Monday, April 29, 2013
5 Strengths Every Leader Should Know
Gabriela D. Acosta is the community manager for the University of Southern California’s online social work masters programs, which have a military army social work program sub-concentration. She is passionate about social justice, community organizing and leadership development.
Many of us would probably agree that successful leaders share particular traits. They are able to adapt to quickly changing situations. They expertly communicate their ambitions, plans and goals, while still listening to what the rest of their team has to say. They accurately analyze problems, and they propose solutions that often prove effective.
While it may seem that leaders you are familiar with naturally embody those traits that would be a misunderstanding. Leadership in general is a skill that is learned and honed through practice. Looking at even the greatest “natural-born” leaders, we can see that their abilities improve over time, as they accumulate experience.
If you would like to become a better leader, or even if you only want to become a better team member, you would do well to hone those previously mentioned skills: adaptability, communication, listening, analysis and problem solving. Here’s how you can do it:
The Holden Leadership Institute poses the following question: “How do you handle yourself in unexpected or uncomfortable situations?” The answer lies in how adaptable you are.
Adaptability enables you to handle extraordinary events, whether major or minor, with patience and ease. It is the difference between a “can” and a “cannot” attitude. Good leaders can handle changes and crises without losing their temper or composure, which helps build morale.
If you are not naturally adaptable, the University of Iowa has some tips on how to strengthen this trait. Talk with some coworkers that you consider to be adaptable to garner advice. Come up with emergency plans to be able to handle crises, and be ready to call on others for support.
Entrepreneur identifies good communication skills as essential to excellent leadership. This involves the ability to “easily and effectively convey his ideas to the stakeholders inside and outside of the organization.” Most problems arise out of communication issues so leaders must hone their verbal and written skills.
The best way to interact with others is face to face so make sure that you are visible and active in business happenings. This is a skill that can be improved through practice. The more you speak and write, the more proficient you become at it. Leaders who feel awkward speaking in front of others can also benefit from public speaking and leadership courses.
While listening falls under the category of communication, its importance cannot be underestimated. There are many managers that are great talkers, but too few that are good listeners. Dale Carnegie Training asserts, “Respect, credibility and trust are gained when one is an effective and an honest listener.”
If you want others to follow, you must show real interest in what they have to contribute. Like other communication skills, practice makes perfect. Do not forget to have good eye contact and question and comment on what the other person is saying.
While you must be able to think on your feet, analytical skills are also critical to be able to break down more complex issues in the workplace. Ivory Office explains that there are sub-skills needed to be adept at analysis. Leaders are efficient and good at time management when dealing with tasks, solve problems so that they are not made worse or repeated, use data to drive decisions and report results clearly. When results do not go as one intended, good managers use these opportunities for reflection and further analysis. To improve this skill, research and read about methods that great historical leaders have used to solve problems. Also, consider attending leadership trainings near your workplace or online.
5. Problem Solving
The strength is closely connected to analysis but can be defined as the ability to rationally solve small and large problems alike. Managers sometimes need to make decisions quickly, while in other situations, they may be able to devote long periods of time to analysis.
Even if you are the indecisive type, you can improve this skill. The Free Management Library offers some advice. You must first “define the problem” (who, what, when, where, why, how) so that you have a clear understanding of it. Try to identify the cause of the problem and brainstorm potential solutions. Choose a solution, carefully planning out the approach, and analyze the results. While this can take a great deal of practice, there are great online tools and trainings at your disposal. It just takes motivation and a willingness to change for the better to be on the pathway to a leadership role.