The Seven Skills that Make Great Leaders

Beverly FlaxingtonBeverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Readers,

I am often asked about how best to turn managers into leaders. It is hard because most are not trained to be leaders. Many great educational programs focus on technical skills, but disregard the soft skills needed to make best use of those technical skills. Thankfully, this is changing in many programs, but for in this week’s column, I offer some thoughts you can use to assess your own leadership skills and approach, and inform your current and future leaders.

What do the best leaders do to gain the trust and respect of their followers? They master these seven key skills:

  1. A balance off humility and ego. It’s important for leaders to be confident and show that they know what they are doing and excite their team with their confidence. However, the best leaders balance ego with a healthy dose of humility: They self-reflect, they take corrective feedback even from those who are levels below them and they seek ways to grow and change.

  1. Mentoring beyond just “do as I do.” Successful people get where they are because they do many things right and have a set of talents and style. Unfortunately, when leading, it’s not realistic to expect everyone else around you to do it the same way you did it. Strong leaders recognize style differences – just because you are an assertive and results-oriented person doesn’t mean the person working for you with a calmer, more thoughtful style can’t be just as effective in their own way. Being able to mentor, and to shift style while doing it, is the mark of a talented leader. It takes effort and focus and it’s a lot more work, but the payoff is much greater.
  1. Listening as strongly as giving guidance. The adage “seek to understand before you seek to be understood,” which Stephen Covey eloquently articulated, fits here. Leaders should teach, guide and train their constituents, but the best leaders listen and learn first, then guide second. Listening takes patience and strength, so a leader can’t be running so quickly that they miss out on the important nuggets they can glean by listening.