Managing People, Time and Work

Success through Excellent Leadership Skill

Effective leadership skill can tangibly affect a businesses bottom line. Research suggests that 20-30% of business performance relates to how people feel about working for a company. Good leadership is responsible for 50-70% of this feeling (1). Other research from Harvard and Stanford found that only 15% of career advancement relates to technical skills and knowledge. People skills account for the other 85%.

Influencing and motivating people to help achieve your vision would have to rate as the most important business skill since woolly mammoth hunting days.

Leadership doesn’t exist

storm-planeEffective leaders lead people to do what they want. Leadership is not a tangible thing, it’s a process. When we turn processes (leading) into nouns (leadership), we can get stuck. Our brain tries to represent an abstract thing that does not exist and typically gets confused.
For example, try picturing leadership. Most people will come up with an example or six of times when the process of leading was effective (or not). The group of examples or one particular example will stand in for the idea. Because it is difficult to see more than one movie at a time, you will typically have a bunch of still images or other static representations.

Now think of a time when you led someone to do something. Typically, it will be moving because it is a process – perhaps a mental movie.

Countless gurus have made Good Leadership Skills a complicated and jargon filled subject. Leadership Skill Training gets even more complicated because we then try to describe the noun that doesn’t exist or individual people and their characteristics.

Corporate leadership training programs tend to emphasize the “whats” rather than the “how tos”. For example

  • What is the definition of leadership?
  • What Leadership Theory represents current thinking?
  • What Leadership Traits will lead to successful leadership skill?
  • What leadership style is the right one?

Situational Leadership attempts to fix the problem of dealing with an abstract concept by grouping leadership styles into situations where each is more useful. For example, in emergencies direct autocratic leadership works better than a more democratic leadership style.

Often leadership information is conflicting and based on superficial characteristics of individual leaders and situations. The context is a necessary part of the leading. Over-generalized Leadership Principles that do not distinguish different circumstances, followers and time frames are bound to confuse and contradict. Leading your troops across a minefield is different from leading your family through the shopping center (usually)

A leadership training course developing the “how tos” involved in the process of leading someone to an outcome asks different questions.

  • What skills are needed to effectively influence groups and individuals.
  • How do you gain commitment to achieving a vision rather than just compliance?
  • How do you motivate people (and yourself) to do stuff and take initiative even when you are not there?
  • How do you develop people to become even more capable – to grow when the business or the position grows?
  • How do you know what behaviors will get desired results on a day-to-day basis and over the long term?
  • How do you make the most of follower’s energy and abilities?
  • How do you keep the energy and commitment high, but avoid stress and burnout?

(1) From Daniel Goleman’s excellent book, The New Leaders

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