Have you ever felt that you are not the leader-type of a person but deep inside you want to be one? I’m one of those people and maybe you are too. The good news for us is that we can develop the skills that we need in order for us to step out into our comfort zone and take on the leadership roles we so desire because we want to share our vision to people who will help make our vision happen.
I have worked closely with great leaders for the last 5 years in the IT industry both in small and large organizations. I observed their habits, their skills, their attitude towards people and their work. In this article, I’m going to list down the 5 important skills that great leaders keep on constantly improving.
Strategic Planning Skills
Successful leaders are strategic planners. Most of us think that planning is a waste of time. We want to do the execution phase immediately because we think the execution phase is where we really kick start our way in achieving our goal. But there is this saying:
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
And, John C. Maxwell also said in this book Seven Principles of Planning:
“Planning bridges the gap between our desires and dreams by calling us to action.” – John C. Maxwell
If we want to be great leaders, we should be strategic planners. A person who is strategic in planning constantly checks the situation and identifies every possible outcome of certain decisions. Once he/she identifies every possible outcome he/she makes plans to mitigate undesirable outcomes.
It is important to visualize our vision, but we should also visualize the path that we should take to achieve our vision. This path is called planning.
A great leader knows how to execute the plan. Planning is one thing; execution is a whole other thing. For the plan to take effect, we need action. We need to execute it and improvise along the way because not everything that we planned will go smoothly.
In the world of professional boxing, boxers plan how to defeat their opponent. They analyze their opponent by watching their opponent’s previous fights checking their techniques and habits when fighting. After they analyze, they now form a plan of attack. Of course, their opponent does the same thing. That is why, in an actual match, not everything that they thought out to happen in the ring will occur. That is why they improvise; they adapt to the situation and as much as possible control the situation for them to win.
The same goes for great leaders. They strategically plan to achieve their visions, their goals. But not everything will go out according to plan. But the real challenge is how to mitigate the situation for us to move forward with the plan.
In dealing with unforeseen events, it is important to ask for help. Leaders are just like other people who don’t always have the answer to every situation. Leaders ask their colleagues and other people as well on to answer how to best approach the current situation in order to achieve the best possible solution.
“The best ideas have to win.” – Steve Jobs
In Apple, they developed a culture where the best ideas must win. We think that every Apple product was beautifully done solely by Steve Jobs. Well, we are very wrong. In Apple, they developed a culture where the best solutions and the best ideas must win. They do not really look at the position of the person, they look at what the person brings to the table.
It is important when dealing with unforeseen events that we also have a group of people that we can approach and ask for advice.
Successful leaders are motivators. When leaders inspire their people, they talk about their vision. They talk about what will they achieve when they work together. Leaders know that vision attracts people who share the same vision as them. That is why leaders must constantly remind their people of the vision that they are pursuing to keep them highly motivated and productive. I like what Simon Sinek said:
“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” – Simon Sinek
It is important to have people with the same vision as ours because what motivates you motivates them as well.
Great leaders are good listeners. It is important for us aspiring leaders to learn how to listen. We should listen because we want to know the point of view of another person. Most of the time we fail to remember the essence of listening because we want to show off what we know when we respond to the conversation and show our point of view. The goal of listening is understanding and seeing the point of view of others. I like this statement from Simon Sinek:
“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. Just because someone can hear, doesn’t mean they are listening or that they know how to listen. My grandfather would sit on the couch and watch a football game on TV, catch every word from the commentator’s mouth, but wouldn’t “hear” my grandmother when she called from the other room. Oh, he could hear her alright… he just wasn’t listening.”
– Simon Sinek
Listening should come with sincerity. Listening without sincerity is not really listening. We cannot fake sincerity. If we are sincere, we will give our attention and we will truly listen to the one speaking. Otherwise, if we are not sincere, no matter what we do we will always have trouble listening.
A great leader knows how to deal with people. There are books we can read and people we can follow that can help us strengthen our people skills. I love reading books from Dale Carnegie. In one of his books he said:
“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures of bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity. “ –Dale Carnegie
We should always be careful how we express what we want to say because how we communicate with people will also help us convey what we want to say. If we care less about how we communicate, people might get the impression that we are bossy, arrogant, rude, boastful, etc. The outcome will be that people won’t listen to us anymore and won’t take us seriously.
Strategic planning, execution, motivational, listening, and people skills are basically the things we need to embed in ourselves to be great leaders. All these skills are not just for the leader’s growth but for the well-being of the leader’s followers and how to keep them and build a lasting relationship with them.
There are many tasks a great leader must perform. The most important task is leading people which is not an easy task. We need to do is to learn how to lead people. Also, it is important that we love to be surrounded by people because we will be dealing with them daily. We can’t be great leaders if we are not comfortable with people.
Aspiring to be a great leader is not an impossible feat. We must be intentional in everything that we do, and we must work hard to develop these skills so that the leader within all of us will shine through.