The importance of leadership skills today is manifested through many examples of great leaders and differences that they’ve made. In some cases, the differences impacted their organizations, but the world as well (just think of Steve Jobs to illustrate the thought and you’ll get the clear picture).
And the most important question ever related to leadership skills is – Are leaders born, or made? The science says – leaders are mostly made. So, the possibility of developing leadership skills is a fact. It can be done through a never-ending process of education, self-study, experience, and training. It can be a life-time activity for one willing to get on this path.
If you are yourself on the path of leadership development, in this article you can learn about the leadership, things like:
- What is leadership?
- Also, what isn’t leadership?
- What are the important leadership skills?
…and much more
There are numerous definitions of leadership. It is a phenomenon that is not related just to the business world but can be found and observed in a much wider environment. So, there are various definitions, depending on various approaches.
Few minimalistic and broad definitions provided by a veteran of the business theory are listed below. They are a nice introduction and way one can get a good sentiment about this complex phenomenon:
Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
Warren Bennis: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
Next, there are examples of more specific thoughts, focusing on one or more points of leadership. They are provided by not so famous people like Steve Jobs, but also people from practice, people who are involved in successful modern businesses.
“Great leaders also hire and inspire other great leaders, whom they trust to carry out the company mission and instill a sense of purpose that touches each and every staff member,” Tom Villante, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of payment processing company YapStone.
“A leader places the people around him or her in a position that sets them up for success,” Andor Kovacs, CEO, and founder of property restoration brand Restoration.
“Leaders are coaches with a passion for developing people, not players. They get satisfaction from achieving objects through others. Leaders inspire people through a shared vision and create an environment where people feel valued and fulfilled,” Randy Stocklin, co-founder and CEO of One Click Ventures.
“A good leader can hold his or her emotions in check, especially in tough situations,” David Moore, founding partner and regional vice president of Addison Group.
All these statements are provided from various angles and practices but describe the same phenomenon. The one thing that is certain is that a position of any level of management doesn’t mean that you are a leader. All these people are talking about something that is much more than just having the authority to conduct certain plans or tasks.
Also, leadership can be formal and a person who is formally in the position to lead a group of people can be or become a good leader. But, it can be informal too. Someone can spontaneously become a leader, especially in a time of crises or during a change process. In other words, leaders can be made by circumstances.
Leadership is about vision, inspiration, influence on other people’s behavior in a positive way, about positive attitude, motivation, the capability of team building, communicating, emotional stability…
The importance of having or/and developing leadership skills is huge:
Leaders energize the whole organization (followers) and make it (them) move enthusiastically towards desired goals.
The Most Important Leadership Skills
There is a wide range of skills that may be useful to leaders. Here we outlined the most important (which include others and there are others which may be helpful):
- Creating a Vision
- Strategic Thinking
- Team Building and Delegating
- Communication Skills
- Emotional Intelligence
- Change Management Skills
Creating a Vision
Having a vision is where all starts when it comes to leadership. And strategic thinking is perhaps the most important of leadership skills.
And what is a vision? To put it in the most simple way, vision is a picture of the organization, where it needs to be, or where it’s going.
Usually, a vision turns into a sentence or two through a vision statement. It needs to be clear, simple and logical, but also to have an emotional appeal. For example, here are few good vision statements:
Honest Tea: To create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.
Ikea: To create a better everyday life for many people.
Apple: …. the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.
So, the importance of leadership skills at this starting point is reflected in a vision’s clear picture. Everyone should be able to see what the leader sees. It doesn’t have to include how the organization is going to get there, but to provide a clear picture and good sentiment.
For support and training visit Accordemy course Vision Bulding
Strategic Thinking and Planning
Good vision is a product of good strategic thinking. It’s not simply an idea. Strategic thinking is based on evidence and facts. Strategic thinking implies looking at a big picture and gathering and analyzing information from a wide range of sources. Knowing and understanding your market and customers is at the very heart of the strategic thinking process.
In order to work, vision must be translated into a plan. The plan turns vision into reality. Planning skills are perhaps the most technical skills of all leadership skills on the list. Managers can learn much about this and improve them dramatically through education and training.
Creating a good vision is not enough. A good leader must also be able to communicate it effectively to the followers. So, communication skills are also vital to leadership. These are general interpersonal skills and good leaders are exceptional in this field.
The importance of these leadership skills is reflected in the fact that leaders must “sell” the vision to the followers so they would follow them enthusiastically. Maybe this is obvious but it is overlooked very often. No one would follow a blind leader, in other words, people must know where they are going. Further, they can prepare to take action and make progress. So, leaders need to talk about and communicate their vision, enthusiastically and constantly.
For support and training visit Accordemy course Leadership and Communication
In order to start translating vision into reality leaders must delegate responsibilities to teams and individuals. Communicating and providing feedback are the keys to successful delegation.
A team is a group of people formed to achieve a goal. Teams can be temporary, or indefinite. With individuals sharing responsibility, the group as a whole can take advantage of all of the collective talent, knowledge, and experience of each team member. Team building is a process of four stages, according to psychologist Bruce Wayne Tuckman:
- The Forming Stage
- The Storming Stage
- The Norming Stage
- The Performing Stage
The importance of leadership skills is huge in the forming stage. The leader must provide an environment for introductions, create a climate where participants can begin to build rapport and to present a solid first agenda so that the goals for the team are clear.
Team conflict is normal in the second phase and is a catalyst for creativity. But the leader must address any conflict immediately and directly so issues don’t fester. Leaders should help the team generate a win-win solution. Assertive communication is an important skill during this phase of the group’s evolution.
In the third phase, the team moves towards harmonious working practices. The team begins agreeing on the rules and values by which they operate. This is the time when a leader should take a step back and focus on providing the team with the operational tools and on keeping the team motivated.
In the final stage, the leader shifts partially into the support and mentoring role since the team achieved a high level of independence, motivation, knowledge, and competence.
The word motivation comes from the Latin movere, meaning to move. Motivating others is one of the greatest challenges of leadership. And how do you motivate your team to achieve or to move towards set goals?
For most people going to work means more than simply earning money. Of course, everyone must pay their bills and eat, but human beings are more than that and their needs are more complex, there the drive to move too.
Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation
The American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in his Theory of Human Motivation, states:
“But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled? At once other (and ‘higher’) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hunger, dominate the organism. And when these, in turn, are satisfied, again new (and still ‘higher’) needs emerge and so on.” – A.H. Maslow, Theory of Human Motivation (1943).
To look in more detail this famous Maslow’s thought on human motivation, take a look a staircase diagram below:
Many managers still make this mistake and assume that salary is enough motivation for their employees. Also, some may perceive that people dislike work and would like to avoid responsibility and because of that they have to be directed, and offered rewards to work, and threatened with punishment if they don’t perform as expected.
McGregor’s Theory Y
Management professor McGregor has noticed the fallacy of these beliefs and wrote down these more discerning views and labeled them Theory Y, in his The Human Side of Enterprise (1960):
- People do not dislike work, and under the right conditions they can enjoy it;
- If they are committed to the objectives of the group, they will direct and control themselves, rather than having to be controlled from above;
- People will be committed to objectives if they are getting enough personal satisfaction from the job;
- The average human being learns to accept and to seek responsibility if the conditions are right;
- Ingenuity and creativity are widely distributed and generally underutilized
Good leaders recognize what drives their employees toward set goals, set up appropriate rewording systems and before all keep themselves highly motivated.
For support and training visit Accordemy course Motivation Techniques
Having a high IQ (better cognitive abilities, or the ability to learn and understand) doesn’t guarantee success. It also depends on an EQ (emotional intelligence). Daniel Goleman and others developed this concept in the mid-1990s.
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth,” Daniel Goleman.
In the most simple way, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage emotions, and the emotions of other people.
Emotional intelligence permeates and is in correlation with everything we already talked about and especially with interpersonal skills such as communication and motivation. So it’s of great importance to the leadership.
Knowing and managing your emotions is a conscious and active task. The overall goal is to establish strategies that utilize your emotions to help accomplish a goal rather than allowing your emotions to use you to create a futile outcome.
Having an awareness of your emotions can allow you to take a more rational, well-planned approach to how you are going to make a specific decision. Also, knowing who you leads to a greater appreciation of others and to establishing good relationships, business and personal.
Emotional intelligence is one part of the human psyche that anyone can develop and improve through education and training.
Change Management Skills
The importance of leadership skills especially comes to light in the time of changes, either it’s caused by external factors or it’s part of internal plan and innovation within the organization.
Change management is, as we wrote in Change Management Overview article, a systematic approach in dealing with change, on the organizational level, but also on an individual level.
Change management implies the application of strategies, tools, and resources to change happen as expected and to add value to an organization. Managers and executives of all levels must develop change management skills through education and training to ensure a desirable outcome of organizational changes.
Changes and uncertainty that follows can be very stressful for everyone involved in the change process. Good leaders mitigate these temblors and deal with reactions to change, such as resistance that is very common. It is important to cope as a leader with pushbacks and to keep communication lines open during the whole process.
For support and training visit Accordemy course Change Management
Final Thoughts on Importance of Leadership Skills
- The list of leadership skills is long and versatile, for sure. As you found out in the article, some of them are technical and some are, interpersonal or social and even intrapersonal and all of them are of great importance when it comes to good leaders.
- Maybe some skills are more important than others, but all of them permeate, support one another and build a kind of superstructure of skills (great vision means a little without planning and plan is just a paper without motivation, etc.)
- Managers can develop any of the leadership skills through education and practice…And the best leaders know that they still have much to learn and to develop a wide range of skills all the time.