Friday, December 17, 2010

Three Key Leadership Skills

Our business, the International Leadership Institute, has been helping people develop and use leadership skills since 1985.

We've come up with three key leadership skills. If you have any interest in being an effective leader, thse skills need to become second nature to you:

1. Future orientation
2. Graciousness
3. Generosity and compassion

Being future-oriented is the first key skill for leaders. Competent leaders must articulate a vision for the organization, then find practical means of reminding everyone about the vision daily. Just words is not enough; leaders need to model and define both the means and the methods by which they expect the organization's members to live out the vision, every day.

Graciousness is the second key skill for leaders. They must act with grace (forgiveness), respect and courtesy (politeness) to everyone, not just customers or clients. Effective leaders are gracious to all of the people who work with them, from the most prestigious employee to the person who takes out the trash, so to speak. This graciousness needs to be so ingrained that it comes naturally, without effort, and is sincere. There's nothing more forced and phony than "fake" graciousness. Again, just words are not enough. The attitude of graciousness must be behind the words, or they will be useless.

Generosity and compassion are the third key skill-set for leaders. A generous person wants everyone to be fulfilled, not just him/herself. The opposite of generosity (selfishness) leads to greed and immoral deeds. A compassionate person will not inflict undue suffering on others. Compassionate leaders put the needs of others before their own comfort and pleasure.

These skills are crucial for leaders to contemplate, learn about, and practice. If you're fortunate, you may have someone in your life who models these skills. Not all leaders are CEOs of companies, or presidents of organizations, but everyone around them knows that they are competent leaders. These people make organizations flourish.

Tyrants, dictators, monomaniacs, thugs and criminals may think that they are leaders. But they're not--they are simply bullies. They can get people to do their bidding through fear or force, but they don't lead. They punish rather than inspire; they diminish people rather than giving them ways to improve their lives.

Leadership is creative, life-sustaining and vibrant. Anyone who tries to lead without these three skills is merely a killer.

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