When we think and speak of leaders in business we often refer to those at the top … the ones with the overall responsibility of guiding the organization to achieve the goals that have been identified as ones that will take to desired and anticipated success. As I spend time in varied companies scattered among numerous types of businesses I know that leadership is not only at the C-level of the organization. Rather leadership as a role and skill is prevalent within divisions, departments, committees and teams. Thus, beginning to develop the skills that make for impactful and successful leadership is to every person’s benefit regardless of a desire to move up within the organization or simply to be very successful in executing the job that they do at any level beginning right now!
Leadership traits that work include (at least) these …
Inspirational … Attentive … Respected … Caring … Empathetic … Effective Communicator … Good Listener … Learner … Decision Maker … Open to Criticism
If we were to consider this list to be complete (and it’s not) where does one learn them? Learning to swim, ride bikes, play an instrument in reality and ultimately takes one to just start. Of course we could read of the theoretical process involved however only
Ah … but wait. There are business schools and courses that focus on leadership and that will enable someone to have understanding and develop the skills needed. That’s true and at least that’s how some schools or courses promote themselves. Yet, all we need to do is speak to someone who had the classroom education prior to entering business and ask them how easy their book learning made the real-life job. What you will most-likely hear is that the real
learning took place only after they got into a job. Thus entering that swimming pool is where we can actually learn HOW to swim.
Joshua Spodek teaches ‘leadership’ and in doing so prefers the active to the passive teaching with exercises designed to master leadership concepts. He recently wrote a book entitled Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow. Here are some quotes revealing his beliefs that drive the learning style to which he prescribes:
- “What holds people back isn’t not knowing what skills to have but how to get them and use them effectively.”
- “Intellectually knowing that self-awareness is important doesn’t increase yours. I know the principles of playing piano. But I haven’t practiced, so I can’t play.”
- “To develop social and emotional skills, you need to take on social and emotional challenges.”
- “Business school taught me you about leadership but not how to lead? School taught me principles but gave me little practice using them. I’m not saying lectures and case studies are worthless, but they can’t substitute for facing personal challenges.”
- Spodek learned that “experiential, active learning is more effective for fields like leadership that are active, social, emotional, expressive, and performance-based. Be it acting, playing musical instruments, athletics or the military … in all of them we teach through practice and rehearsal. When you master the basics, you move to intermediate skills. When you master them, you move to advanced.”
Here is the best news for all of us. Chances are that in some way we each have the opportunity to be a leader be it a formal position as such or simply an opportunity to lead in a decision making process pertaining to a project. That means that we do have the opportunity to try approaches and methods that will serve to strengthen our leader skills so that we become known as Inspirational … Attentive … Respected … Caring … Oh you get it. I predict you won’t have to look far to play the role with only benefits ahead. What’s the best school for learning great leadership skills? It’s the one we each create by seeking out and recognizing opportunity to develop and hone these valuable skills.