I get asked often, “what are the skills that a leader has to be competent at in order to lead a team or business?” I think the question comes up so often because leaders hear daily that they have to essentially be superhuman and do everything well. Often, they are craving some kind of road map or structure that can make sense out of this vague art that is called leadership.
Well they are right to want some sort of clarity, and while it might never be as simple as baseball or cooking according to a recipe, it also doesn’t have to feel like magic or world peace.
Leaders need to do five things really well to be incredibly effective:
- Coach others
- Lead change
- Build culture
- Assess talent
- Engage others
Of course you could frame that list differently, or add to it, or break things out, or use different words. But I would challenge you to find a leader who does all of those things and isn’t effective. We could add things like, organize resources, or develop strategy, and if you are running your own business, those better be in there too. But they are more about management than leadership. The differences in those two things will be the subject of another post, and if you are inside a bigger organization those things might be handled in other places.
You could even argue that if you are inside a larger organization, that culture or talent is handled by others too. But that’s a problem, because those things are more local than they are global. Meaning the direct manager is more responsible for them, at least according to people on the team.
So this is a list, a framework that could certainly be different in some ways, but gives us a starting point for a simpler, more concrete approach to leadership skills that we can build. While these may even seem big, we break them down and help people develop systems, processes, routines, and habits that help them do these things well inside the Leadership Gym every week.
You could also prioritize these things in lots of ways, and depending on your business, your role, and your team, that might look a little different. But the one that I would say is often most important, is coaching.
If you can’t coach others, you simply can’t lead. And the better you are at it, typically the better you are at leadership. It connects to lots of the other skills as well. If you are a great coach you are better at leading change, building culture, and engaging others, even though those skills have some different components.
The ability to have a conversation with someone that leaves them motivated to head in a clear, new direction with a plan for how to do that, is essential for effective leadership.
I have worked with many leaders who struggle with the ability to coach others because they don’t follow a process that helps others gain clarity and motivation. They just follow a process that delivers their opinion or ideas to the person they are coaching. They follow a process that just instructs or critiques based on what the person is currently doing. They follow a process that causes most humans to comply, rather than commit. That’s not coaching, that’s just telling and then using authority, also known as fear, to create short term changes in the behavior of another person.
That isn’t leadership and we know it isn’t leadership because it isn’t sustainable. Compliance doesn’t make people more capable. It sets the manager up as the person with all the answers, who does all the thinking, and makes all the decisions about how others should behave. If we do that, we do not get a fully engaged team, a strong culture, or the ability to attract strong talent. And change in our team will be slow and difficult.
Leadership is about culture, talent, engagement, and change. If I coach in a way that doesn’t let me do any of that well, then I can’t possibly be leading.
If you want to start working on your own coaching process that can help you be a more effective leader, we have developed a free short course that can get you off to a great start. It will help you begin to put coaching into a process-oriented approach to helping others become more successful. If you do this one thing better in your business or for your team, you will completely change their future and yours.
Coaching skills are essential to good leadership and they build a strong foundation for helping anyone accomplish more. Take the free short course. Do this for you, so that you can be capable of doing more for everyone around you.