We believe that each leader is unique and expresses his or her leadership differently. However, there are core competencies – skills and behaviors that contribute to superior performance – that all leaders need to master.
As John Kotter says, “Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.” To do that, here is our list of top leadership competencies. What would you add?
- Setting Vision. Defining what the future looks like is the role of a leader. We believe that it is essential to describe the future in 3D, which means going beyond numbers to meaning, purpose and a descriptive definition of success. In setting a vision, a leader must manage the polarity between the now and the next by giving focus and direction while being open-minded and flexible in thought and tactics.
- Effective Communication. Too many leaders favor efficient communication over effective communication. They deliver a message but it doesn’t have the intended impact. As Judith Glaser said, “To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of the relationships, which depends on the quality of the conversations. Everything happens through conversations.” Some of the effective communication skills leaders need to develop include coaching, listening, and building common understanding through sharing the right information, in the right way, with the right people at the right time.
- Delivering Results. Setting a vision is insufficient. A leader must also translate the vision into achievable action so that it gets accomplished through other people. Knowing all the answers, always being right and demanding action are ways that some leaders get results. That may work in the short term but over time their teams become disengaged. The skills of involving and inspiring your team to perform their best, holding people accountable, making decisions, solving problems, assessing risk, conflict management, and leading change all contribute to delivering results.
- Leading Yourself. We’ve witnessed too many leaders crash and burn as they achieved stellar business results while living personally disastrous lives. Living in integrity (words and actions are aligned), self-awareness (understanding your impact), continual learning, resilience, and courage are key elements of leading yourself well.
In an HBR article Peter Drucker identified eight practices that all effective executives exemplified:
- They asked, “What needs to be done?”
- They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
- They developed action plans.
- They took responsibility for decisions.
- They took responsibility for communicating.
- They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
- They ran productive meetings.
- They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”
The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action. The last two ensured that the whole organization felt responsible and accountable.
Your DNA (dynamic, natural ability) is unique to you and how you lead as you provide purpose, direction, and motivation to your team. Core competencies are skills that can be learned and practiced to increase the effectiveness of your leadership.