What makes a good leader? While we tend to focus on internal qualities and attributes (which are, of course, important in their own right), excellent leadership also requires core skills, or competencies, that every leader must strive to master. These competencies should be viewed as the toolbox that individuals can use to make better decisions, become better managers, and build strong relationships with their employees. Read on for some insight into the key leadership competencies.
Emotional intelligence refers to one’s ability to communicate not at a physical level, but at an emotional one. Leaders must develop empathy and understand the emotional impact that their actions are likely to have while also being able to read someone else’s emotions accurately. Emotional intelligence is largely linked to the perceived charisma of great leaders. To develop emotional intelligence, leaders need to learn how to read nonverbal cues while also controlling their own emotions. They also need to be able to become emotional actors so that they express the appropriate feeling back to an employee.
While some might not view courage as a competency, in the professional setting it should be considered as such. With courage, leaders can take a stand for what they know is right and in accordance to their values. Becoming more courageous involves becoming more in touch with personal principles. Leaders must always have a strong sense of what or whom they value so that they can protect those resources. Employees look up to a courageous leader and begin to trust that person without question. Importantly, courage is a transparent process, and employees should also understand the virtues of the leader.
All organizations, at their core, are full of politics. People within companies will try to bend the rules, ask for favors, and lobby for their personal agenda. Many will try to make allies that can help them achieve their personal goals.
Leaders must be great political players who can also take a step back from the game. When leaders get lost in politics, they can lose their efficacy altogether. By stepping out of the game from time to time, leaders can manage the political behavior in the company and keep it in check. Otherwise, dysfunction is likely to happen. Leaders learn how to navigate office dynamics through experience, but they learn how to operate outside of it by paying attention to social cues and maintaining a strong moral core.
Leaders cannot become the best unless they are very socially intelligent. Unfortunately, the field of social intelligence remains relatively poorly researched—and even less understood. In the most basic sense, social intelligence is the ability to understand social dynamics in any particular situation. People need to be able to conduct themselves properly in a wide variety of different circumstances, both personal and professional. Socially intelligent people know how to build and maintain positive relationships, and they can read social situations and subsequently play the appropriate role. Leaders typically build their social intelligence over time by exposing themselves to a wide variety of people and situations. By putting themselves in these circumstances, they become more capable of engaging people in conversation and making astute social perceptions.
One may think of prudence as wisdom that comes from other people. Prudent leaders always try to see events through the eyes of the people around them. By adopting other perspectives, prudent leaders become better decision makers, because they have a stronger understand of the potential impact. Prudence is practiced by always listening carefully to the opinions of the people around us and keeping an open mind as much as possible. Excellent leaders will actively seek out the opinions of others and consider them carefully as they make a final decision.
A key interpersonal skill for leaders, conflict management is the ability to resolve conflicts and repair wounded relationships. Often, leaders have to act as a judge when two coworkers disagree. Excellent leaders help the two parties see each other’s point of view, while those who do not know how to manage conflict can make the situation worse. Conflict management also involves resolving one’s own issues peacefully. Leaders may want to consider taking courses or workshops to better understand conflict management strategies. These strategies teach leaders how to work toward a win-win outcome or, if that is not possible, how to negotiate a compromise that doesn’t leave either party feeling cheated.
Leadership is all about exerting influence on the people around us. The best leaders have mastered the art of social influence, which involves using a wide variety of people skills to garner favor. However, influence is about more than getting people’s affection. Real influencers can make strong, well-reasoned arguments that appeal to the people they want to convince.
Leaders must learn to see the world from another person’s perspective to gain insight on what kind of argument will prove most effective for them. They may also want to train in debate to become better at delivering a convincing argument.