Developing Your Leadership Capability
It’s the age old question, in business anyway – what makes a great leader? Are they born or made? Can anyone be a good leader?
Well let’s start with the assertion that leaders can be made and anyone can develop leadership skills – otherwise I’m out of a job! The remaining question then, is how? Research by people development consultancy PeopleWise has identified seven psychological capabilities which have been shown to predict high performance at work, and also leadership capability. The good news also is that these are capabilities and not personality traits, and can all be developed and improved upon over time.
The seven capabilities identified by PeopleWise roll up into three broad categories: confidence, resilience and drive. Think of any great leaders (e.g. Churchill, Mandela, Alex Ferguson) and I think we can all agree these were confident, resilient and driven individuals! So to become an effective leader you need to work on these three aspects.
Confidence It may seem obvious what confidence is, but in a leadership context this refers to a feeling of certainty about your ability to succeed. It has two distinct components: your sense of personal value that you bring to your role, team and organisation; and personal mastery – the extent to which you can perform across a variety of situations. To make improvements to your confidence, set yourself small goals and reward yourself when you achieve them. Writing down your successes, no matter how small, can help some people, enabling them to reflect on them later when confidence is low. Seek out positive feedback from someone whose view you trust and opinion you value. Reflect on areas of your role where you lack confidence and identify which skills you need to acquire or develop in order to feel more confident. Challenge yourself where possible, push your boundaries, and remember its ok to feel uncomfortable in new or challenging situations.
Resilience I have written about resilience before – the ability to cope with adversity and bounce back stronger. Here is it refers to a sense of control, emotional maturity, adaptation and outcome
expectation. The research shows that good leaders have a clear sense of what their sphere of control is (it’s not about being a control freak!) and are able to influence the things they need to. Often we can assume something is out of our control when it isn’t, leading to a sense of helplessness when actually if we rationalise the situation there is some meaningful action we can take. Good leaders are generally positive, optimistic and expect outcomes to go in their favour. They are also able to stay calm when under pressure and be aware of when others are finding it difficult to do so. Resilience can be built through a greater sense of awareness of one’s reactions to situations and trying to rationalise them – learn to respond and not react.
Drive The components of drive are ambition and goal orientation, and one is wasted without the other. I often work with clients who are highly ambitious – keen to be the very best version of themselves and reach the highest pinnacles of their organisation – but with no structure around their ambition. To be highly driven you need both the desire and the structure. This is how you will achieve your ambitions. Set big ambitious goals, but map out your pathway too. Wanting to be CEO or make partner is fine, but how are you going to get there? You need to set smaller goals along the way, goals which will stretch you. Also make sure you review your progress against these goals and understand why things haven’t worked out the way you hoped so you can learn and improve. We can often set goals for ourselves which are either far too easy or completely unachievable. Enlist the help of a trusted colleague to help you set and review goals, make sure they are SMART!
So strong performers in the work context and good leaders all have confidence, resilience and drive. These can all be developed over time so that you too can become a great leader in your business.