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Building the Skills of a Leader

Mike Weber

Hikers hike. Leaders lead. Sounds pretty simple, but what does it mean? As I was climbing Mt. Jefferson last winter (20 degrees and 35 MPH wind) it struck me that what sounds simple, isn’t always that easy. (Remember my teaching on this?) To hike in winter, I had better know what gear to bring, which trails I’m taking and what kind of weather is predicted. And I had better be “in-shape” or my life expectancy will be seriously affected!

While not as dramatic as death on a mountain, leaders face similar challenges. To get where they want to go, they must become masters of a few skills and competent at many. They must be prepared in order to achieve success.

There are three basic sets of skills at which all leaders must become proficient:

  • Technical Skills: These are specific to the organization or position. Treasurers must know how to budget and read a Cash Flow Report. Captains of soccer teams better be pretty good ballhandlers. Every job requires certain technical knowledge and ability. Every organization has systems that a leader must know and understand. If you can’t do your basic job, you can’t lead.
  • Interpersonal Skills: In spite of being “lonely at the top”, leadership involves group activity. If you can’t work well with people, you probably won’t have to worry about being a leader because you’ll eventually end up playing by yourself. How to effectively communicate and work within a group is vital in leadership.
  • Executive-Function Skills: We live in a results-oriented culture. Therefore, we often evaluate leaders based on what they’ve accomplished. Executive function skills deal with how to plan, follow-through and manage resources and activities. These are a combination of self-management and organizational management. Ultimately, it means getting things done.

If you decide to hike Mount Washington in the winter, survival skills are a must. If you want to excel as a leader, you’d better become technically proficient, good at working with others and competent at getting things done.

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. - Stephen R Covey

Leadership Lesson:
Make a list of the skills needed by the leaders of your organization in order to have a great year.
Write out a skill-development plan to teach them.

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