It is well accepted and understood that It is not by your title or position on the org chart. There are many great lists and articles on leadership – What makes a great leader? What do leaders do really well? What skills can I develop to become a better leader?
1) Ability to Contribute Through Others.
For me, this is a starting point to understanding true leadership. Am I simply an outstanding individual contributor who just gets a ton of stuff done? Can I start to become a leader who understands how to contribute through others, using trust, influence ,and collaboration?
The moment a leader understands that ‘what we do together’ is more important than ‘what I deliver all by myself’ is a transitional moment in to true leadership.
Leaders who truly grasp this concept understand the selfless nature of leadership. Helping others achieve more for the sake of the entire team, and for the benefit of another person is an important place to start. The ability to contribute through others – getting others to help your cause – is a sign of an excellent leader.
2) Ability to Show Professional Maturity.
This is a complicated, but powerful skill which effective leaders possess; it is frequently overlooked or brushed aside. For me, this is about both how a leader is perceived and how a leader behaves.
I believe it goes one level deeper, however. When a leader understands the complexities of a situation, he/she can truly start to grasp the big picture and make progress. The opposite of “my way or the highway” thinking – it is the ability to listen to others, accept input, seek expertise & knowledge from others.
People are complex; business problems are complex. The ability to take in these many complexities and weigh them appropriately as you make progress is a sign of an excellent leader.
3) Ability to Navigate Ambiguity.
This is my favorite skill demonstrated by really talented leaders. What happens when things are unclear, or unknown? Leaders solve problems. Leaders find solutions. Leaders propose ideas and improvements, in a way that provides clarity and direction, to keep the team moving forward.
The opposite (waiting for answers, questioning the lack of clear direction, playing victim by blaming other factors, and making excuses) will have a very negative impact.
The ability to navigate ambiguity means: continue driving forward, keep making progress, keep focusing on priorities even when the path becomes unclear/unknown.
This is the single best skill a leader can develop and demonstrate consistently. Executing plans & goals when clearly described is very important.
Progress when the plans & goals are confusing or blurry is a sign of an excellent leader.
It is important to remember, these skills can be developed and practiced at every level – not just “people managers”. Developing these three leadership skills will put you in great positions to lead and be relied upon to accomplish important things. Mark my words.