Business Skills

Leadership Skills: The 22 Jobs (And Skills) of a leader

Leadership skills

The first 16 jobs listed below have been rated by managers as the top jobs of any leader, in descending order of importance (Source: HBR)


1. Inspires and motivates others (38% votes)


When asked what makes people tick, the responding participants cited 'recognition and respect' as the number-one motivating factor in the workplace. 'Achievement and accomplishment' came in second.

- Tyler Cowen


A good leader understands the big picture (where things stand, where the company and the industry understand, and other big issues). A good leader inspires people with a great vision for the future (, through leading by example, and by understanding what people need.


How a leader motivates people:


A good leader uses goal-setting (SMART Goals), regular appraisals and training plans are not enough to motivate your employees.


Time to read up on your Maslow. Here's a short checklist about how you motivate your employees at every stage (stage 1 is the basic needs stage) of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.


1. Physiological needs (Air, food, water): A clean, bright and happy place to work etc.

2. Safety needs (Personal security, health, financial security): Office in a good locality, health-friendly initiatives (e.g. work from home, flexi timings), ample job security (no rapid fire hiring and firing), chances to grow professionally, training etc.

3. Love and belonging (friendship, family): Well performing teams, group activities, birthday celebrations, outings, subsidized/free food etc. (and option to not be present in any of these activities, as well)

4. Esteem (Recognition, value): Competitions, public recognition of exemplary work, timely promotions, rewards, etc.

5. Self-actualization ('What a man can be, he must be.'): Giving people all the opportunity to success, to try out new stuff, to take on new roles and challenges, etc.


Also know: Hertzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene factors

Factors for job satisfaction: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement, growth

Factors for job dissatisfaction (the characteristics associated with job dissatisfaction are called hygiene factors): company policies, supervision, relationship with supervisors and peers, work conditions, salary, status, security


Note: This quick guide to motivating people has been reproduced from the guide to 'Running business'.


What motivates people:

- Goals: And also letting people know how they are doing in relation to the goals - give timely, specific, non-judgmental, and usable feedback. Use negative feedback sparingly.


- Expectations: People want to know if they can really do it, and will success lead to rewards, and most importantly, is the reward worth having?


- Rewards: There are two types of rewards


Intrinsic Rewards (make people feel good inside - celebrations of achievement, public recognition of success etc) and

Extrinsic Rewards (better pay, bonuses, company perks like company car or health plan, longer holidays, better pensions, trips abroad and promotion.)


A good leader makes sure people (can expect) both these two kinds of rewards.


2. Displays high integrity and honesty

This is clear enough, but challenging when put in practice.


3. Solves problems and analyzes issues

A good leader is always 'part of the solution.' Always.


Read the guide to 'problem solving' for more tips.


4. Drives for results

A good leader only makes measurable goals and motivates, inspires and helps the team to achieve them, on time, and under budget.


5. Communicates powerfully and prolifically

A good leader is a master of clear, concise, and constant communication, either verbal or non-verbal, or written, using any medium and method to get the message across in time. More importantly, a good leader is a great listener, like, a really great listener. A great leader, on the other hand, practices empathy ('being in other people's shoes') constantly.


A good leader can explain things using stories, and can also make themselves/other people as parts of a greater story, in order to motivate people.


Read the 'communication skills' for plenty of tips on plenty of communication skills.


Also read this:


How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

- Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

- Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.

- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.

- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

- Let the other person save face.

- Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be 'hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.'

- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.

- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.

- Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

(Source: Dale Carnegie)


6. Collaborates and promotes teamwork

A good leader has a collaborative approach to work, and is able to make and run teams effortlessly.


Please read part 2 of this guide to leadership, 'leaders and their teams' for more tips on creating effective teams.


7. Builds relationships

A good leader is always helpful to others. A good leader understands the importance of 'give and take' in relationships, and thus is able to bring a lot of useful people, from different fields, in their professional network.


Remember: Willingness to return a favor declines over time.


8. Displays technical or professional expertise

A good leader is great in their specific domain, but they also tend to know essential bits of other fields needed in their current project.


9. Displays a strategic perspective

This is the vision and goals part. A good leader is not content with forming a vision and a plan, and getting people along side to make it work, but also is quick to make changes depending on new information and situation.


Please also read the guide to 'business problem solving' for more tips on this.


10. Develops others/leading people to their greater futures (and not just theirs)

A good leader knows people learn best by doing, not theory and talk alone. So, a good leader empowers and delegates people, as well as coaching them when needed.


11. Takes initiatives

Nothing beats action, swift action. A good leader know this. A good leader also tries new things, when old things will not suffice.


12. Innovates

A good leader knows the value of using common sense, creativity, 'out of box' thinking' and disruptive solutions to solve problems.


Please read the guides to 'creative thinking' (also includes tips on brainstorming), and lateral thinking'.


13. Champions change

Nothing is temporary. Everything is cyclical. New trends replace old trends. A good leader knows this primal reality and keeps pushing for new ideas and new plans all the time.


14. Connects the group to the outside world

A good leader understands the big picture, as well as the role of greater forces (politics, natural forces, culture, competition, etc) in shaping the results of any project, and thus keeps the team aware of the latest changes relevant to the success of the project.


15. Establishes stretch goals

A good leader is not a rigid person 99% of the time. Knowing the value of SMART goals, a good leader is well attuned with the current situation, knowing also that sometimes a big step is needed is needed, because 'a big chasm cannot be crossed in two steps, but a big jump'.


16. Practices self-development

A good leader is open-minded enough to learn from every project ('the journey is the destination') and also tries to learn new skills, as per market demands, and also to meet one's personal/professional goals.


And, now six of this writer's jobs for a leader:


17. Follows others before getting own followers

A good leader follows others (pleasing bosses, learning from historical figures etc) before they become effective leaders themselves and getting followers of their own.


19. Remains grounded

A good leader doesn't get carried away with all the romantic ideas and myth of 'great' leaders. They know a single person can't ever solve big things inside complex systems (organizations, countries). They just know where people got to be (vision), the things people have to do to be there (processes), and then do all in their power to see that the process (composed of many tasks, sub-tasks) is successfully completed in time.


A good leader doesn't get carried away in the myth of charismatic person who can do anything, and that the idea of 'charismatic leaders' has been oversold by numerous business books and media in general (the so-called 'leadership industry', in words of the New Yorker magazine).


A self-aware leader knows where they stand in the story, always.


20. Uses positive power

Three types of positive power that a good leader uses: Charismatic power (personality), expert power (Leading from the front - knowing and doing the job very well), and referent power (because you have the power to do things)


21. Manages time well

A good leaders knows the cost of wasting time by procrastinating, making unrealistic goals/time estimates, allowing poorly run meetings to go on and on, focusing on urgent tasks instead of competing the important tasks first, failing to plan well, not delegating small stuff, etc.


Thus, a good leader best time management practices - prioritizing all tasks, creating followable deadlines and calendars, using checklists and templates, making sure meetings have a purpose, time limit, and include only essential people; and always communicates briefly but clearly.


Please read the guide to 'productivity/time management' for more tips.


22. Manages self

A good leader manages herself/himself well. Here are Peter Drucker's 12 rules for self-management :


1. Live by your values, whatever they are.

2. Speak up! No one can 'hear' what you’re thinking without you be willing to stand up for it.

3. Honor your own good word, and keep the promises you make.

4. When you ask for more responsibility, expect to be held fully accountable.

5. Don’t expect people to trust you if you aren’t willing to be trustworthy for them first and foremost.

6. Be more productive by creating good habits and rejecting bad ones.

7. Have a good work ethic, for it seems to be getting rare today... 'old-fashioned' values like dependability, timeliness, professionalism and diligence are prized more than ever before. Be action-oriented. Seek to make things work. Be willing to do what it takes.

8. Be interesting. Read voraciously, and listen to learn, then teach and share everything you know.

9. Be nice. Be courteous, polite and respectful. Be considerate.

10. Be self-disciplined.

11. Don’t be a victim or a martyr. You always have a choice, so don’t shy from it:

12. Keep healthy and take care of yourself. Exercise your mind, body and spirit so you can be someone people count on, and so you can live expansively and with abundance.

(Source: Harvard Business Review)


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