Whether it's a Fortune 500 company or a top tier university, these organizations are looking for more than intelligent individuals, they're looking for leaders. That's why developing leadership skills early in one's life is so critical.
Competition at work is fierce and it's difficult to remain ahead of the pack. While obtaining a college diploma may be important to the advancement of one's career, in today's workplace a well-educated individual is becoming commonplace.
Even the advancement opportunities for people with superior technical skills are limited. An employee might be recognized as a specialist, or even a subject matter expert. But without good leadership skills, they're going to be limited to a "technical" career path. There is even a term for people in those positions in an organization: individual contributors.
There's nothing wrong with being an individual contributor, but exhibiting leadership potential provides additional growth opportunities. Every organization that fills a job opening for a manager or supervisor hopes that person they are going to hire is a leader. That's because even managers that have successfully demonstrated they can deliver superior results can have their careers derailed by weak leadership skills.
So what exactly are the characteristics and / or skills that are found in leaders, and how can they be learned? There is an expression "natural born leaders," but it's hard to believe that genetics has much to do with true leadership abilities. It could be argued that individuals demonstrating leadership qualities early in life are probably just emulating someone very close to them, a father or mother, someone that has subconsciously taught them these skills.
In fact, nearly everyone exhibits leadership skills or characteristics under certain conditions. This could happen in a work setting, at home, or in the community. These are skills that are developed and honed over a lifetime. They grow in complexity as personalities grow. The trick then is to accelerate the skills development process, so they're exhibited early in one's career.
This website has already published several articles that explain the finer points of leadership. We've provided hints on how to further develop these skills in the following topics:
The article on transformational leadership explains a concept that James MacGregor Burns developed when describing these types of leaders. Specifically, the article covers the concepts of transformational and transactional leadership, moral and amoral leaders.
The article on conditional leadership explains the four styles developed by Ken Blanchard: directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating. It also reviews the conditional leadership model developed in Daniel Goleman's emotional intelligence. One of the key skills of conditional leadership theory is the ability to flex a style to the current work environment.
Finally, the article on Leadership Styles discusses the six styles identified by Goleman. In that article, are descriptions outlining the most appropriate time to use a particular style. That article concludes with some hints on how to become skilled in the art of mastering multiple leadership styles.
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