Leaders make things happen that otherwise wouldn’t occur. Therefore, leaders are the ultimate change agents. As a leadership coach and trainer, one of my favorite questions is: “What are your best leadership traits, and how can you improve on what is working?”
Being an executive of a small to medium sized business takes energy, guts, and leadership. Does it seem like you are constantly being challenged beyond your ability? Good, that how it should feel when you are being effective. Think of it as leading from your learning edges. In my book Sticky Leadership, I call this Learning to Love Uphill.
We seem to take for granted the things we do well, and whatever is pushing us to the edge takes front seat in the moment. Leaders are learners because there is always the next horizon of the vision, the next accomplishment, and the next challenge coming at us.
What competencies do leaders need to be effective today? Why not take a moment and craft your own list?
Here is what I’ve noticed in recent months. See how these six items compares to your list.
The overwhelming sense of pressure to produce results right now. Existing problems are real, and knowing where to begin and what to expect from your effort takes wisdom. It is smart to work on your ability to tap into others thinking to make the best decisions. Engaged employees are less fearful of challenges and more likely to step up when needed.
The need to be respected and be liked. If you must choose one over the other, choose respect. However, the most successful leaders find a way to be both. Being competent is what gains respect, being nice to others is what gets people to like you.
Balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of the people. This is often tricky. You can’t succeed over time if you can’t find a way to do both. Repeatedly sacrificing the needs of the people in favor of the organization will burn people out and cause turnover. Ensuring people have the resources they need to do the job and then attend to them as individuals is the winning combination.
Skillful hiring and onboarding. Acquiring and retaining talent is sure to be a big challenge leaders will face in 2017. It’s becoming more important to both consider skills, resume, and experience of candidates and find employees whose vision and values align with the organization. If your company isn’t clear in this last area, you won’t be able to hire well, and it will cost you.
The economy, the political climate, and a general level of uncertainty. The recent election and all that has been created by our current situation is unsettling for many leaders. Seasoned leaders are focusing on three important areas: Maintaining a strong team, protecting cash and using debt smartly, and staying close to the customer to ensure they are being well taken care of. Your ability to react to whatever the future throws at you will determine your measure of success. It will also impact how you sleep at night.
Staying focused and motivated. The best leaders are internally driven and self-motivated. It is important to know your role and purpose and what brings you ultimate satisfaction. It is different for each of us. You have many demands on your time and only you can determine what is most important. In my experience this is a constant discipline and learning to say no to the good things so you can focus on the best is not easy, but necessary. Don’t go it alone. Having a coach, partner, or peer to help you maintain perspective can be valuable.
What did I miss? I would welcome your insights, comments, and your observations about the most important leadership competencies today.