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What are the competencies of an effective leader? More than 100 years of leadership research has outlined the successful skills and abilities that are associated with leadership effectiveness. Below are the top 10 competencies outlined with some more detailed information.
As you read, remember, aspiring managers should be concerned with developing the competencies they need to become an effective leader. Remember you “manage” projects, task, assignments; but you “lead” people.
- Social Intelligence (SI)
Understanding of social situations and dynamics and sensitivity to social situations, and ability to operate effectively in a variety of social situations.
- Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills could be seen as a subset of social intelligence, but these are the more relationship-oriented aspects of social effectiveness. We often talk about the “soft skills” of the leader, and these are best represented by interpersonal skills. (Being an active listener, effective communication, personal relationships.)
- Emotional Intelligence (EI)
A complement to social intelligence, emotional intelligence is our ability to communicate at the emotional level, understand emotions and emotional situations, and be in tune with our own emotions. These are particularly related to leadership “charisma.” (“Reading” others’ nonverbal cues, particularly cues of emotion. Learn to regulate and control your emotions and your emotional outbursts. Practice expressing feelings and become an effective emotional “actor” – learning how to express emotions appropriately.)
“Wisdom,” but it comes from being able to see others’ perspectives and through being open to and considering others’ points of view. (Listen to others. Work to be more open and broader minded. Learn to ask for others’ opinions and consider them as you choose a course of action.)
This is having the courage to take calculated risks and the courage to: (a) stand up for what you believe; (b) do the right thing. (This takes some effort, but is rooted in developing and holding onto strong personal values. If you truly value something or someone, you will have the courage to stand by your principles.).
- Conflict Management
Helping colleagues to avoid or resolve interpersonal conflicts. Leaders are often called upon to adjudicate when members are in conflict, but it also involves having the ability to either avoid or resolve your own conflict situations. A big part of conflict management is helping conflicting parties to collaborate
(a win-win outcome) or to compromise (each party needs to be flexible and give up something).
- Decision Making
One of the core competencies for leaders is the ability to make good decisions or lead a good decision-making process. There are better and worse ways to make decisions and a good leader understands when to make a decision, when to consult subordinates or peers and bring them into the decision-making process, and when it’s time to step back and let others decide. (Experience and studying when decisions have gone wrong and gone right is the best way to hone these skills. We often learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.)
- Political Skills
Every group or organisation is, at its core, full of politicking. People will try to bend rules, gain allies, or push their personal agenda, etc., in order to try to get ahead. An effective leader is a good political player, who knows how the game is played, but can also manage political behaviour so that it does not lead to group or organisational dysfunction. (Political skills are learned through experience and learning about people and social dynamics.)
- Influence Skills
At its core, leadership is about influencing others, so a great leader is a master of social influence, and able to wield power effectively and fairly. Calling on your interpersonal (“soft”) skills can make you much more influential in a leadership rule. (Making reasonably well-thought-out arguments. Seeing things from another’s perspective can help you understand what they want from a negotiation, and allows you to focus on win-win situations.)
- Area Expertise/Competence
Many people might list this first, but in today’s world, knowledge of all aspects of the job is not as important as it used to be. In high-tech industries, or creative firms, team members may have more relevant knowledge and expertise than leaders. Still, it is important that leaders develop their expertise in the particular situation, organization, or industry in which they lead.
In the next article, we will go into more detail and address additional skills needed for being an effective People Manager. However, keep these 10 skill sets in mind as they are a great starting point for self-evaluation of if being a people manager is right for you.