The Two Most Important Skills Of The New Leaders.

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Silos beget compliance. Silos are getting in our way and so is compliance. Things are changing but it’s changing slower than many of us would like. In the meantime we’re left with porous organizations with the semblance of vertical structures (and the illusion of control).

Consciously or subconsciously we do not like to give up power. As the fabric of business gets reworked, leaders are having to give up control to retain the ability to lead. This is causing friction from the top and the bottom. Both those at the top and the all important in-the-trenches-leader need to develop two skills that once were seen as weaknesses.

  1. The ability to take criticism
  2. The ability to admit you’re wrong

Taking Criticism

Think about our current leaders; political, corporate or any leader in a traditional command and control structure. How well does upper management take criticism from lower levels of the business or from the outside? Not well at all. In fact most leaders block out anything but immediate feedback from peers, those even higher and maybe if they’re a good manager those directly beneath them.

This is a fatal flaw. The best feedback often comes from those furthest away from you. Not to discredit the feedback from those around you but they’re often blind to the same things you are.

Even the trolls and the haters have a kernel of truth to their criticism. It doesn’t mean you should change your leadership style or your strategy just because someone #FAIL’s you on Twitter but it’s a data point to be considered. If enough #FAIL’s start racking up then you may want to do some navel gazing.

Being Wrong

In this agile world we live in now, knowing when you’re wrong is incredibly important. It can mean the difference from professional life or death. Often we make a decision, and it’s the right decision at the right time, but times change and the ability to abandon sunk costs and move on is tough and shouldn’t be taken lightly but shouldn’t be the reason not change course. It’s a tough balance and I highly recommend Seth Godin’s The Dip: When to Quit (and When to Stick)
for a quick read on how to assess the right way and time to move on.

Part of admitting to being wrong is the all challenging apology. If social media has taught me anything it’s that “I’m sorry” is incredibly powerful and we should be using it much more. Over the last five years I’ve been bordering on abusing it but not using it sucks. Two simple (heartfelt) words can often rebuild bridges once burned in the heat of the moment.

There are of course many more skills that you’ll need to acquire along the journey of leadership but without these two I don’t think you’ll ever get there.

What are your tips for not just developing these skills for yourself but helping upper management develop these skills?

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Photo credit by Balakov

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