In addition to giving hundreds of keynote speeches on the subject of leadership over the past 15 years, I have coached many people to become effective leaders. And in my experience, I have heard numerous justifications from various individuals for why they are unable to succeed in leadership positions. They believe they are academically and technically qualified but unsuited for working with those in leadership positions.
And here, the hardest part in leadership development is dealing with that fundamental belief that they can’t do leadership. “Sorry I can’t be a leader, I am not gifted with charisma, I don’t have a great communication skill, I am bit shy and introvert, I am not that educated’ Excuses like these inevitably surface in an effort to undermine one’s own natural ability to lead. However, the reality is that if you put your mind to it, you can learn some skills. Additionally, if you have confidence in your capacity for leadership, you will do so. As Henry Ford once said “Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you are right”
What I am here to tell you is that you can learn to become an effective leader. Because learning leadership is a process of building the right mindset and skillset.
The attitudes and abilities that make up leadership will be reflected in your behaviour. Depending on the roles you play in an organisation, the list of necessary leadership skills can be quite long. Communication, persuasion, rapport-building, networking, possibility thinking, planning, envisioning, administering, organising, strategizing, being charismatic, leading meetings, quick learning, public speaking, presentation skills, innovating, managing change, inspiring people, and coaching and mentoring your followers are just a few of the basic skills on a list of skills. There is no end to learning new skills, but if you master a few key ones and use them in the appropriate situations or roles, you can eventually become an expert in these combinatorial skills. Consequently, leaders can be developed.
When it comes to abilities, soft skills have surpassed hard skills. Leadership, for example, used to be about hard skills like planning, finance, and business analysis. Today’s topic is teamwork, communication, collaboration, and motivation. And all these are soft skills. The unfortunate reality is that many executives dislike soft skills. They believe they are perfect or believe that it is pointless to try to improve themselves. After all, some people even think that self-improvement is for sizzies. This is an example of a closed mindset, which is one of the reasons people also resist learning and change. Whatever is defined as soft skills are actually human skills. Leadership requires a lot of human skills like people skills, interpersonal effectiveness, building rapport, communicating with people and many more.
Human skills can be learned, if you have an open mind to learn and question your assumptions and prejudices, unlearn, and are willing to make some changes. It isn’t rocket science.
Managers do not manage people in the new management model. They manage things like systems, processes, and resources, but not people. Today’s knowledge workers are smart individuals who prefer to be inspired rather than led. They want to be on the same page. They want to be inspired by a common vision in order to achieve great things with others. That is where leadership, rather than simply monitoring performance, becomes a core skill of dealing with people, their emotions, aspirations, perspectives, and ideas.
If you want to move up the ladder and if you want to be part of the C suit, then you must step up and learn the art of influencing and leading people. Remember that people who advance in their careers are better at dealing with others. And we’re seeing teams collaborate and silos fall apart. Leaders collaborating with other leaders. Teams collaborating with other teams. Individual leaders are being replaced by leadership groups.
What we need in organizations is people creating value together. People who understand and respect each other. People who care about others. It’s less about management and more about leading people.
So drop your excuses and step up to leadership. Unleash the leader with in you.