Handy checklist of leadership skills
Leadership requires crafting an agenda, working in a deeply political world and working closely with other people. Schools do not teach this. Business school fails dismally to teach this, and most corporate training swings wildly between technical training (accounting and systems) and tree hugging, raft building and team building on the other side, according to Jo Owen in the book The Leadership Skills Handbook: 50 Essential Skills You Need to Be a Leader.
The book aims to provide a framework for observing and learning from leadership experiences, by briefly describing a large number of different leadership skills. The skills are grouped into mindset skills, career skills, people skills, moment of truth skills, daily skills, organization skills, and values and behaviours.
While reading the book it seemed to me as if the author had overlooked a number of important leadership skills, but after making my own list and re-reading the book I am satisfied that the book does cover almost every skill I could think of, although not in the terms I would have used. The author’s forthright and sometimes Machiavellian advice includes:
- “The received wisdom about (the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is that there is no ‘bad’ category. This is a fiction used by facilitators who want an easy time with the groups they lead.”
- “Managers use numbers the way drunks use lamp posts: for support, not illumination.”
- “(To motivate people) try to figure out how to appeal to fear, greed and idleness.”
- “An effective leader needs to be unreasonable, selectively. In setting expectations the leader learns to be selectively deaf: you will not hear all the excuses about rising input costs, increasing competition and demanding customers.”
I found the book entertaining to read, but I am still uncertain how valuable it is within the context of leadership development. It provides a useful checklist of skills, but the few pages devoted to each skill are insufficient to give a full understanding. As the author says, leaders learn from experience, not from courses. Perhaps the book helps you to recognise a mistake once you have made it.