever wanted was to get by with a minimum of fuss and a lot of dignity. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What would you need leadership classes for, then? The answer may surprise you.
Come along with your Superprof as we lay out the case for leadership as it applies to you, me and everyone in the world.
What exactly are leadership skills?
If you’re thinking about leadership development, you should have some idea of what effective leadership is.
We’re going out on a limb to presume that you have in the past or currently are working for an exemplary leader – perhaps someone who has undergone leadership skills training and is now putting to use all that s/he learned.
If that truly is the case, consider yourself lucky! According to an article on LinkedIn, a social media site for professionals, bad boss statistics are truly staggering.
An effective leader has a balance of inherent qualities and learned skills that function together to make that person someone you trust and are loyal to.
Now, we give a breakdown of what, exactly, makes a leader.
- Honest and Integral: Integrity is the number one quality that all good leaders embody
- Self-confident: far from being arrogant, this person is assertive without being overbearing
- Passionate about their work, about giving their all and motivating others to do so
- Accountable: they will never yell at you for a mistake they (or someone else) made.
- Creative: leaders like to think up new strategies and they will encourage you to do so, too
- Empathetic: strong leaders all have emotional intelligence
These are qualities that cannot be taught. After all, you are either ethical or not; honest or not, passionate and creative or not. However, if those qualities are present, they can be developed.
Often, leadership and management courses will conduct exercises and activities that will draw on these qualities; how well a management trainee responds is a good measure of their capacity for any of these assets.
Skills, on the other hand, can be taught; now we put them under the microscope.
Effective Leadership Skills
- The ability to teach and mentor: many styles of leadership emphasise mentoring subordinates
- The ability to delegate: delegating responsibilities is an act of trust as well as self-confidence
- Team building: great leaders help to build bridges between employees
- The ability to solve problems: problem-solving skills cut through all the distractions to get to the core of any problem
- problem-solving draws on critical thinking skills – the ability to analyse, reason and arrive at a solution faster.
- The ability to make a decision (and stick by it): a good leader’s sense of accountability permits them to stand by a decision and accept whatever consequences there may be.
- The ability to communicate effectively: communication skills are absolutely vital to those in leadership roles!
You can see how leadership qualities and skills work hand-in-hand to make company culture – a facet of working life formerly seen with derision and scorn, now desirable.
With such leadership competencies in effect, morale is always high, team performance always exceeds norms and everyone goes home happy – or, at least satisfied with their day’s work.
Now that you know what leadership skills are, you may still wonder: why should you learn how to lead if you have no intention of leading anything or anyone?
Why Everyone Needs Leadership Skills
Imagine for a second that you were in Japan when Typhoon Hagibis was due to hit. What would you do?
You could look to your hotel’s management for direction; after all, they are used to managing such crises. They will surely advise you on shelter and safety practices, and provide you with a list of do’s and don’ts while the storm rages.
Or you could take matters in your own hands: keep the weather radar refreshed to see exactly where and when the storm will hit. Pack a ‘bug-out bag’ with essentials: first aid kit, nutrition bars and water; don’t forget clean socks.
Waterproof your valuables – passport and money; it wouldn’t hurt to put your phone in a plastic bag, either.
Now, you are ready for whatever may happen, thereby freeing up hotel staff to manage guests who are not as decisive, creative and self-assured as you.
Isn't that a good example of how leadership skills can help in your everyday life?
Cultivating personal leadership can prepare you to handle any crisis or emergency, be it caused by a natural phenomenon or a situation – say something gone awry in your family.
Developing leadership skills can help you foster an environment of collaboration so that, when you cantankerous aunt or your surly teen tries to wreak havoc in your life, you can practise transformational leadership so that they come to the conclusion that their behaviours are not acceptable.
In taking a leadership role in your life, you can motivate others – yes, even that cranky aunt into cooperating with you to make family gatherings fun for all.
Speaking of being motivating and inspiring... what motivates you?
Discover the best ways to develop leadership skills...
What Leadership Skills Can Do for You
We gather from your earlier assertion that you want a quiet, dignified life. Guess what? Leadership theories can help you there, too.
Because leadership skill isn’t all about the workplace, you see. It’s also about self-awareness and interpersonal skill. It’s about growing into the assured, confident person you always knew you were but maybe didn’t quite dare to become.
Discovering your leadership style is a way to understand and learn more about yourself, to understand how you’ve changed over time and to prepare you for other changes yet to come.
Being a leader does not automatically put you at the head of a Fortune 500 company but it does put you on par or ahead of any situation that needs managing, from a rebellious teenager to choosing a career path.
And then, with such assertiveness cloaking you, you will no longer need to beseech (perhaps somewhat plaintively) for a quiet life in charge of nobody.
You were never really not in charge of anyone, anyway.
Did you know there is a wealth of online resources to help you develop your leadership skills?
The Need Good Leadership Skills
Every day, you are in the business of yourself, seeing to your own best interests and taking care of the people in your life.
It might sound somewhat self-centred but it is absolutely true: if you are above, say, the age of 12, you are, in fact, seeing to your interests and desires being met - from the salary you earn which affords you the life you live to the relationships you foster and cultivate. That holds true for everyone, not just you.
Let’s consider that idea: 7.5 billion people on this earth; each struggling for food, shelter, clothing, respect... perchance a quiet life.
A hundred years ago, the business of being oneself was pretty much a zero-sum game, individually and collectively, among nations. Countries went to war because one party had what the other party wanted.
Thankfully, we’ve moved away from that model; we’ve realised on an international level what we’ve always known on a personal level: cooperation and collaboration work so much better than annihilation.
Diplomacy, a particular brand of management and leadership – call it Civility 2.0 has made its way into the boardrooms and offices of companies great and small.
Managers are getting away from shouting and berating employees; effective communication is the order of the day. Soft skills – active listening, conflict resolution and patience are far more valuable today than anyone’s ability to intimidate.
If these skills work on a global scale to get results, if they work in a boardroom and to improve team performance – whether said teams are a project team or a sports team...
If a leadership presence works everywhere it is, why wouldn’t leadership skills work for you?
You don’t have to take a managerial position with a company to be a great leader.
Simply having the management skills to address the issues in your life – cranky aunt, crabby teenager or college and career choices is reason enough to seek out a leadership development program.
Now discover how you can develop your leadership traits...