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4 Core Skills Leaders Need to be Successful at Any Level of Management


It's a common notion to believe that leaders at different levels should have a different set of skills. However, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman of the leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman write in Harvard Business Review that leaders should be practicing the same core skills that have driven them from their first day in the workforce, no matter how high they rank.

Zenger Folkman surveyed over 330,000 supervisors, middle managers, senior managers, and top executives asking what skills leaders need to be successful in the position they currently held. Rather than finding different sets of core competencies for each level of management, the data showed an interesting consistency about which skills were perceived as most important for first-time managers to top executives and every level in between. These essential fundamental leadership skills included:

Inspires and motivates others Displays high integrity and honesty Solves problems and analyzes issues Drives for results

How can you demonstrate these skills at every level of management? Here are a few tips that Sandler recommends to help you improve each one of the leadership skills that matter most.

Leadership skill #1: Inspires and motivates others

While being self-motivated is one of the top traits of a successful employee, there are a number of things you, as a leader, can do to keep your employees and team motived and inspired.

Set small milestones. Everyone loves achieving goals and celebrating success. Set milestones that can be reached and highlight your team's success when they reach a new milestone.

Focus on purpose, not just profit. Teams and individual employees are inspired knowing that their hard work has a greater impact than profitability alone. Look beyond the obvious and create a wider reaching impact that extends into a community and influences social causes. Say thanks. People like to feel appreciated. So, why not send a quick thank you email to your team and CC your boss? Saying 'thank you' is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to show your team that you are a great leader.

Leadership skill #2: Displays high integrity and honesty

Share information. Long management meetings are bound to stir up some nervous emotions among your team. Communicate as much news as you can, so your employees' minds don't wander.

Give feedback. Whether it's good, bad, or ugly, clear and constructive feedback is necessary. Providing feedback is essential in making your team as productive as possible, so give it as often as you can.

Leadership skill #3: Solves problems and analyzes issues

Remove obstacles. Bureaucracy often suppresses creativity and innovation. If you can, cut out unnecessary paperwork and look for ways to streamline processes to make it easier for your team to succeed.

Be ready to teach. While simply giving instructions will work for some, it may not work for all employees on your team. Some employees may be too nervous to ask you for help if they don't understand a problem. Show that you are happy and willing to teach, instruct, and assist to help them solve the problem at hand.

Leadership skill #4: Drives for results

Empower through delegation. Delegate tasks among your team and delegate to give yourself time to complete tasks more appropriate for your level of management.

Raise your hand and lead by example. When your team sees you putting in extra hours and offering to help out, they will be more inclined to jump in and follow your lead. Next time a project needs additional attention, volunteer to pitch in and help.

Solve, don't just sell. Rather than selling your employees about why they need to perform better, inspire employee performance by connecting the dots of your team's efforts. Demonstrate how your team's work and the work of their contributors solves problems in conjunction.

Effectively managing and leading a team can be challenging, but understanding the most important leadership skills will help you focus your attention on what matters most. What are some of the ways you demonstrate your leadership skills to your team? Do you think these 4 skills are the most important in your organization?