7 Core Leadership Competencies Every Business Professional Should Embrace

core leadership competenciesLeadership is an ongoing process of development.  No matter where you are in the organizational hierarchy, embracing core leadership competencies will pay dividends over time. Be aware that leaders are not defined by their years of service, their position on the organization chart, their title or their personal attributes.  They are defined by their ability to lead others to reach their and their company’s identified goals.

How can we make leaders more successful, even if they work on the ground level of the organization?  Obviously, there are many factors that make a leader great.  Here, I chose 7 core leadership competencies I believe to be highly impactful.  Leadership isn’t magic; it can be learned, and a leader’s skill set can be continually sharpened.

One important caveat is about leadership development.  Leaders must believe in the inherent value of their followers.  That is the essence of what I define as my Leadership PrincipleEvery person has the capability to contribute positively using his/her unique talents, and with continuous learning, remain consequential for the organization’s changing needs.

To become an exceptional leader, you must encourage and enhance the talent that surrounds you and provide direction for attaining identified and agreed upon goals.  The competencies that I describe below are borrowed from the research of John Zenger and Joseph Folkman.  By mastering and constantly improving these core leadership competencies, you can move your team to reach great heights as each member provides valuable contributions.

Inspire and motivate others

The ability to inspire is probably the most critical skill that a leader should master.  By inspiring others, leaders create the highest level of workforce performance, engagement and commitment.  According to Zenger and Folkman’s research, the ability to inspire is the competency most subordinates identify when asked what characteristics they value most in their leader.

Inspirational leaders ignite a spark within their followers that move them into action.  The feeling of purpose and meaning is enough to propel us. When we are void of inspiration, or a clear purpose, we find other ways to keep ourselves from moving forward towards our goal.

You can inspire your teams by setting stretch goals; establishing professional development opportunities and collaborating on innovative ideas.  The ability to infuse energy, passion, commitment, and connection with an organization’s vision is vital for growth.

Display integrity and honesty

Leaders are shaped by the values they embody.  Great leaders are both honest and transparent.  By providing transparent communication, you build trust.  Trust takes time and effort to build; but it’s almost impossible to rebuild if it’s broken.  When you communicate honestly, even when things aren’t going as well as expected, team members will be more supportive and willing to go the extra mile.  They’ll be willing to put forth the needed effort to reach the desired results.

People want to follow leaders who demonstrate high ethical standards.  They want to be proud of their leaders and know that the leaders have their backs.  You’ll be amazed at the effort team members will put forth when you value their work and treat them respectfully.

Solve problems and analyze issues

Soft skills are essential for anyone in a leadership position, but mastering the technical skill involved with the job also is necessary.  There will be many times when you, as the leader, will be called upon to objectively analyze a situation and devise appropriate solutions.  Being able to grasp complex challenges and keep the business operations on track is critical to master.

When transitioning to a new job with new responsibilities, having an aptitude to analyze issues effectively and solve problems quickly will prove to be an asset.  Practice these competencies whenever you can to become more proficient.  As you add leadership responsibilities, you will be prepared to handle unexpected challenges with ease.  You also will be prepared for your next leadership promotion.

Drive for results

A leader’s main responsibility is to make certain things get done.  For business growth, goals must be met, and initiatives must be completed.  Leaders cannot accomplish these key results without the ability to drive results.

To drive for results, set priorities and establish the time frame for completing tasks.  Keep the end goal in mind by creating a clear picture of what is to be accomplished and what the results will look like.  Strategies can be adjusted as necessary to achieve the end goal.  If the end goal doesn’t remain in clear focus, it becomes easier to get distracted.   Emails, meetings, and other daily activities may pull people off course.

Leaders who drive for results set clear benchmark milestones so that, if needed, plans can be modified.  Being able to adapt to this management strategy is essential.  It is about more than adapting to trends, but about obtaining long-term results.  The question to ask at the beginning of each day is, ”what I can do to achieve my goals?”

Communicate powerfully and prolifically

How well you lead is dependent on how well you communicate.  Effective communication is a continuous two-way process where you can clearly articulate and share ideas.  It flows freely in both directions, and in every circumstance – in good times and, especially, in challenging ones.  Savvy leaders rely on effective communication strategies to connect and inspire their followers.

Your communication skills can continually be improved with an ever-expanding choice of media channels.  Regardless of the means of communication, leaders must be able to clearly explain everything from big-picture goals to specific tasks.  When you master the different forms of communication—from written and speaking presentations, to negotiation skills and writing operating procedures—you can lead your followers through any occurrence that may arise.

Collaborate and promote teamwork

Genuine collaboration allows for the blending of ideas, and a synthesis that creates a better whole.  It does not happen in a vacuum and requires the give and take of ideas.  Collaboration is a selfless act that requires mutual respect, trust and honest communication.  Leaders who collaborate are more likely to see more innovative ideas and a higher level of productivity.

Collaboration also includes team work.  Establish teams with a clear mandate, time table, and opportunity for every member’s contribution.  Leaders who are skilled at working with teams understand the importance of delegation.  Delegating tasks to well-designed teams ensures work is completed while the leader can focus on other aspects of the business.

Effective delegation skills require that leaders identify the strengths and limitations of team members so that they can emphasize which skills are most important in completing different projects.  Leaders who collaborate and promote teamwork do not micromanage and are comfortable not always being in control.

Build relationships

To grow and improve an organization, leaders spend valuable time building relationships.  They network both within and outside of the workplace.  This includes colleagues, clients, strategic partners and members of the community.

“Building relationships is one of the strongest skill sets related to leadership effectiveness,” says Jean Leslie, a researcher at the Center for Creative Leadership. “Managers with experience building relationships are considered more effective.” That statement emerges from a comprehensive research study undertaken by CCL involving more than 438,000 respondents. Two thirds of respondents said that, “building and maintaining relationships is a critical competency.”

Successful leaders, interested in building a happy, healthy work environment, connect with people on a personal level.  Of the core leadership competencies, this one indicates real interest in the whole person.  They show interest in their lives, their interests and their opinions.  Leaders who are active listeners can understand what their followers appreciate.  Leaders who are visible in the workplace, interacting with their colleagues, sharing lunch or coffee, experience a happier, less stressed workplace.  People look forward to coming to work because they know that leadership respects their contribution and appreciates their efforts.

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Dr. Ann Gatty is a partner at Drs. Gatty, LLC, a business consulting firm, helping businesses add value-assets to their businesses. For the past twenty years she and her husband, Gene, have been providing business leadership mentoring and solving HR employment issues. Ann has recently created The Business Sphere of Excellence® a strategic business planning model used to construct annual and long range business plans helping businesses run more efficiently and profitably. Dr. Gatty is an expert in understanding and improving the workplace culture which is foundational for implementing any successful strategic initiatives. In order to better explain the importance of employee engagement, Ann partners with Beretta, her Great Dane therapy dog to present her key findings. For more information about leadership mentoring or building a business to work brilliantly, visit www.strategicpeoplesolutions.com.
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