A Very Particular Set of Skills (4 things every leader should be able to do)
Leadership is a nuanced beast. While it doesn't need a position, it does require a very particular set of skills.
These skills don't come easily. They do come with deliberate practice and care, perfected over time.
I've served with people who have led without taking the time to perfect these skills. I've served with people who practice these skills well.
There's a world of difference between the two.
Those who can execute these well, lead well. It's that simple.
To be all there
When I was a young pastor (I mean young. I was the "senior" pastor of a church at age 25, as oxymoronic as that sounds.), I decided I needed mentors. I found out early they were few and far between. I discovered a well-known pastor was in town for a conference. I wrote a letter to him via his secretary (this was before ubiquitous email - so it was snail mail typed on a Smith and Corona word processing typewriter). This nationally known pastor agreed to meet with me while he was in town, and gave me 30 minutes of his time.
There is nothing more satisfying than to have 30 minutes with someone who is all there. As busy as his schedule must have been, he gave me an undistracted half hour. I was impressed with this.
Be all there, whether it's a client meeting, a team meeting, or game night with the family. A distracted leader is not leading.
To hear without judgment
In our age of digital combativeness, listening is becoming a lost art. We don't hear. We judge. We respond. We answer. We correct. Next time you're in a conversation, do this:
Get the person across the table from you talking. Ask provocative, open-ended questions. Learn everything you can about the person. Hear what they are saying. Don't assume motive. Let them know they've been heard.
This is both a gift - and a critical leadership skill.
To separate people from issues
Most inter-personal conflict gets tangly at this point. We tend to assume the worst, and allow people to become synonymous with problems. We argue positions, rather than looking for common interests. Leadership will involve conflict resolution. The ability to see what the issues are, and to think of the people involved as people and not problems, is critical. And complicated.
To be self-aware
Know thyself. Develop the ability to look at your life objectively, honestly, and without attachment. Take input from others without taking a defensive posture. Rather than ignoring your feelings, explore them. Why am I grumpy? Why am I distracted? Why do I find the person in the airplane seat next to me so annoying? Is it them? Or, is it me?
The skill of self-awareness takes deliberate, internal practice, along with external feedback. And time.
But, as we take the time to learn and practice these very particular skills, leadership will happen. From anywhere.