Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Leadership Development: The Skills That Matter Most

Moses as a cartoon figure is drawn as the leader of his tribe through the red sea with the caption: A Good Leader Can Work Miracles

We don’t actually expect our leaders to work miracles. But we do expect them to lead us forward using their special leadership skills of knowing which path to take, course correcting as needed, and steering safely through unexpected storms. 

Today’s leaders have unique challenges. The pace of business and change seems to occur at lightning speed. They need to be prepared to face unexpected competition, shifts in the marketplace, and sudden economic woes…all the while keeping the machines chugging, salespeople selling and customers buying. 

Action learning for leadership development can help set leaders up to succeed. It can present scenarios that give learning leaders a chance to get ahead of the curve by making decisions in a simulation, reflecting upon the results and then applying the lessons real time to improve performance.

Here are three leadership skills that, when learned and applied, could give a leader almost miracle status and bring the company workforce forward safely and successfully:

1. Anticipating change
Think about how different the Kodak story might have been if the company leaders had fully understood the impact of digital photography. Even though Kodak had built one of the first digital cameras in 1975, it failed to anticipate how this invention and the subsequent development of smartphone picture-taking would practically destroy their old film and camera-making business. Savvy leaders need to be able to read and interpret the tea leaves for new trends, events and technologies that could affect their business. They need to constantly look for “what’s new” and try to predict the implications to their business.

2. Flexing when needed
Leaders need to know when to change direction and must be ready to do so.  Few could have imagined how completely social media would take over our lives. But once it became a whole new way to interact with customers, successful leaders had to adapt their service organizations to incorporate social media into their customer service strategies. To sharpen this ability to forge a new path, leaders should practice with simulations that require quick shifts and that are almost overwhelmingly complex in order to test a leader’s ability to prioritize and decide upon which way to go.

3. Taking the helm
Leaders need to do more than predict the future and adjust to shifting conditions, they need to make decisions and get others to follow their lead. They must display the soft skills to persuade and inspire as well as the integrity and confidence to move forward. Think of the famous Johnson & Johnson recall of 2010. As soon as it was discovered that some of their products "may not fully meet the required manufacturing specifications,” their leadership announced a voluntary recall that affected more than 100,000 bottles of medicine…a bold move that showed their concern for their customers and helped maintain the company’s reputation.

Are your leaders ready?

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