Leadership skills: 7 Key attributes for exceptional leaders
We take it for granted that leaders have good communication skills, can motivate people and get results. This article explores seven advanced competencies that set truly great leaders apart.
1 – Courage
A true leader is prepared to go out on a limb to get results. Be prepared to face difficult or risky situations with resolution, self-possession and confidence. Motivate others to follow in such situations. Go for it.
2 – Vision
Have a clear purpose and be able to paint a picture of your vision to others. Mediaeval leaders used symbols on their shields and banners representing their cause, which acted as a rallying point for their followers. What is on your banner?
3 – Inspiring Followership
Why should I follow you? What makes it worth my while? Identify what motivates your followers and capitalise on it. Take notice of their level of willingness to follow you, and adjust your behaviour, communication and example-setting to build their willingness.
4 – Serving
“I lead by serving, I serve by leading”. Serving in a leadership context is a two way street. The leader serves a higher purpose, whether it is a corporation, a deity or an ideal. The leader also serves their people. When you give to those around you as much as you expect them to give to you, you will be rewarded by respect and trust from motivated and inspired followers.
5 – Advocacy.
Present compelling arguments in favour of your cause, idea or policy. Actively demonstrate support for the issue. Be ready to speak fluently and passionately about your cause. Great leaders are inspirational when talking about or debating their cause.
6 – Decision-Making
Sometimes it’s tough; sometimes it feels like any decision you make is full of pitfalls, but as a leader you have to make decisions. So make your decisions with conviction, display confidence in your decisions, take ownership of them and follow them through to implementation.
7 – Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs show agility, speed of response and independence of thinking, driven by the awareness of threat from competition or market conditions. An entrepreneurial leader harnesses this sense of urgency to get results. Leaders with this attribute dream big dreams and achieve big goals.
The Importance of R&R
Today is a Bank Holiday where I live, and yet many people that I know will be working. From small business owners and entrepreneurs to multi-national conglomerates, the tradition of taking a day off on a Bank Holiday seems to have eroded. At the same time, parents are in debate with schools about the appropriateness of taking their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. As a result businesses struggle with the demands of all parents wanting to take their holidays in the same period. Families find that holiday prices soar over the school summer holidays. Overall finding time to take time off becomes harder and harder.
The days when whole towns closed down for a week's mass exodus to the coast or to the countryside are long gone. Some areas retain the vestiges of these traditions, such as Glasgow Fair week, but no longer do whole factories close down on Fair Friday for the workers to travel on mass to the Ayrshire coast.
And what else have we lost in the passing of these traditions? it seems as though the structured and societal observance of shared holidays gave us shared experiences, a connection to our communities as well as well-deserved rest and relaxation from the demands of our work.
Current pressures to perform often result in workers putting in extra hours and working on weekends and holidays in order to meet targets, or simply to impress and earn recognition - even when there's no overtime payment involved. But the times of rest are important to recharge the batteries, to stimulate other areas of the brain through engaging in non-work activities, and to reinforce social and familial bonds.
The old saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is just as true today as it has ever been. Periods of play help us to perform better at work. Rest gives us more energy. Relaxation makes us more alert. And what is all this work for, if not to be able to enjoy other areas of our life?
So if you're working today, stop and think for a moment about when else you can take time off instead. Enjoy planning how you'll use that time, whether you take a family day out to a country park, or sit on the sofa catching up with your favourite boxed set, knowing that you'll be refreshed and back at your peak afterwards.
Me? Yes, I'm working today. And I'm taking tomorrow off to go to the beach.
In the last few years, the use of YouTube, webinars and podcasts has created a very credible rival to class-room based training. For a long time, many people engaged in soft-skills training (communication, leadership, management skills etc.) fought a defensive battle arguing that these skills could only really be delivered face-to-face, since they are, at the core, skills to do with people interacting with one another.
However, as we work more with distributed teams and use these technologies to communicate, lead and manage, then surely our training environments can, and should, adapt in line with these new methods of communication? I look at my own team, which includes a network of many associates, none of whom are co-located with me. We rarely meet up in person, doing the vast majority of our interactions through a mixture of media and communication channels including Skype, telephone, email, webinars, teleconferences, video-conferences, Facebook etc.
There is a place for both face-to-face training AND the use of new media to deliver soft-skills training. I personally took some persuasion. As a self-confessed Luddite I have long resisted the use of YouTube as a learning vehicle. However, increasing evidence of its importance to those around me convinced me that if I am to appeal to all learning styles effectively, then it was time to stop my ostrich impression and start to embrace the possibilities that are constantly emerging.
In our recent programme, From Crisis To Clarity, designed for professionals facing a career change, we created a fully-blended environment, involving:
- live interactive webinars including both teaching new material and live coaching of participants.
- recordings of the webinars made available to listen to offline.
- discussion forums to allow participants to interact with each other.
- confidential real-time messaging to allow participants to discuss their personal progress in private with the tutors.
- face-to-face meet-ups to allow participants to work together in person.
- a variety of video recordings of interviews with relevant experts.
- audio recordings of coaching exercises so that participants could listen and work through the exercises at their own pace and in their own time.
- written material available on-demand to support the learning process.
For a technophobe, I've certainly come a long way! What new ways of learning and communicating have you integrated into your own leadership and management? I'd love to hear about your experiences.
We find that the greatest leaders are able to demonstrate both resilience and courage, which is why we recommend this article. Regular time for oneself, including the support of an executive coach can be a great way to help to build resilience, as well as of obtaining support during the difficult times.
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A miscellany of articles and opinions on communication, leadership and management topics.