Managers generally get their jobs because they know what they’re doing and work very hard to do it well. For example, John is an extremely hard worker, he has great skill in his job, and goes out of his way to improve that skill; so we should make him the manager of the department.
I’ve been in John’s shoes. Working hard to impress and improve so that I could achieve that brass ring, become the manager. But often, after getting the promotion, problems begin to pop up. Mainly, how do I get other people to work as hard as I do. This is the dilemma that countless organizations across the world face every day. It takes more than just work ethic and technical skill to become a great leader.
So what do great leaders look like? Let’s forget charisma for a moment and focus on the core competencies that all great leaders must develop and build. These competencies are:
- Communication. Its been said that managers spend most of their day communicating with people, this is true. Great leaders are great communicators and they are especially great listeners. Listening skills allow leaders to not only process information more effectively, it also allows them to communicate information to their employees well. A leaders who is not communicating will find that their time soon becomes dominated by interpersonal problems and conflict resolution.
- Relationships. If you look at some of the leading research on employee engagement you’ll quickly realize that employees are crying out for a relationship with their supervisor. Great leaders open up to people, show vulnerability and this in turn develops trusting relationships that lead to teamwork. Teamwork and team success are often what we point to when we judge just how successful a leader is.
- Leadership. This is a competency in its own right. How effectively does a leader provide direction and vision for the group that they are leading? Great leaders act in ways that instill trust in all of their people by trusting their people. They are effective delegators and use this skill to get buy in as their people collaborate with them on ideas that will advance the companies goals.
- Adaptability. Especially in today’s business world, leaders have to adjust to new and ever changing circumstances. Are they able to let go of practices that have become obsolete and embrace new ideas or people and creatively plan the talents and strengths of an increasingly diverse workforce? Remember that most organizations now have at least four different generations working in it and all have something unique to offer.
- Development of Others. Great leaders successfully motivate their people by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their people. This information allows them to develop each individual to be the best that they can be. Great leaders know that each employee is different and will be capable of great things in their own way. The trick is not trying to fit them all into the same round hole when many of them are triangles or squares.
- Development of Themselves. How committed are leaders to their own personal development? Great leaders are always seeking out ways to improve their skills and want feedback on how they are doing. They are eager to participate in 360 evaluations or to simply hear some constructive criticism from peers or their boss. A great leader knows that their own strengths and weaknesses and are not shy about getting help when they need it.
- Task Management. Leaders must work effectively and competently. As much earn the respect of their employees as to accomplish the large amount of work that is piled on them. I’ve heard from many new leaders over the years about how intimidating the increase in responsibility and workload was to them at first. Being able to prioritize and use your time wisely is one of the critical skills for leaders at any level.
- Producing Results. At the end of the day, great leaders are leaders who produce great results. They need to be able to keep score and help their people understand why and how they are contributing by producing the results that are expected of them. No matter how friendly and supportive a person is, if they aren’t achieving the objectives they’re given, they won’t succeed as a leader. Great leaders are able to take action and be accountable for the actions of their team.
The important thing to remember about this list of compentencies is that they are made up of skills that can be developed in people. Yes some of us are more naturally charismatic than others, but we can all learn the skills of leadership and develop them to best of our natural talent.
Even more important, each of these compentencies and skills can be measured. If you aren’t measuring your comptency with valid and reliable assessment tools, start now. Don’t leave your leadership to trial and error, or following a model that may be dis-engaging your employees because it just doesn’t work anymore.