Leaders can be iconic, causing a shift in how people approach leadership. Unfortunately, a leader who really changes things—a company, a product, or an industry—often causes a “guaranteed success!” rallying cry that is doomed to fail for many. After all, leadership, at its very core, is unique to each company and each individual. Some people can respond to a leader who is authoritative and dynamic; others may perform better under a leader who acts as a mentor to the team. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership; leaders must think beyond themselves, and develop their skills at every level.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” ~ Jack Welch
Leaders are human, first and foremost. They may not have graduated magna cum laude. They might have strange habits that inspire them. They might wear the same outfit every day to put more energy where it belongs. They’re just like us, only NOT like us. And they might not even be in positions of leadership.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu
Today’s leaders are tasked with adapting to an ever-evolving workforce that is highly diverse and tech-savvy. Since Baby Boomers are now heading into retirement, younger generations—including internet-native Millenials—are assuming leadership roles earlier in their careers. Teams and mission drive progress more than hierarchy.
Compton City, CA, Mayor Aja Brown made history in June 2013 as the youngest Mayor the city had ever elected. Her leadership has created positive changes in the city, with Compton’s crime rate dropping 25% and an urban renewal underway. Aja Brown was one of nine leaders featured in Leadercast 2015, “The Brave Ones.” The one-day event, held at NOVA’s Annandale Campus, featured leaders from many diverse backgrounds, but all shared the same essential quality of bravery in leadership.
Bravery is … reserved for those whose innovation in their industry cause them to stand out from the crowd, whose unyielding effort and error push their organizations into new territories, and whose boldness compels them to stand up for those less fortunate. [VIDEO: highlights from Leadercast 2015]
In our shifting economic landscape, leadership is evolving. Gone are the days of seniority and perks. Today’s leaders are mission-driven, team-centric, and flexible. Here are some essential skills that can help you become a more effective leader, and all are taught through NOVA’s Workforce Development Division.
- Learn to cope with change.
Change is going to happen. Understanding change and risk, and how they are related, is both an art and a science. A good leader should know how to acknowledge and handle change, and reduce stress induced by it.
- Learn to cope with conflict.
Leaders must learn to resolve differences, reduce the potential for continued conflict, and build more positive relationships both professionally and personally. It all begins with self-analysis and understanding.
- Know your team.
The effectiveness of a team can make or break a business. Know how teams function, including individual and group dynamics. Learn strategies to create effective virtual teams for better collaboration and relationships.
- Know your mission.
Your plan will undoubtedly evolve and adapt from its original idea, but every organization needs a plan to stay on track and grow. Learn how to carry out a planning process and follow through in order to keep your mission moving forward.
- Know your limits.
Delegation is a critical skill that many leaders fail to understand. Learn how to properly delegate responsibility, authority, and accountability. Recognize things that can’t be delegated, and learn how to monitor progress without micro-managing.
NOVA’s Workforce Development Division has a Certificate in Management Practices for those seeking a firm foundation in management fundamentals. Many individual courses are available that address the five skills listed above and more.
If you are interested in learning more, visit MyWorkforce to browse courses and certificates in leadership, management, and many other professional and personal development programs!
I originally wrote this article for NOVA Workforce Development Division’s blog.