Part 1 – Are Leaders Born or Made?
Part 2 – What Characterizes Good Leadership Skills?
by Kenneth Rudich
Leadership is as much a process as it is a product.
The process involves the act of mobilizing the resources needed, especially people, to reach a designated purpose or goal. The product entails setting the right goal or agenda to be achieved, and then achieving it.
4 Possible Leadership Outcomes
An individual that emerges as a leader — which is to say, has been granted the authority and power, be it formally or informally — faces four possible outcomes as a leader. They are:
1. Right Product, Faulty Process. This typically reflects an operations challenge. You may well have set the right agenda, but you’re having trouble, in some fashion or form, with getting it done through the people you lead.
2. Faulty Product, Right Process. This usually indicates a problem with the strategic vision or the agenda that’s been laid out. It’s possible you’ve gotten people to follow your lead, but they’ve been pointed in the wrong direction.
3. Faulty Product, Faulty Process. This situation could very well mean you’re not wired to be a leader, or that your ability to lead doesn’t fit with the context you’re in (it’s a mismatch). Even though you may technically be in a leadership position, by virtue of a title or some other circumstance, there’s little evidence to suggest you’re able to meet the challenge. Such people often try to fake it until they eventually fail or are found out.
4. Right Product, Right Process. Because it’s rare for everything to fall into place all by itself, this suggests you’re good at identifying the when, where and how for making timely adjustments or changes as needed, whether it’s in the process aspect of leadership or the product aspect. It’s also likely you exhibit a healthy measure of continuous improvement. Most experts in the field of leadership studies consider this type of individual as having gone from being an emerging leader to having become an effective leader. The track record of producing a consistently good outcome solidifies their status as such.
With the possible exception of the third outcome, there’s always a chance to grow, improve — or if need be, recover — leadership capability, provided you have the courage, open-mindedness, tenacity and inquisitiveness that’s needed to make it happen. As noted in part 2, it begins with self-awareness.
Based on the literature we’ve sampled, here are five simple — not easy, mind you, but simple — ways to substantially improve self-awareness as a leader:
1) Become an objective evaluator. Assess your experience as accurately and impartially as possible. This can be difficult because most people are emotionally attached to themselves and their own success. Try to imagine you are another person observing yourself. Reflect on your actions, your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and mistakes, as a neutral third party. What would he or she say about how you show up?
2) Invite feedback. People who want to be fully self-aware know that none of us can truly see ourselves without the aid of others. Try tapping people who know you well, see you clearly, want the best for you, and, most importantly, are willing to be perfectly honest with you.
Seek out mentors and role models.
Critically observe other leaders — what might you want to emulate, what should you avoid.
Also take advantage of the leadership assessment tools that are available.
3) Learn to actively listen. Active listening means engaged and open-minded while listening. It’s foundational to success as a manager, a leader, a parent, spouse, colleague, to life in general.
If you can listen in such a focused manner, without interrupting, getting distracted or filtering what you hear through pre-conceived ideas, you’ll discover that everyone around you is continually providing clues – both subtle and overt – about how you’re showing up, what they think of you, and how you’re impacting them.
Active listening is a learned skill and it takes a lot of practice to become proficient.
4) Embrace lifelong learning. Uncertainty and change are constants in every aspect of life. Develop an insatiable appetite for acquiring new insights and knowledge, whether through formal or informal means. It will help keep you nimble-minded amid the uncertainty and change.
5) Commit to regular exercise and a healthy diet. A strong body and sense of well-being assists with everything else mentioned up to now. But just as important, it’s about acquiring and maintaining habits that help you stay disciplined.
In part 4, we’re going to explore what the experts say about the role and direction of leadership in the foreseeable future.
Come back for part 4.
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