Go to Google and type in “top leadership skills today,” and you will get millions of results that tell you many different things. If there’s a way to extract the key points of your search results, you will likely get recommended every single possible leadership skill imaginable. This is not helpful—how do organizations, notably growing SMBs, determine which core leadership skills to focus on when developing their current and future leaders? The first step is to stop wasting your time trying to make sense of Google search results. The second step is to finish reading this post.
We have been working with growing tech SMBs for over 2 decades in many different countries around the world. While there are many differences between countries regarding culture, legislation, compliance and the like, the core leadership skills required of top-performing organizations largely remain the same. Taken directly from our work, below are the key leadership skills of today.
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- Mindset—strong leaders possess a growth mindset, which unleashes their capabilities as strong leaders and performers. Understanding and developing this mindset is the starting point for leadership development.
- Trust—this is the cornerstone of all relationships between leader and employee. The absence of trust will always result in lower performance, whereas a high degree of trust will establish the conditions for strong performance.
- Coaching (employee development)—a highly effective way for leaders to drive employee performance is to provide coaching with the purpose of developing employee skills versus a focus on correcting behaviour and performance.
- Driving high performance—leaders often lead more than one employee, and high performance in organizations is a team effort. It’s a critical skill of leaders to effectively manage conflict and harness the collective efforts of their teams.
- Lead change—this is easier said than done and is much more than simply “doing it.” There are psychological phases of change that need to be understood and learned, and learning the art of influencing change through key change management tools.
- Prioritizing and delegating—this critical skill often gets overlooked. Still, effective leaders are able to prioritize and delegate effectively to avoid doing it all themselves because “I can do it better and faster.” This is all about time management, keeping teams engaged, providing learning opportunities to employees, and avoiding leadership burnout.
- Execute strategy—this important skill includes strategic thinking, strategic planning and strategic implementation – three connected yet very different activities. Executing strategy is a core differentiator between a leader and individual contributor.
These are the core foundational areas that all strong leaders possess, and it truly is a journey of career-long work to obtain full mastery. Our business climate is highly volatile and constantly changing, which has significantly increased the need for organizations to invest in their leaders. Leadership development needs to be fully baked into day-to-day organizational processes and overall business strategy.
At ScaleHR, we recognized the growing importance of leadership development and recently decided to double down on our expertise in developing skills and careers. In partnership with Mosaic People Development, we launched Leadership Activated, an 8-module program that embeds one-on-one coaching for participants and several other skills adoption tactics. The interesting thing about Leadership Activated is it focuses on the key leadership skills that were described in this article.
Organizations can no longer afford to have mediocre leaders, and if they do, their skills need to be built up and nurtured. Competition, market volatility, and the pace of change are putting pressure on leaders to perform. Investing in their skills and ongoing development is a core strategic imperative that will yield phenomenal business outcomes.