The ability to lead effectively is based on a number of key skills. These skills are highly sought after by employers as they involve dealing with people in such a way as to motivate, enthuse and build respect. Leadership roles are all around us, not just in a work environment. They can be applied to any situation where you are required to take the lead, professionally, socially and at home in family settings. Ideally, leaders become leaders because they have credibility and because people want to follow them.
Two questions which are often asked are:
- Who exactly is a leader? and
- How is being a leader different from being a manager?
Many people also wonder if leadership can really be taught. People with vested interests (academics and those offering leadership training or literature of some sort) are convinced that it can. Many successful leaders, however, have never had any formal training. For them, leadership is a state of mind, and it is their personalities and traits that make them successful leaders.
One of the most important aspects of leadership is that not every leader is the same. Of course, we have all heard jokes about ‘mushroom’ leadership (keep them in the dark and feed them on manure) and ‘seagulls’ (swoop in, squawk, and drop unpleasant things on people), but joking aside, there are many different styles of leadership.
Different leadership styles are appropriate for different people and different circumstances, and the best leaders learn to use them all.
You can, of course, learn about effective leadership skills and practices but being able to implement them yourself may require an altogether different set of skills and attitudes. The question “Can leadership be taught?” has no simple answer and we do not want to argue for one side or the other, but rather keep an open mind on the subject and provide information about the skills good leaders need.
Skills Good Leaders Need
Perhaps the most important skill a leader needs is to be able to think strategically.
Leadership is all about having a vision of where you want to be and working to achieve that vision.
Alongside strategic thinking go organizing and action planning, both essential for delivery of your vision and strategy, and risk management to help you avoid things going wrong, and manage when they do.
Leaders also need to be able to make good decisions in support of their strategy delivery.
Along the way to achieving their vision, a leader will come upon many problems.
Effective problem solving is, therefore, another key leadership skill. With a positive attitude, problems can become opportunities and learning experiences, and a leader can gain much information from a problem addressed.
Leaders also need to be very organized on a personal level, and able to manage themselves and their time, so that they can spend time doing what they need to do, and not on other tasks.
As well as organizing their time and their teams, leaders need to spend a bit of time on themselves, and particularly on their self-motivation. A leader who lacks self-motivation will struggle to motivate others, as people are quick to detect a lack of sincerity.
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