People often assume they’re well suited for leadership — only to realize that they are in way over their head as soon as they are given added responsibility over others. Like any position, the leadership role takes time, effort and, most importantly, a set of well-developed skills that can take time to develop.
As a result, leadership development is critical for improving how well leaders are able to lead the people they are accountable to. Certain skills are more important than others as leaders advance, with greater emphasis on communication and interpersonal skills than pure technical knowledge of the department or team they are leading. Here are a few to focus on:
Ownership and Accountability
Good leaders take accountability not only for their own actions but for the actions and performance of their team. Handling positive results is something almost anyone can do well, but leaders’ true skill is demonstrated when they are faced with failure.
Few things can be more demotivating in a corporate environment than the fear of a lack of leadership support and trust. When leaders demonstrate their accountability for the performance of their team, it teaches everyone to value and feel responsible for his or her contribution to the team, too.
Trust is another aspect of the leader’s job that can be surprisingly challenging to get right. Leaders might have the best intentions and many of the skills necessary to realize the company’s goals, but if they can’t communicate the goals and expectations of the team with transparency and confidence, those intentions and other skills won’t matter.
People look to their leaders for direction, guidance and a clear path to deliver the organizational vision. It’s the motivation for following a leader in the first place: Leaders guide us through challenging or turbulent times when we have no idea how to proceed.
Developing the communication skills to handle complex situations — in a way that everyone understands and can rally behind — can take time, experience and education. But we all should be working to develop these skills, regardless of our role or level in the organizational hierarchy.
Dependability and Consistency
Consistent actions, behavior and performance are also required for leaders to be successful — not just so executives can rely on them but, even more, so their employees can. Team members don’t want to be in situations where they feel like they’re flipping a coin with regards to how their leader is going to respond to certain new developments, especially negative ones.
Leaders must be consistent in their actions and have a strong set of values that they never compromise. Steering away from the established path even a bit can undermine people’s trust in their leader, which can be difficult to recover from.
Playing the Political Game
Working in large enterprises requires a balancing act for all constituents and stakeholders, including clients and customers, executives, employees, and shareholders. Maintaining that balance means negotiation, trade-offs, and significant communication and collaboration to appease all parties.
Preserving the integrity and values of the company and achieving what’s best for everyone they serve means that leaders need to know how to meet the needs of the people they work with — and how to do so while juggling competing needs and priorities. They can’t push too far in either direction, because they risk losing allies or the employee engagement and support that are critical for business success.
Adapting to New Trends
Across industries and markets, change is constant, especially when it comes to technology and digital transformation. Leaders must be agile and focused on skill development, ensuring that business strategy is connected to talent development, mobility and acquisition strategies so that the workforce has the skills required to meet the changing needs of the business. Leaders must be connected to the market — to customer demands and rising trends — and ensure that both they and their team have the skills they need for the future.
Growing as a leader means constantly evaluating current skills and abilities and knowing when it’s time to develop them further. By providing development opportunities to leaders within your organization, you can help them manage their career and performance and continually develop their skills.
Editor’s note: Don’t miss our infographic on modern leadership development, which shares insights from learning leaders like this one.