Here are ten skills that every leader needs, but sadly most leaders don’t possess. Many leadership development programs don’t even touch on these skills.
Traditional leadership training teaches people how to manage — but not how to lead, how to build trust or how to be human with employees. It’s time for a new approach!
Ten Skills Every Manager Needs
1. Every manager needs to be able to ask for and take in feedback from their employees — without becoming defensive. This is a fundamental leadership skill that most managers lack. They are used to calling the shots, not asking their employees how they could get better at their jobs.
2. Every manager must develop the ability to take an employee’s perspective and see things from the employee’s point of view.
3. Every manager needs to understand how his or her function fits into the overall organization and how their business competes in its marketplace. Unfortunately, many managers have no idea how their organizations compete. They know a lot about their department but very little about the industry, the world or current events. That’s a big problem!
4. Every manager needs to learn self-reflection. They need to notice their own fear reactions — for example, when their boss is upset with them or when they are upset with one of their employees. Until we can notice and temper our own fear (keeping in mind that anger is a fear reaction) we will never learn to be leaders!
5. Every manager needs to know how to acknowledge and reinforce employees – and how to avoid bashing and criticizing them when they make a mistake. True leaders accept their employees’ mistakes as their own learning opportunities — after all, being a leader means taking responsibility for everything that happens in the department.
6. Every manager needs to learn to stand up for their teammates when a higher-up manager gives an order that isn’t feasible or achievable. Leadership means facing fear and stepping through it, but this aspect of leadership gets short shrift in traditional leadership training. If you can’t stand up for your employees when there’s pressure on you to conform, you might be a supervisor — but you are not a leader.
7. Every manager needs to learn to manage his or her own career, completely apart from managing their department. We are all free agents now. We are all independent economic units. Leadership training can incorporate the idea of career self-determination and help managers develop their own long-term career plans, whether those plans keep them in the company that provided the training or take them far away from it!
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8. Every manager needs to learn to communicate with people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, religions, political stripes and personality types and must learn to be open to a wide range of perspectives. It takes patience and focus to step out of our traditional biases, but it is part of every leader’s job to do so.
9. Every leader must learn how to build trust and community at work. Without trust, a department can’t function the way it should. Too often, managers achieve results through fear — through threats, veiled or overt. That’s the opposite of leadership!
10. Finally, every manager must learn to be human at work, especially when conditions are ripe for fear-based management tactics to creep in. When we lose our humanity at work, we are no longer leaders — we are functionaries and lackeys, doing what we’re told out of fear of doing anything else.