What leadership skills do you need to develop?
You will find thousands of articles on this topic. But basically, you never start from scratch, by developing all kinds of skills at once. You only need to know there are several such skills helping you get all the rest.
There’s no fixed set of leadership skills, either; instead, you may concentrate on the ones you need to reach your goals. Nowadays, the most talked about ones, are: relating to others, “we” thinking, caring for others, team playing and collaboration, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, balance, continuous learning, authenticity, integrity, systems thinking and systems awareness, connecting the dots, purposeful thinking, vision.
Which leadership skills are important?
The most important ones are those helping you become a better person, not just a better leader. This way you remain authentic and whole all along the way and till the end of career/ life.
When we lack a skill, we usually miss more, related to the one: relating to others is associated with cooperation, team play, interpersonal intelligence, etc. Intrapersonal intelligence is associated with introspection, balance, authenticity. That is, we usually miss categories of skills. This means that if we could develop a skill category, we would consequently develop the skills in that category. These categories are called “meta-skills” or “generative skills”; they generate other skills.
Meet the meta-skills
The last 200 years brought us on the verge where we are:
- way too attached to our objects and actions AND
- way too detached from our inner selves.
As leaders, we got too fixated onto our results, goals, objectives, measurable impact. And also onto our status symbols, accumulation of wealth and ego inflation mechanisms, forgetting ourselves and the dear ones around.
A GOOD METAPHOR DESCRIBING THIS CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS WOULD BE A BLACK-FRIDAY SHOPPING SPREE INSIDE A MEGASTORE
Thus, the 2 counter meta-skills we have to learn at the same time are:
- capacity for introspection, self-reflection, and centering: learning this will generate self-awareness, intrapersonal intelligence, balance, curiosity, continuous learning, authenticity, integrity, vision, purpose building, caring AND
- capacity for perspective taking: learning this will generate in turn systems awareness, systems thinking, multi-perspectival (“We”) thinking, community concern, connecting the dots, creativity, interpersonal intelligence.
THE METAPHOR HERE WOULD BE OF A MONK MEDITATING ON TOP OF A SKY SCRAPPER. Meditating, centered around his own flow of thoughts, the rhythm of the his heart, oscillating breath and inner life of his body while looking around with his eyes wide open, hearing all the distant sounds of the city, breathing in the polluted air while grasping the intricate relationship between all these rhythms, of his presence, of city’s vibe, of weather’s cycles, of world’s events and compiling a meaning out all of these.
Try to imagine the insides of such a leader during one of the regular corporate meetings.
Are leadership skills learned or innate?
This question is wrongly asked. It does not matter whether this or that. It matters if they can be learned even if they are not innate. They are not genes, so there’s no reason to ask this. On the other hand, the question comes from a “chance evaluation mindset”, not from a growth mindset: am I eligible to be a leader? Am I entitled somehow? Do I already have what it takes? Do I have to struggle more or less to become a leader? Am I doomed not to become one?
The capacity to learn how to be fully present (centered, balanced) and at the same time grasp the life patterns developing around you (perspective taking) makes you a leader of this world.
Can leadership skills be taught? Learned? developed?
Yes, leadership skills can be taught, learned and developed. Though, by my experience, I would say they do not develop through teaching and learning. They develop as any other skill: by confronting them with a context (see below). If the context requires you to become more self-centered, you will (in time). If the environment triggers more perspective taking, systems thinking from you – than you will become much like a “connecting the dots” guy. Environment molds us in a greater manner than we can think, accept or wish. We illusion ourselves with the idea of “strong will” and “purposeful development”: that’s not enough. The environment where development takes place has a big role in any transformation.
How leadership skills can be developed?
As with any other kind of skill (in sports, arts, science, etc.), developing leadership skills need several scientifically researched conditions:
- strategizing their leadership development over time;
- “arranging”, changing or diverting elements of the environment to help their development;
- segmenting them into micro-skills, easier to grasp segments;
- repeating intensely well-crafted micro-practices, to deliberately increase accumulation of the skill;
- constant feedback from an external coach, keeping you accountable and tailoring your practices.