Top 10 Skills of Today’s Leaders

The first question most people ask when they meet some new is “What do you do?” I sometimes have difficulty answering this basic question. While I am clear about my work, the language I use to describe it doesn’t always communicate its true nature. In large part when we think of leadership, most people still hold images of men wearing pin-striped suits, authoritarian behavior and/or the rare individual who manages to move beyond talk to truly create an impact on the world.

In practicing the art and science of leadership development for the past 20 years, I suggest the way to create leaders who are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century is by redefining leadership so that more people are prepared to share the task of getting our communities “on the right track.”

The Top 10 Skills of Today’s Leaders:

1. Know Who You Are: This means being aware of and aligned with the unchangeable parts of yourself, Your humanity is not bound by title, position, power or wealth.

2. Clearly Communicate What You Bring to the Table: Everyone has something meaningful to contribute. Leaders understand their talents and skills and know how to offer them to the world.

3. Know What You Want to Change: Telling someone you want to lead or hold a particular position of power is passé. Rather than an end within itself, leadership is the means to achieve a goal. Leaders are passionate about something and work toward achieving it, regardless of how it looks.

4. Bring Leadership Wherever You Go: Being a leader doesn’t mean you bring your best to only one area of your life, it means that you maintain your integrity in all facets of your life, from your family and community to the world.

5. Align Your Life With Your Leadership: It is difficult to be a successful leader and have personal habits that don’t support a fully actualized life. Do you take care of your health? Do you have healthy relationships in your life? Are you engaged in life long learning? Do you regularly connect to something greater than yourself?

6. Communicate Effectively: Effective communication is not about mastering the art of “the spin.” Leaders are comfortable being open and real in all situations and are connected to the wants and needs of those around them. Ultimately, communication is about connecting and a leader needs to understand both sides of the conversation.

7. Solve Problems Before People Know They Exist: Heroes act with skill and precision after the crisis has hit; leaders anticipate the needs of the community before a crisis takes place and make changes to avoid it. The leader often receives less fanfare than the hero, but the leader’s service to the community is priceless.

8. Measure Your Results Against Resolving Issues: In today’s image-driven culture, many of the people who want to be thought of as leaders claim victory by rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than trying to right the ship. Leaders care less about how it looks and focus on what is actually being done to resolve the root causes of the problem.

9. Be The Change: Hopi wisdom says, “do not look outside yourself for the leader.” No one else is going to “fix it.” and to change things, leaders takes responsibility for the results—everyday. Everyone is responsible for leadership in some way and the best time to start is now.

10. Be Happy: Being engaged in your life, as the leader you are, is a true joy. When you free yourself from life’s “shoulds” and create opportunities to bring your best self to the world, you eliminate the burdens and inspire others to do the same.

With this list in hand, discussing my work gets easier. I support people in moving through the process of understanding what they have to offer and developing a strategy to fully realize it in their lives. EVERYONE has the capacity to lead and to live a full, balanced, successful and abundant life. You simply have to decide if you want to make the leadership choice. When you do, your world and the world of those around will change for the better.

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Alan L. Greenberg

I will add one more – which actually transcends other other ten. R E S P E C T. By this I mean you have to earn respect and don’t expect it because of your position. Secondly, respect for your subordinates. This is especially true in government where people stay longer than in most private companies. Not all of your subordinates have the same values, skills or ambitions but as long as they work hard and are loyal they all deserve the same level of respect.

Kathleen Schafer

Alan, I agree that respect is an important component in the leadership relationship and for me it is a natural outgrowth of the leadership qualities discussed in the blog. Respect means, “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.” For me, true leadership is about seeing the admirable qualities in everyone and focusing on them and likewise, when you conduct yourself in an authentic way, others’ respect for you is natural and not something that needs to be forced. So yes, in government where people work together for a long time being more conscious of one another is vital and cultivating leadership becomes even more important . . .

Isaac Barnes

Great list Kathleen I would like to add another to the list. “Know how to lead different personalities”. As a leader you cant lead every person the same and expect the same results. Everybody has different personalities and you must handle each one differently. It seems like common sense but I have found that most leaders do not understand this concept at all.

Isaac Barnes

Kathleen Schafer

Isaac–I completely agree that different people have different styles and that it is important for a leader to recognize and understand how best to work with variety of leadership approaches people bring to the table. And those who first emulate the qualities on this list will best be able to do it. For it is impossible to do for others what you haven’t done for yourself!