There’s no shortage of lists of “Top 10 Leadership Skills” or “101 Traits of Ridiculously Successful Leaders” on the internet. Just open up your LinkedIn feed and scroll for 30 seconds and you’ll be inundated with “the-things-leaders-must-have” to be more ________ (agile, disruptive, lean, inspiring, innovative…you get the point).
So when it came time to put these thoughts down for you to read, I did so knowing that;
A) a lot (probably too much) has already been written about Leadership and;
B) I wanted to keep it simple. Because simple gets done.
This post is less about skills, traits and qualities, and more about the three primary domains of Leadership. Think of them as buckets of practice, areas in which you perform the tasks of leadership.
The 3A's of Leadership
The first and most critical of the areas of leadership practice, and probably one of the least developed overall, is Awareness. I’m not talking about spiritual transcendence here, but we know that the more self-awareness a leader has the more able they are to respond instead of react, to be proactive in their approach and present with what is needed from them at the time. There are three particular areas in which the best leaders have high levels of awareness;
- Power. The more attuned a leader is to the underlying power dynamics within (and outside) their organization, the more they’re able to understand and respond with the greatest level of impact.
- Motivation. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Why does Jim show up late? Why does Susan show up early? Leaders are rarely attuned to the underlying motivations of themselves and their people, but when they do it makes all the difference.
- Emotional & Social Intelligence. One of the greatest differentiators of effective leaders, EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is a set of skills including emotional awareness and regulation, motivation, social awareness and social regulation.
The second “A” of leadership is Alignment, the practices involved with building culture, inspiring motivation and engagement, providing feedback, designing strategy….the processes of alignment happen in a wide range of ways inside of an organization, with two of the most important alignment activities outlined below…
- Getting (the right) people on the ship. The first task is to make sure that the right people are on your ship, and they’re doing the right job. What do we know about an employee’s motivators? (ie. why are they here in the first place?) What are they hoping to accomplish? What’s next for them? Are they here to learn and grow? Getting a deep understanding of everyone’s unique motivators (more on that later), makes it easier to align them with the right job in the first place.
- Strategic Direction. Organizations are moving all the time….and sometimes we get lucky and move in the right direction! How solid and well understood is your strategic plan, and is it working? When you dig into a lot of strategic plans, they’re often a loose collection of projects, objectives, actions and priorities. Without a simple and focused plan to align with, sometimes your staff (or whole departments) will spin their wheels or churn off in a different direction.
The last “A” of leadership is Action.
Leaders are people, leadership is a practice.
- Stephen de Groot
Practice requires action, and the best leaders know that some actions have bigger impacts, and are more effective than other things that they could be doing. The following two Actions are highlighted here, not because there aren’t other important ones, but because these tend to fall to the bottom of the to-do pile instead of rising to the top (where they should be)!
- Feedback Gathering. Give it, and make sure you’re getting it. Nothing is more dangerous for a leader than a “feedback bubble” forming around them, where they’re not hearing the truth from the people that they support.
- Self Care. Not optional, but part of our ethical practice as leaders. When are you at your best? Rested, calm, clear-headed? Or tired, stressed and juggling a thousand things? Which state is more likely to allow you to meet the needs of your people? Learn how to move “Beyond Self-Care” at this post.
Are there 101 other things you *could* be doing as a leader? Sure.
But I recommend starting with these three and seeing where they take you, and your team.
And don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to learn more…I specialize in helping leaders with the 4th A of Leadership (which you’ll have to talk to me to discover!)