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Leadership: the three top skills all leaders need

The best leaders are the ones who recognise what they’re not good at, as well as what they can do well. Here are three skills you may be missing. 

18th Sep 2019
Director Unimenta
Columnist
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female manager speaking to room of employees
iStock/fizkes

You are probably used to tapping into a variety of skills, techniques and competences to manage people, teams and get the most out of them. You probably have to learn quickly to develop and foster what you don’t have.

Despite this, you may not have thought about these three critical skills that supercharge performance, productivity and commitment.

These aren’t skills you’ll necessarily learn on a leadership development course, but they are skills that you can develop and nurture every day and experience amazing results.

1. Adaptability

This is about being flexible and completely ok with uncertainty and change, and being unafraid to leave your comfort zone and try new things. As a leader, you should look for challenges and opportunities to solve problems.

You can also exercise adaptability by getting comfortable with asking for and taking feedback from others without becoming defensive. This is a fundamental leadership skill.

There’s no doubt about it, to be an empathetic leader you must also be able to make time and space for others to be able to approach you and talk to you.

You may be used to calling the shots, not asking your employees how you could get better at your job, but try it and see what happens. Notice any tendency to become defensive and get more aware of what triggers that and why.

It is easy for leaders to operate from their comfort zone – and that comfort zone may actually be quite big – you are probably good at lots of things.

The quickest way to increase adaptability is to regularly make sure you are operating and even leading from your stretch zone – this is where the most learning and growth happens.

2. Empathy

Empathy is key for successful, collaborative and effective professional relationships. You must be able to listen well, pay attention and focus.

Even though we are all tied to our smartphones, look at this behaviour a lot more closely. If you’re unable to be present and in the moment then you’re equally unable to fully listen to others and you will be more reactive as a result.

When is the last time you failed at something? How often do you create a safe place for others to take risks and fail?

There’s no doubt about it, to be an empathetic leader you must also be able to make time and space for others to be able to approach you and talk to you.

Consider how you may be coming across to others when you communicate with them.

In meetings, there are always two or three who do most of the talking. As a leader, make it a point to encourage quieter people to have a say too. The simple act of encouraging the quiet ones will empower everyone around you.

3. Resilience

Resilience is a hot topic right now and a key skill you want both for yourself and the people you lead. This is all about being able to bounce back fast from setbacks and rejection and to not be afraid to make mistakes.  

Failing fast – getting out there and failing, and then learning and bouncing back are key here.

When is the last time you failed at something? How often do you create a safe place for others to take risks and fail? Are there plenty of opportunities for people to try out different ideas to see what happens?  

Resilience is also about building and nurturing a strong support network for yourself as well as being part of that support for those whom you lead.

What sorts of support networks and wellbeing initiatives do you have at work?

Do people have flexibility in how they work? Do they have freedom to work based on results rather than on hours spent in the office? Do you take and encourage regular breaks and ‘switching off’ time?

It’s key that you model and practise these behaviours yourself as a leader first. In doing so you will notice immediate results.

Interested in this topic? Read Ego, eco and intuitive leadership: a new model for disruptive times.

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