There are some secret reasons for success – or failure – that nobody tells you about. You might not recognize their absence in yourself until it’s too late. If you’re lucky, an honest manager, colleague or friend might tell you about them.
I rarely see these “secret” competencies listed as required competencies for leadership in organizations, but trust me; you need to work on them.
I’ve compiled a partial list of foundational behaviors I’ve heard over the years that leaders need to improve, discovered through interviewing their stakeholders. Before you write them off as not applicable to you, consider that most of these people are high potentials and rated highly on their organization’s leadership competencies. Here they are:
Healthy relationships: A common mistake that leaders make is to hole up in their office and neglect the relationships that will help them to be successful. You have plenty of other things to do, but this is the most important. Make time in your schedule to make the connections that will be mutually beneficial.
Listening: You must go beyond hearing to developing the kind of listening that goes deeper. This kind of listening includes watching body language and observing emotions. If you don’t listen in this way you’ll miss plenty of opportunities to learn and connect to others.
Silence: A cousin to listening, leaders who exhibit strategic silence know when to stay still. They understand the impact of words that can hurt, anger, or create fear. They know that when they say too much, others stop speaking and creativity and inclusion are a lost cause.
Appropriate pace: It’s a difficult thing to match the pace of others. I find some leaders are so driven that they outpace those who follow, leaving them in the dust, confused and dazed. Other leaders may be too slow to make decisions and take action, and we all know what happens if this becomes a repeated pattern.
Patience: Many leaders are intolerant of others who might do things differently or at a pace the leader finds unacceptable. Action oriented leaders may have a tendency to jump to conclusions before things are thought through. The lack of patience can manifest itself as anger or decisions that aren’t fully thought through.
Calm: Remaining calm is a great asset that can be lacking in many leaders in our high pressure, high stress organizations. Leaders who are not calm may show anxiety and an inability to remain still. They might be excitable at the moments when an organization needs calm, spreading anxiety.
Inclusive: There are very few places where a lone wolf leader can be effective. Decisions are complex, and it takes a village of smart people to help make them. Leaders who aren’t inclusive may find that their organizations lack creativity. The people who are most talented may be taking their brilliance elsewhere.
Respect: A deep respect for all people in the organization is the hallmark of a great and enduring leader. Everyone is treated as someone who matters. Dropping the “F” bomb, threatening people’s jobs, or even just ignoring them are quick roads to unemployment line.
Professional: A leader who is professional is one who dresses appropriately, walks the talk, and is loyal to their organization. Professional leaders don’t complain to others about decisions made in the C-suite. Despite how they might feel about certain company guidelines, rules, or bureaucracies, they do what needs to be done.
Reflective: Leaders who spend their days reacting are heading for trouble. Most leaders get more responsibility by taking decisive action, but unless they take some time to reflect on past and future successes and failures they’ll eventually run into trouble. Setting aside thinking time is imperative for success.
Your company’s leadership competencies are great. But they aren’t enough for you to sustain your leadership. What additional secret competencies do you think are important?