What Leadership Skills Are Needed?

In Part 1,  Part 2 and  Part 3 we discussed what Employee Engagement actually is, looked into why you would want it and then explored the environment needed. But how do you go about creating this environment? This post begins to explore the leadership skills required. In the next post, we will look at leadership behaviours.

There are many skills that contribute to creating an environment where Engagement will grow. What I have done here is concentrate on the few skills which are key. In my experience, if a Leader has these skills, the rest will look after themselves.

Firstly, what do we mean by Leadership Skills? Put simply, I describe Leadership Skills as those, normally more intangible, skills which are more focused on the relationship than the task. They are ones which, when used, leave the relationship improved in some way. There are traditionally management skills which, when given a leadership slant, work considerably better. For example Delegation, (doubtless a Management Skill) with leadership skills added, move the process from ‘getting someone to do work you have delegated to them’ to ‘having someone want to do work you have delegated to them – and feel good about it!’

Key Leadership Skills are:

Communication – Normally considered as ‘transferring information’ (in fact this is a dictionary definition). However, when you look at the instances where communication fails, it is normally not that the information has not been transferred, it is that the information has not been understood. Communication, in Leadership terms, should instead be considered transferring understanding. When we see it as this, our focus shifts. Rather than being focused on being clear about what we are saying we concentrate more on verifying that people have understood. This not only results in fewer misunderstandings, but normally drives a more in-depth discussion.

Listening – considered by many as just a part of communication, and technically it is. However, it is, without a doubt, the single most important aspect of any relationship. When you truly listen to someone (rather than listening to the internal conversation you are having about the person who is speaking to you), many things change. Firstly, you really begin to understand where a person is coming from – most important when their views are in conflict with yours. Secondly, the other ‘knows’ that you are listening which in turn gives them the feeling that you are interested in what they are saying. Thirdly, these things together, have a dramatic impact on how effective the relationship is.  The focus in listening is to find a way to be fascinated by what people have to say. When you do this, your listening is genuine and significantly better.

Enquiry – when you look at most conversations between people, you will see that often, there is more ‘telling’ than ‘asking’. There is a tendency to give people your point of view, rather than work to understand theirs. In Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he discusses the importance of seeking first to understand, then be understood. Obviously,  this requires great listening skills, but there is an art in asking questions that open up people’s thinking, and have them give you the important information. I believe that, more often than not, it is the one asking the best questions who is leading the conversation.

These three skills, coupled with the Leadership Behaviours which will be discussed next time, will have you create an environment which has people become more engaged. There are others skills which could be considered leadership skills, such as Motivation, Team Building, Delegation. The reason I have not included these is because my view is that they are all tools which become great when enhance by communication, listening and enquiry. These three skills are the foundation on which great leadership is built.

Tell me what your thoughts on Leadership Skills are by using the comments option. Please share this post with your connections using the social media links. If you have not already done so, sign up to be e-mailed when new posts are published.

Next time, we will look at what Leadership Behaviours make the biggest difference in creating an environment of Employee Engagement. In the meantime, if you would like any help in developing these skills in yourself or your business, then get in touch.