10 Skills Needed for Excellent Leadership

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Martin Crapper.



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Effective leadership has a major impact on a business, including employee retention, engagement, and morale – and great leaders should always want to improve their skills and remain open to change, which increases the chances of success. In today’s rapidly evolving world, there are several core skills needed to lead a successful team. Here are a few of them:

1. Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility. Good leaders understand the impact and consequences of their actions and behave accordingly. They know the value of constructive criticism and praise, knowing when to use either effectively. They also understand how important it is to be fair and seen as an honest broker. 

A leader needs to be able to identify and manage conflicts efficiently and fairly. Conflicts in the workplace can cause disruption and delays in the implementation of strategy and achievement of business goals. This means leaders and directors need to have excellent communication skills and self-awareness to ensure these do not escalate.

2. Communication skills

Elaborating on the topic, leaders, managers, and executives must communicate clearly and appropriately with all stakeholders and employees at every level, creating strong working relationships. They should keep decision-making transparent and maintain detailed records, eliminating secrecy and reducing the risk of mistakes. 

Good organisational communication is a vastly different skill from talking directly to a small team. A great leader knows how to present information to constituencies, employees, and stakeholders in a way that can be understood and acted upon. They regularly talk to their customers, suppliers, other partners, and network of peers to understand their challenges and the dynamic changes within the market. 

They can deliver a message that is congruent with the organisation's mission, vision, and culture. In the words of Todd Lutwak (SVP of Business Development and Platform at Service Channel. Formerly Vice President of Seller Experience at eBay for 12 years and partner at venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz. Todd also teaches “Platforms” at Stanford University):

Awareness ≠ Understanding
Understanding ≠ Acceptance
Acceptance ≠ Implementation

3. Intelligent questioning

A strong leader must anticipate change and act to position their organisation to thrive in an unfamiliar or new environment. They detect ambiguous threats and opportunities on the periphery of their business and are constantly vigilant and honing their ability to anticipate the signals of change. That is why an effective leader knows the right questions to ask–and how to listen to the reply. They not only have regular 1:1s with their direct reports but also talk to layers further down the organisation, enabling them to get a 360-degree perspective on performance and the overall business thus avoiding detachment from the front line.

People tend to be intimidated by senior leadership figures and will not volunteer information, so it is vital to know how to draw out the truth about problems, opportunities, and patterns across the organisation.

4. Planning and organisational skills

While every professional needs to plan and organise their own work successfully, and every leader needs to manage their own department or business, a great leader can manage the results of departments beyond their own and use their analytical skills to create successful business strategies based on market developments.

When a leader becomes a strategist, they can look at problems and business objectives from a different perspective and then determine the most effective solution. Thus improving business results and the overall organisation.

5. Picking the right people to promote

Whether that is meeting strategic goals or growing a business, leaders need to harness the skill of the team. For a team to be successful, leaders need to coach, motivate, and recruit/hire well. This may involve partnering with a specialist executive search firm

Teams need to work together TEAM, T- Together, E- Everyone, A- Achieves, M- More.

This can be achieved by harnessing GRIP - G- Goals, R- Roles, I- Interpersonal Relationships, P- Processes and Procedures.

Choosing whom to promote is one of the most important decisions a leader/director can make. Great leaders know the competencies and attributes to seek, avoiding the mistake of turning an excellent manager into a terrible leader. They understand the assimilation of an outside leader into the culture can be difficult but also recognise the challenges of upskilling internal leadership.

6. Decisiveness

While discussion and consensus are important, the buck stops with the leader, so successful senior leaders need excellent decision-making skills, confidence in their decisions, and the ability to trust and support employees in turning those decisions into action.

Great leaders are self-assured and able to effectively tackle problems while still maintaining the respect of their team. The ability to lead the team in crucial moments is key to overcoming obstacles to help reach business and team goals.

7. Self-motivation

Leaders need to be able to motivate themselves as well as others, sustain their drive in tough times and when things do not go according to plan, and lead the team to overcome any obstacles. So it is particularly important for them to challenge themselves and their team regularly.

Strategic leaders challenge the status quo. They entice improvements by challenging their own and others’ assumptions and encourage divergent points of view. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. Since complex change can threaten to overwhelm and stifle actions, strong leaders set interim goals so small wins can be achieved as they work toward larger objectives.

8. Understanding of Task Relevant Maturity

Task Relevant Maturity (TRM) is an employee’s experience and prior performance with a specific task. It can be defined as “A combination of the degree of their achievement orientation and readiness to take responsibility, as well as their education, training, and experience. Moreover, all this is specific to the task at hand, and it is entirely possible for a person or a group of people to have a TRM that is high in one job but low in another”.

Great senior leaders monitor based on TRM, and coach their direct reports to do the same. This avoids people feeling micromanaged or left to flounder, both mistakes that are particularly deadly in a leader of leaders.

9. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the most critical skills a senior leader can have. It enables them to connect with, listen to, understand, and coach everyone they lead. Without it, relationships will flounder, and problems will go undetected. These days, social media has become a vital tool for leaders in the technology arena to better engage and connect with their key stakeholders. 

In many cases, digital communication and the building of an online presence are left to the marketing team within a business. This demonstrates that the leadership is communicating with their audience, but it can also be obvious to their social audience that the interactions could be fabricated. It is becoming increasingly valuable for leaders to step up to social media themselves and connect with their people within and without the organisation.

10. Creating a great culture

The culture of a team or organisation reflects the qualities of its leader. That is why it is vital that senior executives lead by example and live the values they want to inculcate. Good leaders often create good leaders – and bad leaders can create bad ones – so positive or negative behaviour at the top can trickle down through the organisation.

According to a study by Julia Rozovsky of Google, the top-performing teams have a culture of psychological safety, where everyone feels safe while sharing ideas and making mistakes and can be honest about how they are feeling. A senior leader who not only encourages openness but has the courage to do it first can boost the performance of the whole organisation.

For more insights on the anatomy of a leader and the skills required to lead your business to greatness and think like a CEO, click here.

Redline Executive’s mission is to enable high-technology companies to meet their strategic goals, in their search for leaders who will flourish in a time of exceptional change. Contact Martin Crapper on +44 (0)1582 450054 or email info@RedlineExecutive.com 

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