Leadership is More than Just Leadership “Skills”

October 23, 2014

Our clients often believe that leadership programs are about developing a discrete set of leadership “skills.” However, this is not the correct way to think about leadership. Successful leadership is so much more than just a set of routine skills, which are only marginally relevant to being a great leader.

Being a great leader is about passion, authenticity, and attitudes. There are five core capabilities, well beyond traditional skills and competencies, which every leader must have to be successful. They must have a compelling vision, be able to create deep alignment, establish an infrastructure to enable performance, build a transformational culture, and sustain extraordinary performance.

Great leaders have a compelling vision and understand that authentic beliefs and confidence are the primary drivers for creating purpose in an organization. Their superb business acumen enables them to sense unique opportunities and articulate them as a compelling vision that has the potential to produce extraordinary results.

Leaders build deep alignment in their organizations by systematically creating and nurturing comprehensive networks of stakeholders and key influencers based on mutual trust and benefit. Their networks actively support the vision by speaking about it positively and frequently along with formally allocating needed resources.

In order to achieve strong performance, they build an infrastructure that efficiently organizes the work required to achieve the vision. These leaders establish effective operating models that include excellent planning and ongoing management. They are self-consciously great managers of the work and their team. Great management is a subset of great leadership.

Great leaders establish transformational cultures by being role models of positive responsiveness to change and by working to create environments where change is embraced by everyone. They enjoy and encourage others to push the envelope of innovation in their organization’s products, services, business processes, and most importantly, themselves. Greatness is their continuous goal.

And lastly, great leaders sustain extraordinary performance by guiding their organization to consistently high performance. Ultimately, leadership is about achieving results, but how you achieve them really matters.

While there are certainly skills involved in achieving these five core capabilities, much of it has to do with intangibles such as passion, commitment, and personal conviction, all of which are the foundation of great leadership.

If you want to become a great leader and develop more great leaders throughout your organization, you first need to discover your own compelling purpose. Then strengthen your job fundamentals by getting to know your customers, markets, business processes, and systems. Build up relationships by adding value to others. Push yourself out of your comfort zone by trying new things and consciously become a self-directed learner.

By doing all these things, you can significantly increase your chances of becoming a great leader.

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About The Author

William Seidman is the CEO of Cerebyte, Inc., a company focusing on creating high performing organizational cultures. He has worked as a manager or consultant with many large and small organizations including Hewlett-Packard, Jack in the Box, Intel, Tektronix, CVS Pharmacies, and Sears. As a recognized thought leader and expert on leadership in high-performing organizations, he contributes an in-depth understanding of the processes required to discover and use expert wisdom to create extraordinary organizational performance. Dr. Seidman earned his doctorate at Stanford University. He is co-founder and chief executive officer of Cerebyte, Inc., co-author of Strategy to Action in Ten Days and co-author (with Rick Grbavac) of The Star Factor, published by AMACOM in the Fall of 2013. The Star Factor presents Affirmative Leadership, a methodology for discovering what your top performers do differently - and inspiring a new level of greatness in all. Dr. Seidman lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon with his wife. He enjoys traveling, golf and spending time with his three kids.

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    […] In a previous blog, we discussed the notion that leaders must be great learners to be successful in today’s demanding world. Here is a distillation of two of the leadership intangibles for learners from that blog; these are the foundation for many other intangibles of great leadership: […]

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