4 Key Leadership Skills for Career Success
By: Robert Dickie
I’ve been in the military and the business world in various forms of leadership for the past 19 years. Although senior leaders of organizations share a great deal with their teams, one thing that is rarely – if ever – talked about is the frank behind-the-doors analysis of people that happens in every organization. Those are “make it or break it” conversations for most people’s careers. These conversations come in many forms, but especially during annual performance reviews and budget preparation for the new fiscal year.
Leaders are forced to look at cold, hard facts. Who is performing and who isn’t? Who is achieving results and who is coasting? Who is a rising star we can’t live without versus who is causing drama and problems that are sidetracking the organization? These are tough conversations. From the military to the private sector, I have seen people get promotions and fast-track their careers because of these conversations, while others have had their careers come to an unceremonious end because of them.
If you prepare and are doing the right things, these conversations will propel you to new opportunities. This is not about having nice conversations in the hallway or performing well at the annual Christmas party. You need to be a top performer, getting results, and helping the organization win. In short, you need to be seen as a developing leader who is growing and ready to take on more responsibility. Companies don’t downsize, automate, or offshore leaders getting results!
To be seen as a developing leader in your organization, you need to demonstrate the following four critical characteristics of leadership as you perform your duties.
1. Leaders leverage failure.
One thing is certain… Failure is part of the journey. I don’t know any great leader who has not had multiple failures in their career. However, when discussing these failures, they are quick to talk about what they have learned. Instead of having a fatalistic view of failure, they seek it as part of their journey.
Once they have learned from failure, it is no longer a failure – it is a learning experience. With that outlook, failures can be seen as tuition paid for a real-life education. I have learned that our greatest victories are often given birth through what we perceive as failure.
2. Leaders are problem solvers.
Leaders solve problems that others can’t. Managers are paid to manage processes, systems, and people. There is a big difference between managing and leading something. Managers are easily replaced. Leaders are not. Leaders see the big picture and understand how the entire process works, how value is created, and what is most important. It has been said that the people who know HOW will always work for the people who know WHY. Leaders always know the why and are generally very competent with the how as well.
Become a problem solver for your organization who understands the big picture and the why for your firm, and you will quickly rise to the top and have much greater opportunities.
3. Leaders are lifelong learners.
A Harvard Business School professor in the Executive Education Program recently said, “You CEOs in decades past came to this program to gain an edge. Today you come to this program just so you can stay current and not fall behind in the quickly changing global economy.” Leaders are always seeking an edge, which traditionally has come from education and experiences. Today the best leaders are able to see the world differently from the rest. They see the world at an angle, and thus see opportunities before the rest of the pack.
This vision, which comes from education and real-world experience, is more important than ever. Leaders attend executive education courses and conferences and leverage MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) by websites like EdX.org, Coursera.org, and Udacity.org to obtain an edge. By definition, leaders are expected to lead the way. A lack of education and skill is the quickest way to fall out of a leadership position you worked hard to earn.
4. Leaders live in their design.
There is no “best type” of leader for every organization. There are different types of leaders that have different skill sets and abilities. The best one for you to be is the leader God designed you to be. No one would put a Corvette in a farm field or a tractor in the Indy 500. Each machine has been uniquely designed for a specific function. We get the best results when we use it as it was designed. So too, God has designed each of us with our own unique skills, values, interests, and passions. If we build our career around those skills, we open up the doors of opportunity to perform at our best.
Finding our design takes time and introspection. Many leaders need a lifetime of trial and error to develop their self-awareness that allows them to achieve peak performance. I recommend taking a career shortcut to discover this by taking a Career Direct assessment (CareerDirect-ge.org). This report will help you gain the self-awareness you need to operate at your best and live within your God-given design.
Finally, I encourage you to aspire to leadership in your career for the right reasons. Executives who crashed companies like Enron, WorldCom, Bear Stearns, and others, many times aspired to leadership positions for personal reasons like wealth, fame, power, and prestige. When those are your motivators, you are led to taking risk and leading in ways that can cause you to make poor decisions.
I encourage you to aspire to leadership positions in your career to make a positive impact in the world and help those around you. When you lead with that mindset, you will lead with heart and soul. That will help you stay centered and grounded to make the right decisions. In doing so, always remember to seek God’s will for your career. There is a big difference between Him leading the way, and us crafting our own plans and inviting him to join us. The leadership journey is hard and full of obstacles, but the reward of making the world a better place is worth it. Enjoy the process![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”575″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]About Robert: Robert Dickie is the author of Love Your Work: 4 Practical Ways You Can Pivot to Your Best Career. As president of Crown, he is dedicated to helping people create long-term plans for financial, career, and business success. Bob serves on multiple nonprofit boards, and is an avid Spartan racer and mountain climber. He and his wife, Brandi, have been happily married for 21 years and have been blessed with six children. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]