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Leadership Takes Skill

Leadership assignments, though highly sought after, often result in failure. In fact, according to recent data from @DDIWorld, 33% of leadership hires don't work out. Regardless of whether the disconnect is in the hiring process or in the actualized abilities of the new hire, any new leader is destined to fail if critical areas of leadership skill are not in place and in the process of development.

New leaders fail in part beause leadership is a role that is almost opposite the role of team-member. Unlike the individual team members, a leader's responsibility is no longer to "bring something to the table." In the new role of leadership, the individual must now make the critical decisions of HOW to respond, WHEN to respond, and WHAT the response should be to each team member, and to the team as a whole. These responses are the barometer that team members use to gauge whether or not they will collaborate and get involved. The ability to communicate and respond to the members of their team is a key leadership skill in moving forward and building a culture of success.

First and foremost, a leader must have personal self-awareness. Most of the messages we send are via body language and unspoken communication. Determining how you project yourself and how you come across to others is complex, to say the least. Body language, tone, physical appearance, stance, inflection, pauses, movement, and gesturing are all important unspoken forms of communication. To complicate the issue even more, the message is then filtered through the receiver's own worldview, experiences, attitude, culture, and background.

Effective communicators are constantly looking and listening to their team members and those around them in order to adapt and communicate in the language of the receiver. Because good leaders understand that interpersonal communication and awareness of one's non-verbal communication is an essential skill, successful leaders routinely practice and hone their interpersonal skills in order to continue to find success as a leader.

A second important skill that leaders must consistently develop and put into practice is the ability to harness group dynamics. Interpersonal relationships among team members can make or break the success of a project. Identifying the strengths of each individual, identifying cooperative relationships versus competitive ones, and even identifying what motivates individual members of the team, are all important abilities that effective and successful leaders possess.

The ability to identify potential personality strengths and weaknesses naturally comes with experience and seasoning, but successful leaders understand that reading people and identifying their strengths and weaknesses is critical to the success of the team. Good leaders will own this responsibility, work hard to create an environment of collaboration and open communication, and create an environment in which individuals can succeed for the benefit of the whole team.

In summary, good leaders understand that leadership is more than 'being the boss' or creating an agenda for everyone to fall in line behind. Good leaders understand that leadership is a set of learned skills that they must constantly be working to build upon. Good leaders understand that, like a muscle, leadership requires practice on a regular basis in order to maintain it's strength.

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