The Leaders We Need…

Most books on leadership make it sound a lot like a gift or a personal trait one is borne with. I don’t particularly believe in this theory. I believe that Leadership comes from a collection of skills that one can learn to master. I admit some people might be more inclined to learn these skills. To some, they might even come naturally, but most of us can learn and use proficiently, if not all, at least some of these skills.

Leaders today face numerous challenges. One of the most fundamental challenges is how to inspire people. As a leader and an authority figure, it is easy to fall into the trap of using that authority to command and control others. This negative behavior can be avoided if the leader has the skills that enable him to influence and motivate others in achieving common (and clear) goals. Below are some of the core skills that leaders need to develop:

  • Communication skills – Speak and writing in a clear and persuasive tone is fundamental for inspiring others;
  • Interpersonal skills – Learn how to relate to others and listen to what they are really saying. People seldom come out and say exactly what they mean. Especially when communicating up;
  • Conflict-resolution skills – The ability to handle tension is paramount for a leader. A calm, collected, and rational leader, especially when there are high stakes and high emotions, inspires others;
  • Negotiation skills – Negotiation is about handling differences (different viewpoints, different goals) and looking for common ground and defining platforms for common understanding;
  • Motivational skills – Aligning all parties on a common goal is a fundamental trait for a leader;

The skills mentioned before are essentially soft skills. What so many managers fail to understand is that Management and Leadership are not the same thing. Being a manager doesn’t turn anyone into a leader. On the other hand people can be leaders and not be in any position of authority.

The table below shows the different set of skills required both in management and leadership positions. While the items on the left are key operational skills for managers, those who want to lead must also develop the the skills listed on the right.

While Managers… Leaders…
  • Plan
  • Budget
  • Envision
  • Organize
  • Manage Resources
  • Motivate
  • Inspire
  • Control
  • Solve problems
  • Negotiate
  • Resolve Conflicts

I’ve been inspired by similar comparisons, but the table above is my own (influenced and distilled) view on the major differences that I see in the behavior of managers and leaders.

Today, we are facing turbulent times, such as our generation has never seen. People with managerial skills are necessary, but those with leadership skills are fundamental.


3 Responses to The Leaders We Need…

  1. Rodrigo Durão says:

    In fact being a leader or a manager are very different things. very interesting insight on the subject.

    I believe one of the most important characteristics of a leader are the interpersonal skills, mostly listening skills… listening really makes the difference.

    By the way, great world wide spot! 🙂
    Um abraço,

  2. Pingback: Visionaries « Thousand Insights

  3. johanfrisk says:

    Really good insight, congratulations!

    The way I interpret your post, and where I agree with you, is that Managers speak to the “neo-cortex” and leaders to the “limbic” part of the brain.

    Decisions are made by the emotional centre associated with the limbic structures, whereas reasoning and logic belongs to the cortex. Martin Luther King said “I have a dream” (limbic), and not “I have a 10-step plan” (cortex).

    um abraço,

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