What We Can Learn About Leadership from Two Little Questions
I posted two seemingly unrelated questions on my personal Facebook page. For those who know me, there is very little I do without purpose. These questions are definitely linked and definitely were asked with intention. In fact, they will serve to demonstrate a very poignant point. If you are a manager, a CEO, business owner, a VP, or have anyone reporting to you directly, keep reading. If you are a parent, a church leader, an educator, or a community official, keep reading. If you are struggling to move your career ahead, keep reading. If you are someone who wants to grow and develop into a confident leader and you feel you lack what it takes, keep reading. Your eyes are about to open.
The first question I asked was “What is your biggest challenge at work?” I received approximately 20 answers. There were 5 different countries represented in the responses, and all different job titles. Both men and women responded. I did not add any context to my question, I just asked the question… More on the responses later.
Next I posed the question “Name a leadership skill.” Again, I offered no context and no explanation. This was a less vulnerable question and didn’t require anyone to admit to their struggles, and it received nearly 30 responses. They also came from around the globe, representing several countries, and both men and women. The people who responded held an array of titles and positions in the companies where they worked.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. Very few of the answers to the first question had anything to do with the functions of their job. Not a single one of them had to do with not knowing how to complete tasks. In fact, for the most part they overlapped with the list of leadership skills that were mentioned in the second question.
I have put the answers to both questions side by side so you can see for yourself:
|What is your biggest challenge at work?||Name a Leadership Skill:|
|• Communication (x4)||• Communication skills (x 2)|
|• Team work||• Team Building|
|• Favoritism||• Guidance|
|• Feeling undervalued/appreciated||• Inspiring personality|
|• Creativity||• Creativity|
|• Connecting with others||• Servitude (servant leadership) (x2)|
|• Negative culture||• Positivity (x2)|
|• Environmental working conditions||• Behavior & attitude|
|• Sustaining a fast pace||• Fast thinker|
|• Lack of finance for projects||• Problem solving|
|• Feeling challenged||• Motivation|
|• Uncertainty||• Confidence (x2)|
|• Creating a culture of change||• Flexibility|
|• Time management||• Responsibility|
|• Keeping on track with projects||• Able to handle pressure|
|• Multi-tasking||• Delegating tasks|
|• People not following processes||• integrity (x2)|
|• Decision Making (x2)|
Can you see the parallels at work here? This chart tells me the very things people feel they are lacking, the things that would make their job performance better, create a better working environment, and bring the company’s they work for more success, are also the things they equate to leadership skills. They are not the technical or functional skills that most companies invest the most on teaching.
Ironically, or maybe not so much, these are the very same skills that we take out into the world to make the world a better place. Leadership skills strengthen our homes and our communities and even our churches. They make everything around us…stronger.
So, I started a new poll and began randomly asking people, if they feel they learned leadership skills during their formalized education. Not surprising, the answer I am receiving is an overwhelming and resounding “no” to that question. This means that if you want employees and people in your community to be empowered, to be strong leaders, and to excel in your company so as to propel your company, you cannot have the expectation that they will come to you ready to do so. You may have to take the initiative and provide the formal education they never received around these skills.
If you have employees who report to you, of if you are business owner, parent, church leader, or just someone who wants to develop the skills of a strong leader – you are in luck. The good news is: these things CAN be learned. It does not matter your role, rank, or title, you CAN be a strong leader. It doesn’t matter if you are introverted or extroverted, not that “type” or are that “type” – YOU can be a strong leader. All of us have been equipped with the traits of a good leader, learning how to embrace them, draw upon them, and strengthen them is possible with a good coach, mentor, trainer, or advisor.