If you turn to most organizations – including your own – you’ll likely be able to list out the ‘core values’ that anyone within the workplace should embody. Look in the break room, on the annual performance appraisal, or maybe on some cool tchotchke given out at an annual workplace event; you’ll see things like ‘integrity,’ ‘team work,’ and ‘customer focus’ listed. This is the social contract that anyone working for that organization should abide by.
Regardless of what your organizational values are, it’s showing time again – especially in today’s modern workplace – that there really are six fundamental competencies that any leader (regardless of organization, profession, level within the business, or role) should focus their energy on if they want to not just survive, but thrive, in today’s workplace. And the best part: you probably already have an awesome handle on most of them.
“But I’m not a leader!”
You may be thinking, “Wait a minute: you say ‘leader,’ but I’m not a leader.” Bull! A “leader” is anyone who needs to influence and, well, lead within the organization. That could be a department head leading a corporate function, a project manager leading a team to accomplish a goal, an individual contributor with no formal leadership authority, but still needing to get their stuff done – everyone within today’s workplace is, indeed, a leader one way or another.
In short: if you’re in a work situation where you need to interact with co-workers, bosses, direct reports, or customers, then guess what, friend? Congrats, you’re a leader!
WHY THESE SIX COMPETENCIES?
There’s been a lot conversation about what are the ‘right’ competencies that someone serious about their own leadership development should focus on. But when you look at the field, the latest books on the topic, and where experts ‘out there’ are focusing their energy, it’s really these six:
1. Being Authentic
2. Having Leadership Courage
3. Leveraging Empathy
4. Using Inclusive Communication
5. Building Relationships
6. Shaping Culture
What’s interesting about the six areas is that they are very intertwined. For example: being your authentic self as a leader requires having courage; building relationships requires effective communication skills, etc. So, while we’re looking at these six leadership competencies one at a time, they really wonderfully interconnect to make up the whole leadership you.
Let’s explore these ‘top six.’
1. Being AUTHENTIC
A smart leader is one who’s authentic: they conduct business as their true selves (and not just a company ‘talking head’), they are truthful, and have self-awareness of their skills and abilities; they know what they bring to the table as well as where they lack competence. Nothing erodes trust (your ultimate goal as a leader) by being insincere and fake. Authentic leaders are genuine.
2. Having leadership COURAGE
Leadership courage isn’t that action hero kind of courage, but it’s being brave enough to do the right thing, even if it’s against the majority (or your bosses or customers). Having courage allows you to not get stuck in a rut, but to try new things, be innovative, have those more challenging conversations, ask “why are we doing it this way?” and be able to speak up and put yourself out there.
3. Leveraging EMPATHY
A leader who leverages empathy puts themselves in other people’s shoes. They think about situations from not just their own position but that of the other person. Smart leaders know that emotions and logic both play a part in the modern workplace, and they are open to listening and learning about the context of others within their team.