6 otherly competencies of a superlative leader

talk“Good luck on your new position,” said the outgoing chairman. “You’ll start heading towards your objectives, look behind you, and find no one there.”

“I don’t know why no one will help,” complained another leader. “Surely they can see I am overloaded. I can’t understand why they don’t step up and pitch in.”

If there is a number one always present failure in leaders, I would say it is in the competencies or rather lack of competencies they have in working with others. It seems to be endemic among leaders, who are almost always observant and aware and actively involve themselves with the job at hand, that those leaders expect others to be as observant and aware as they are.

But they seldom are.

Indeed, superlative leaders possess highly competent skills in relating to and working with others. Here are six ways they do that.

1. Communicate effectively and appropriately with others. Email and texting has its place, but effectiveness may preclude them. In a CYA (Cover Your A**) world, the desire to have a written record of communication has its place. But nothing works as well as a face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversation. Use email to summarize what you’ve talked about. Give enough information for others to do their job. Don’t use information or withholding it to control others. And don’t make people ask you the right questions. I’ve seen leaders dole out answers based on the question refusing to discern and intuit what the questioner really wants and needs. Many times subordinates don’t know what questions to ask, certainly won’t know all the nuances of a situation that they might need to respond responsibly.

2. Always develop others. Hardly anyone will be at the level of competence or commitment where they can respond to the demands of the situation without some adjustment. Superlative leaders actively and deliberately develop others around them. I am writing a course on this very subject which I will make available in a few weeks. Make this competence something you do on purpose.

3. Demand accuracy and truth. I wrote earlier about how the Allied chief of staff was informed about the evidence indicating a German offensive but the headquarters refused to believe it. The other side of the coin is to have associates who tell you only what they think you want to hear. Never tolerate sycophants. Insist that you are told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

4. Build and maintain relationships. Powers of persuasion need someone to persuade. Leadership is a people process. Our circle of concern is always bigger than our circle of ability. Tools and technology will help us. People will help us more.

5. Manage teams and work groups effectively. This goes along with #4. The temptation to do it yourself is at times overwhelming and oft times more efficient. But in the end it’s less effective. You have neither the time nor the talent to do everything that has to be done. Your role and objective to become even more effective demands that your competencies extend to the ability to monitor and direct the work of teams you have in place.

6. Build bridges and deal with opposition. You can provoke antagonism or you can ameliorate it. You will have those who oppose what you do. Develop the competence to deal with it. Weak leaders resort to blame shifting, accusations, and playing politics. Strong leaders don’t.

On Thursday, I will sum up the competencies of a superlative leader with 6 universal abilities.