Four Skills to Develop for More Effective Leadership
Depending on you, your team, and your organization, you may have additional skills you need to hone. But, across organizations, industries, and roles, there are several skills that unite the best leaders. Here are four of them.
1. Always Keep Learning
No business is stagnant—at least if it wants to remain in business. Therefore, its leaders cannot be stagnant, either. Langowitz’s motto is “the best leaders are learners.” Learners, she explains, are better at staying open to new ideas and considering various points of view.
That’s because when you’re learning, you realize how much you don’t know and how much room there is for improvement. This allows you to seek ideas from experts and use this information to come to better decisions and improved solutions.
2. Think Big, Be Bold
Breakthrough innovation requires you to think big. Your work will change how your company creates value today and in the future.
This requires you to think beyond the day to day and look at the long term, an admittedly hard skill to develop and practice with many companies focused on next quarter’s numbers, not necessarily what those numbers mean for the big picture.
As Professor Gina O’Connor said in a recent Fast Company article, “Innovation has a long time horizon, and companies must invest consistently in order to see payoffs.” O’Connor’s research backs this idea. As a professor of innovation management at Babson College and an instructor in Babson’s executive education program, O’Connor says leaders need to:
- Identify and commit to a few future-focused opportunity domain areas, rather than focusing only on short term issues.
- Institute an organizational capability that identifies, incubates, and scales new businesses through the use of portfolio management for so-called Horizon 3 opportunities.
- Design a management system that supports new business platform creation and aligns skills, process, governance, resourcing, and metrics, without ignoring the uncertainty inherent in this activity.
Develop a vision for your team, communicate it, and then support your team in making it a reality.
3. Make Fundamental, Not Incremental, Change
In order to cope with market shifts, business transformation relies on fundamental changes and improvements, not incremental ones.
O’Connor emphasizes the need for intentionality when it comes to innovation. “It should not be seen simply as a process, or a cultural characteristic, or driven by champions alone,” she stresses. Instead, organizations need a specific vision for innovation with established metrics and a dedicated staff. Failure is part of experimenting, and teams must be able to experiment without punishment.
Whether your organization has a dedicated innovation arm or not, you can incorporate out-of-the-box thinking as a strategy within your team.
Allowing dedicated time, energy, and resources to the discovery, incubation, and acceleration of ideas beyond an R&D division has the power for major payoff, as O’Connor’s research proves.
4. Develop Skills for You and Your Team
If you go on vacation for a week, a month, or even a year, your team should function without you. The goal of a leader is to not be irreplaceable. In fact, it’s the opposite. The best leaders develop teams that are able to thrive even when the leader isn’t there.
There’s an instinct we all have to prove our value, especially when performance reviews are on the line. We want to make ourselves indispensable. But, the way leaders make themselves indispensable is by having the skills that allow them to create systems and develop team members in ways that ensure there is no single point of failure.
“Creating collaboration and high performance,” says Langowitz, “sparks more innovation.”
Know your areas of genius and where you may need to rely on others who have different zones of genius. Similarly, know the strengths of your team members so you can pursue projects in a way that leverages everyone’s skills for an optimized result.