Are leaders born or made? What skills and qualities do they have? Much of the business world is constantly seeking training in leadership and managerial skills. But… what is leadership? what is leading? It is tapping into our full potential and, hopefully, the potential of those we guide as well.
This is not just a job need. Whether at work, in our petanque club, in the neighborhood community or in our family, we all have to lead at some point. Therefore, let us not let laziness and apathy trap us. When something is worth fighting for, we must pick up the baton and lead to the occasion .
Although there are personality traits that allow us to be more or less predisposed to leadership, everyone can lead . In this post we will analyze some of the qualities and skills of a model leader. According to the 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, “Leadership is not an innate quality, but is achieved through study, reflection and practice .” So have a pen and paper handy, because we are going to review the skills for effective and unparalleled leadership.
Main skills of a leader
As is well known, it is very beneficial to encourage and improve the skills of all members of the company. However, when it is the leader himself who is in perpetual learning, it is an example to follow , encouraging constant training in the team: "If the leader studies, so do I." The better prepared individual workers are, the more capable they will be of delivering extraordinary results. It is, in every rule, an impulse to excellence.
In turn, Harry S. Truman (33rd President of the United States) declared “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Reading is very good, but it is a great capacity for synthesis that separates the leader. Know how to separate the grain from the chaff, distill the relevant information and implement it effectively. In short, apply what you read .
Historical biographies are a constant source of inspiration for leadership literature. The great figures were also people, and in general, said greatness is based on the fact that they were up to the task when the occasion required it, regardless of setbacks and frustrations. It may seem that the World Wars are thematically far removed from the needs of a modern IT department, but the truth is that, despite changing circumstances, the mechanisms of leadership are almost identical. Therefore, whatever our battlefield, the desire to improve will enhance the professional skills of the team.
Would you gladly accept orders that come from someone who knows nothing about the company, its processes or the sector? No, right? Although a leadership position does not require knowing everything, it is of great importance to be very familiar with the field, know what one is talking about and lead by example. An instructor must have a complete mastery of the subject, being able to explain and demonstrate the best methods and tools in the industry, especially in the case of leadership in a technical department .
Excellence is the first step in building trust in followers and establishing the figure of the leader, who commands respect and admiration for his or her level of control . Another aspiring leader who does not have the same training and is hesitant in his area of work will quickly lose the trust of his followers.
You shouldn't let your guard down. In expecting others to be efficient, we must be efficient ourselves. No occasion is too small to lead by example , and since a picture is worth a thousand words, let consistency speak for itself .
To give some examples: Keep your promises, and comply with the rules that you yourself impose. Don't blame something one day and turn a blind eye the next. Don't favor some employees over others. Do not give orders or instructions that you later cancel without good reason. And especially, don't lose your patience over a trifle and make a scene. In this regard, it is worse to be seen as an unpredictable leader than one with an iron fist, since lacking individual integrity, acting hypocritically, or having an unstable personality are three qualities that inspire little confidence in the team. Therefore, we must be very clear about our commitment to the organization, our employees, our customers, and, in short, to all the parties interested in our business.
Strategy is a multidimensional word. Understood in its basic form, it consists of setting objectives and establishing a plan to achieve them, in addition to executing said plan. It also means knowing where we are headed, what our incentives are , why some goals are set and not others, or what our vision is , whether it be personally, as a team, or as a company. It means acting making the optimal decision at each crossroads we find, and making sure that efforts converge on the objectives we have set. Therefore: How is the effort divided? Who is in charge of what? How can we be efficient in time and resources?
It is important to mention that we can conceive the best strategy in the world, but if we do not have an organization that can rigorously comply with what is proposed and implement the decisions, it will not work. It is not possible to execute a strategy without the appropriate infrastructure , and for this reason, leadership must inspire the followers, who will be the ones who really trace the path to success.
When we decide under pressure, how can we have the satisfaction at the end of the day that we have done the right thing, with the information and resources available?
Don't wait for a problem to come up to make a decision. Take stock of your values and goals to draw up a plan for possible eventualities, because it is very easy to make mistakes when we decide hastily or improvising . In the words of Roy E. Disney, “When you are clear about your values, making decisions is easy.” Remember that the worst decision is indecision , and therefore, we should not remain blocked in a dilemma.
Let us be fully aware of how we transmit information , whether through non-verbal language, our tone of voice, how we form sentences or the characteristics of the channel we use (a speech, on the phone, social networks, an informal email...) — For example, half-information should be avoided, since an unfounded order may seem capricious. Nor should we assume that someone has understood what we want, especially if we express ourselves inconsistently or using an improper register. And remember that communication from the top is not a unidirectional system, it is just as important to know how to transmit as it is to know how to listen .
A harmonious group is relatively easy to lead, but it is also rare. It is very likely that sooner or later discord will appear , and it will be your turn to iron out rough edges. At the same time, try to understand the "rebels", as they tend to focus on something important that you may have overlooked. Also keep in mind that there are those who like to criticize their colleagues, slowing down efficiency and causing a bad atmosphere.
To resolve any type of conflict, it never hurts to resort to impartiality . For example, Eisenhower emphasized what he called the Middle Way (literally, "halfway"), which was nothing more than an absolute emphasis on cooperation, good sense, commitment and unity of the government, without seeking the acclaim of the masses and avoiding the populism of the ego. His cabinet was made up of experts from across the political spectrum, and he is considered one of the least partisan presidents in US history. Therefore, knowing how to deal with problems between members of the organization is a delicate but extremely difficult skill. necessary.
One of the most important functions of being on top is to carry out an effective management of projects, teams, processes, tasks, and in the end, to appreciate how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together . It is important that the team knows the company's goals, values and vision of the future, since, through well-tuned coordination, we can be more efficient and obtain innovative solutions .
Main qualities of a leader
Although the business and personal development literature is obsessed with giving advice to the leader, it is also very important to be a good follower. There are many more employees than managers, more soldiers than generals. Someone who has been a follower for years and suddenly has the opportunity to lead will know how to do it better than someone who believes they were born a leader. Every example of a bad leader that we have had throughout our journey has taught us something. We will not be able to apply what we have learned if we do not remember, weigh the pros and cons of each former boss or supervisor and apply the teachings. For this, we must put ourselves in the place of the one that follows .
A good leader must also understand very well the incentives with which to move employees, such as the promise of more flexible hours, better work-life balance or a salary increase. They are not pieces in our particular chess, they are individuals with personal needs and concerns. Always consider other points of view in order to promote a collaborative environment, and when it comes to opinions, respect those that you do not share. In general, remember that if you want to give good orders, you first have to know how to obey them .
Researcher Brad Owens views humility in leadership as a tripartite virtue: (1) knowing how to see oneself , (2) being willing to learn , and (3) recognizing the strengths and contributions of others . We will always be in continuous dialogue with humility, since it is the anchor that returns us to the ground so that the feeling of superiority does not go to our heads. Although some of the archetypal qualities of a leader are assertiveness, ambition or charisma, humility will always help us avoid self-centeredness .
A good leader serves those below him. He must think at all times about the well-being of his team, because the objectives to be met depend on this well-being. He will put the needs of others above his own, showing loyalty to the team above all else.
If a subordinate makes a mistake, it is most likely due to misdirection or vague direction, and thus the chain of errors begins with the leader, who must approach the problem with integrity. You can't pass the buck, you have to admit guilt with genuine sincerity, and not through some kind of moral gymnastics. Instead, when things go well, show gratitude and share the wins and rewards. Humility, despite its importance, is not subject to competition, since it is of little use to show humility if we are incompetent in our work.
It is a double-edged sword: We must sow trust in our followers , and in turn we must have the confidence that we can delegatein them important tasks. Not knowing how to delegate wreaks havoc on motivation, creates stress, and is extremely inefficient. It is advisable to consider choosing the right talent, drafting style and quality control guidelines, offering the employee some creative freedom and/or adequately rewarding a job well done, in order to supervise what is fair and necessary. Since our team brings together the best of each house, we can trust that they can do things alone, and we will have established a series of founding virtues (such as order, discipline, excellence...) that make us all in tune. It is important to know each follower, since knowing each one a little makes them feel more than names on a payroll. Get out of the office from time to time, talk to the team, boost their morale,Integrate to lead from the forefront .
Keep in mind what renowned leadership author John C. Maxwell says: “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
We can have a very good strategy in mind, be extremely competent, make decisions with great ease... but if we lack the flexibility and adaptability necessary to weather the storm, everything can end in disaster. It is recommended to be extremely proactive and not be there to see them coming . A situational leadership style in which changes can be made on the fly will help adapt to all situations, whether it is more free (laissez-faire) or more restrictive (authoritarian) for subordinates. We recommend you take a look at our article on types of leadership .
The existence of an Authority is not a guarantee that it will be respected, since it is the followers who must first recognize it . To do this, the leader is firm before himself and then before others, through discipline, self-control, self-sufficiency...
We can show closeness, but we must not forget seriousness . We will avoid personal jokes, irony and sarcasm, and of course, there will be no room for bad manners, since no one should suffer verbal abuse for a blunder. It is better to make the person who makes a mistake understand the consequences that blunders can have.
We will recognize a job well done, without making the ball , thanking the work of the day to day. When someone does a good job, we'll point out specifically what makes them noteworthy. Also, being frugal in the criticism will make them gain importance. In general, maintaining an aura of assertiveness is the most viable in the long run, as many situations can be misunderstood as a vulnerability , causing orders to be questioned.
As we mentioned earlier, if we gain an informed perspective on how historical events unfolded, we can avoid being emotional, deal with the ups and downs more neutrally, and better celebrate the triumphs. To do this, a good quality and tool is Resilience, with which we will manage anger, criticism, resentment... It is very important for a leader to be resilient , because if he overflows at the first setback, he will not maintain mental clarity or morale of the group in the face of crises.
In times of war, the aura of superiors and the mood of speeches reflect expectations of victory, while pessimism and discouragement pass into the private sphere. Would you vote for an opposition candidate who did not believe that things could be done better? Nobody goes to battle with pleasure if the generals do not show optimism. Motivation translates into performance, and performance translates into good results in the long run.
In this article we have divided into the skills and qualities of the leader, understanding skill by the way in which someone performs a task with a certain competence, and quality by the distinctive character of the person, whether at work or outside of it. The difference may seem subtle, but it helps us discern how to do from how to be . Now, let's be aware that this is not an official list of virtues, but a way to create a robot portrait of the ideal leader.
For more information, we strongly recommend our Team Leadership Course , and by way of closing, to quote Eisenhower again, let's stay with the fact that "Leadership is nothing more than taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong, and giving credit to the subordinate in everything that goes well.”
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