While we hear every day that change is the new normal, not everything is in a constant state of flux. Case in point: there are evergreen leadership skills leaders always need to be effective.
These evergreen skills, which we’ll discuss in detail below, aren’t sexy. But they are both timeless and critically important. And when used together, they will work magic across leaders' daily routines and spark actions in others around them. They fall across three categories:
- Interaction skills
- Business judgment skills
- Personal mastery
Let’s explore each of these areas in more detail. And let’s begin by looking at why leaders need to start early to develop their evergreen skills.
What’s different and special in the job of a leader?
One of the biggest shifts a new leader must make is to start getting work done through others in meaningful, encouraging, and engaging ways.
A leader should not be tricked by the glory and shine that comes with a leadership title. Leaders can be liked and admired and, along the way, keep their employees engaged and motivated. It won’t matter, however, unless leaders can also achieve business outcomes against goals and the strategy.
Here’s a checklist of some key areas where leaders are expected to deliver:
- Manage personal impact, set an example, and be a role model.
- Achieve results through others by coaching and empowering the team.
- Bring out the best in others and mobilize, grow, and inspire the team and keep morale up.
- Drive key business outcomes and connect daily actions to the broader vision and goals.
As this list makes clear, just being an outstanding technical expert and knowing what exactly their team should do is also not enough. High performance alone is no predictor of success in the leader’s role. In fact, research has confirmed a horrifying 57 percent of people have left a job specifically because of their manager.
Leadership, after all, is about the balance between business skills and people skills. Leaders need to begin attaining that balance early in their leadership careers.
The skills needed to communicate and connect with people
Among the most important evergreen leadership skills are the interaction skills leaders apply in their many daily conversations. These include the conversations needed to engage their teams and networks, and to drive productivity and results.
The skills leaders need through their career include:
- Active and authentic listening skills to make people feel valued, respected, and heard.
- Asking questions that guide the interaction and promote active involvement in the conversation.
- Conducting purposeful conversations and achieving the intended end results.
- Building strong working relationships based on trust and respect.
- Being a good coach, and balance seeking and telling information.
- Providing feedback to encourage others and help them improve.
- Giving effective positive and developmental feedback.
DDI has been helping leaders build these skills for almost 50 years, yet today they are more important than ever. They also are the ones that help team members meet both practical and personal needs that occur in every conversation.
These skills are what enable leaders to motivate their teams to deliver with purpose and involvement. Also, organization-wide adoption of these skills creates a common leadership language and supports the cultural transformation and wide workforce engagement.
Evergreen leadership skills associated with making better decisions
Good decision-making has always been what sets good leaders apart. This is why business judgment skills are an evergreen requirement of effective leadership.
The importance of decision-making is as true at the front line as it is at higher organizational levels. Frontline leaders are the closest to a company’s customers and are the direct driver of strategy execution.
They must make multiple decisions every day. To do so effectively, they need to know exactly how the business works and what customers need in order to translate company priorities into sound action plans for their teams.
Skills related to business judgment include:
- 360-degree and critical thinking: obtaining and processing information from multiple sources, understanding, analyzing, evaluating, reasoning, and problem-solving.
- Driving for results: setting stretching goals, measuring progress, and meeting objectives.
- Customer focus: keeping the customer needs and wants top of mind and center of all that you do.
- Delegation: purposefully developing team members through delegation and empowerment.
- Building networks across the organization to stay up to date on the business and any relevant changes that could impact leaders and their teams.
For aspiring leaders it’s important to grow understanding of the trends and makeup of their industry, in order to learn the business and make better decisions. Learning these skills will also help leaders navigate, build, and leverage the network of partners inside the organization and manage multiple stakeholder relationships and competing agendas.
Personal mastery: know yourself and manage how you work with others
Self-awareness, relating both to strengths and development opportunities and also to personal values, preferences, motivations, and potential derailers helps leaders build and manage their brand and work effectively with others.
These evergreen leadership skills are especially handy in high-stress situations where leaders must work under pressure. Self-awareness also helps leaders gain confidence in their own skills and proactively learn about opportunities for improvement before they negatively affect performance.
The following are skills that help achieve personal mastery:
- Emotional intelligence. This include recognizing, processing, and managing one’s own emotions and responding to others’ emotions.
- Receptivity to feedback. As my first leader used to tell me: Feedback is a gift—silently listen to it, say “thank you,” and only then decide what to do with it.
- Having a growth mindset and working purposefully to improve and develop through dedication and hard work. This means being consistent, open, and honest. It also means acting in alignment with ethical, moral, and professional guidelines and principles.
- Mental toughness to overcome concerns, doubts, worries, and conditions preventing you from hitting the goals and achieving desired outcomes. This is being able to recover from difficulties or failure and continue pursuing the intended goals.
Blend them all together
Some people have natural tendencies toward these evergreen leadership skills, but every single one of them can also be learned and developed. That’s great news, because these are the skills that will help frontline leaders navigate ambiguity and anxiety, everyday challenges, and the expectations placed on them.
The magic starts when leaders apply these evergreen leadership skills in their daily work. When they do, they become better leaders and peers who achieve more, spark productivity, creativity, and engagement in their teams, and drive financially successful organizations.
The magic continues when they leave the workplace and apply these skills in life to be supportive and thoughtful partners, caring and wise parents, and kind neighbors and community members, contributing to a better future for all.
Learn how DDI can help develop the essential skills every leader needs.
Elizaveta Stronskaya is DDI’s Marketing Team Leader in Europe and is also responsible for DDI operations in Moscow. She is passionate about digital transformation, international and multinational teams and projects, and good leadership as an accelerator for businesses. Outside of work she’s a curious and experienced traveller, a gamer, and she loves to bake a cake every now and then. Share your travel tips and favourite recipes with her at Elizaveta.Stronskaya@ddiworld.com