Leadership thoughts – 2 of 3

As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently invited to be interviewed by an ex-colleague on leadership.  As part of their own development they were compiling a view from a person they respected as a leader.

In the spirit of reconnecting  with people and ideas I thought I’d share my answers to her interview questions in a number of posts, this is part 2 of 3.

Q3: What skills/competencies do you think are important for aspiring leaders to develop or acquire to hone their leadership capability?

In no particular order;

  • A whole bunch of management skills remain in play, so if you are not good at these they probably need developing – delegation, decision making, positivity, problem solving, risk management, organisation, project management, time management, self-motivation, resilience, people skills, motivating others, team work and so on.
  • Get to know the basics of the job – if your day job is to run a finance department make sure you understand how to monitor delivery, be able to talk about it and cultivate the department.  Women in particular tend to focus their leadership development on soft skills; a great mentor once told me that he had observed that he works to adjust his style because he noticed his bias to mentor on soft skills for women and the nuts and bolts of delivery with guys.
  • Build self-awareness, set up a process for self-reflection and making minor adjustments to course correct, utilising strengths and learning from weaknesses. Get a coach to help you if you can’t do this on your own.
  • The ability to speak directly and clearly and with empathy. That means understand where your people are in their lives and adjust your style accordingly – think like a radio – tune in to them.  Show people their development needs, discuss them provide examples, help them see them and work on them – it’s your job to build new self-aware leaders.
  • Become a good listener – it’s vital for tuning into your employees needs and for building great relationships.
  • Learn to collaborate holistically – what I mean is actively seek opportunities to connect people together to work on projects even if you are not involved in them. In this way you are role modelling an environment where people work creatively across their complex working environment without you.  Plus it’s fun to meet new like minded folk!
  • The future is coming – get tech savvy and understand your employee’s needs. I love this part of being a leader and am exploring the generational divide between a baby-boomer on the board and a Gen Y graduate – their expectations and basic needs are miles apart.  For example  I do a load of work with young women in their 20’s.  WiFi is a more basic “need” for them than a new lock on their front door – I kid you not!
  • Start talking about the future – do your homework and have a view on what’s happening next in your business. Use this knowledge to drive your strategy, gather buy in (and funding) from your stakeholders and to create the next mission for your team.
  • Finally, learn to love failure – the hardest one of all, especially in industries that have an embedded culture of perfectionism.  Remind yourself of the acronym that FAIL stands for my First Attempt In Learning, that’s because good leaders help people grow themselves.

What do you think?  Have I missed any really important skills?

In next weeks post I will talk leadership effectiveness.

I gained permission from my ex-colleague in advance of publishing this post.

Sue Schilling is a professional coach and a specialist consultant, she is an experienced financial services operations, operational risk & culture change leader with professional coaching cert.  Sue provides business consultancy, learning and development and coaching services to a wide range of organisations.  Sue is learning new things every day and that makes her super cool too!

Leadership thoughts – 1 of 3

I was recently invited to be interviewed by an ex-colleague on leadership.  As part of their own development they were compiling a view from a person they respected as a leader.

Since we work in different time zones we held an online conversation on a Sunday morning to chew the cud on leadership, careers, families, holidays – you get the idea.  To be invited was super flattering and as a result of her training course I have now reconnected with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a decade.

In the spirit of reconnecting I thought I’d share my answers to her interview questions in a number of posts, so here goes!

Q1: What does leadership mean to you? How do you define leadership?

  • Influencing the hearts and minds of your employees (or followers) to believe in a common goal or mission – then provide the environment within which THEY can deliver to meet the mission. Maintaining an eye on the long term, allowing for short term challenges.

Q2: In your opinion, what is the most important attribute of a leader and why?

  • Authenticity – undoubtedly!
  • Being yourself, showing your true persona, sharing your real thoughts is important, but being self-aware of your strengths and limitations (emotionally and professionally) builds the foundation to authentic leadership. It’s difficult to sustain inauthentic behaviour and maintain healthy relationships with others or to look after yourself, and leadership is largely about relationships. So I think “fake it until you make it” has to be short-term.
  • Authentic people tend to communicate well, they tend to open (not hidden) agendas and this is important. Communicating directly, with empathy, recognising the needs of the employees is how you win over their hearts, for the long term.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear how you define leadership and what its most important attribute is.

In next weeks post I will talk about skills that I think are important for aspiring leaders.

I gained permission from my ex-colleague in advance of publishing this post.

Sue Schilling is a professional coach and a specialist consultant, she is an experienced financial services operations, operational risk & culture change leader with professional coaching cert.  Sue provides business consultancy, learning and development and coaching services to a wide range of organisations.