Learning Key Competencies Of Leadership

Have you done a job search lately? I am forever surprised at the number of soft skills required to even be considered for an interview these days. Many job ads are asking for people with leadership skills. Although I am certain you understand the basics of what that means, the definition is actually widely misunderstood. 

Firstly, let me clear this up quickly by saying that leadership has absolutely nothing to do with seniority. If you are in a position of seniority it is my hope that you have leadership skills but that is not always the case. There are no guarantees. 

Secondly, leadership can be a learned skill. I sometimes hear people say it is a natural born quality. That may be true for some people but it is 100% learnable. 

Learning Leadership Skills

Okay, the best definition I can find for leadership is from the Forbes website. It is actually a pretty old article but the definition still rings true. 

Leadership is the process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, toward the achievement of a goal.

What I like about this definition is that there are a couple of components that need to be laced together in the right way to truly signify leadership. Social influence is a much better method than simply having authority or power over others. Notice there is no mention of specific titles, traits, or attributes. The last and most important is that every person involved is working together towards a common goal. If there is an influence with no potential outcome – there is no real leadership. 

So Why Is This Important?

Leadership skills prove to an employer that you are capable of not only personally succeeding but leading others to do so as well. A very sought after trait in business. Leaders initiate action by effectively motivating their teams. They should create confidence in their subordinates and maintain a happy and encouraging working environment. Most importantly they delegate efficiently. I have personally worked with people who cannot delegate if their life depended on it. They wish to do everything themselves so that things are “just right” or they give too much responsibility to others and they, in turn, do almost nothing. There is a proper way to delegate so that the work is evenly distributed. 

Leadership skills

Types Of Leadership 

There are 8 styles of leadership 

Democratic – Leader makes decisions based on lower-level employee input who are encouraged to share ideas and opinions, however, the leader retains the final say over decisions. Good democratic leaders possess fairness, intelligence, creativity, and honesty. The most famous examples are George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Autocratic – Leader makes decisions on their own without any input. They are believed to be the most knowledgeable person in the building. You see this in military dictatorships, or on sports teams where the coach makes all the calls. Most famous autocratic leaders are Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

Laissez-Faire – Literal translation “let them be” the leader allows employees to do as they will with full authority. This is a strategy where the leader takes a step back and allows the employees to perform on their own with little or no direction. The most famous laissez-faire leader is Warren Buffet.

Strategic – Leader sits in between executive interest and lower-level interest. They are able to foresee problems in the future and create strategies minimizing the effects. The most famous strategic leader is Hillary Clinton.

Transformational – This leader leads by example. They increasingly challenge employees, pushing them out of their comfort zones one goal at a time. They often use rapport and empathy to relate to their subordinates. The most famous transformational leader is Richard Branson.

Transactional – Leader that always rewards employees for exactly the work that is done. They value order and structure and are looked at as the opposite of transformational leadership. The most famous example of transactional leadership is Bill Gates.

Coach-Style – Leader that nurtures the strengths of employees. Similar to democratic only this leader focuses mostly on the growth of individual employees. You see this kind of leadership on sports teams with captains and coaches. The most famous example of coach-style leadership is Mark Zuckerburg.

Bureaucratic – This leader is completely by the book. They may attempt to have a democratic style but if the input is not what “the book” says then they are quick to refuse. These leaders tend to focus on administrative causes. The most famous bureaucratic leader is Winston Churchill.

Each style has its own unique purpose. Every leader is just as unique. Some may possess multiple styles and manage their underlings slightly differently. A military official may need a more rigid leadership style versus a middle manager in a large printing office. To you, some may seem more correct or right but it truly depends on the nature of the job.

World Leaders 

Warren Buffett – Chairman of the Board and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett also leads 300,000 employees with a values-based, hands-off style that gives managers wide leeway and incentivizes them like owners. 

Bono – He helped persuade global leaders to write off debt owed by the poorest countries and encouraged the Bush administration and others to vastly increase AIDS relief. 

Dalai Lama – For over 50 years he has campaigned tirelessly for peace, nonviolence, democracy, and reconciliation, especially among world religions; he has met countless times with popes, rabbis, imams, and others to find common ground. 

Ken Chenault – CEO of American Express,  at least twice during the crisis he declined offers to lead even larger institutions and previously led the company through the 9/11 attacks, which decimated travel, the basis of its business.

Susan Wojcicki – CEO of Youtube and widely admired for her management style, was instrumental in guiding the evolution of the company’s hugely successful advertising and commerce platforms. 

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