What is the difference between these three things and what are the connections between them?
Leadership Talents | Leadership Skills | Leadership Knowledge
From the work I do developing leaders, I’d say that leadership talents are those innate traits that a person is born with but which they need to work on to develop their potentiality.
Leadership skills are learned behaviours that a person practises and hones over time.
Leadership knowledge is acquired learning about the methods, strategies, successes and failures of other leaders in business and in different walks of life.
The difference is that first of the three is an intrinsic characteristic of the leader and the latter two are learned. And an effective leader combines all three: harnessing a mixture of their natural characteristics, their learned replicable behaviours, and their mental data and learning into their own unique way of expressing themselves as a leader and agenda-setter. The most effective leaders I work with are those people who possess some degree of innate leadership talent.
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These are things like the ability to:
- Generate follower support for shared goals
- Inspire those followers to engage with the process of attaining those goals
- Keep engaging with the process, despite the challenges of the journey
But, these effective leaders are also people who have worked hard over lengthy periods of time to develop a repertoire of leadership skills which turn their latent talent into useful leadership behaviour time and time again. These successful leaders recognise that their unique approach will be effective in many of the situations they handle. But that their personally adaptive approach won’t fit every issue that they are responsible for addressing.
What To Do
So, these leaders expand their horizons by feeding their minds by acquiring knowledge about the way other leaders, both contemporary and historical, conduct themselves in business, politics, military, sporting arenas, and in other fields as well.
It’s axiomatic to say that leaders need some degree of leadership talent, skills, and knowledge to be effective in their roles. But this merits repetition. Many, many clients I work with find themselves asked to lead without really understanding the function of a leader, without having been groomed for that position, and without the perspective they need to make their interpretation of the role safe and effective for their organisation, their followers and themselves.
So while in this new role, a varying degree of toil can take its hold on the new leader. The wear and tear on them which accrues from finding themselves in this position can be significant for some, less demanding for others.
- But with increasing pressure being applied to leaders to create more with less, how does a leader know whether or not their interpretation of their role is fit for purpose?
- Where does a leader go to find their bearings?
- How do they know if they are on the right track.
- And where do they look first for help?
Real Leadership Value
The challenge for any leader is to look inwards first: to learn about their leadership values, theircharacter, and their internal landscape. They need to understand what makes them tick as a leader. They need to identify where they can best add value, what to look for in their followers, and how these two things might be different.
Knowing themselves gives them the platform from which to make decisions about what approach to take. It also helps them understand which situations give the impact that they want to have. They get clarity with the issues on which they are dealing and with the personalities that they are handling. With a high degree of self-awareness, a leader can select and implement the most useful inter-personal tools and skills from their repertoire.
Self-awareness is priceless to a leader.
With self-awareness, leaders can make the most of what they have got; developing their innate leadership talents, cultivating effective leadership skills, and acquiring leadership knowledge which is relevant and useful to them and their people. They can recruit, groom and work with colleagues whose strengths complement their own blind spots. And they can mitigate against the potential for them getting it wrong and mishandling a situation due to those blind spots.
The Other Side
But, without self-awareness, a leader can go off course without even realising it. A leader can create dynamics in their key workplace relationships which are counter-productive and even toxic. A leader can set up the very circumstances which ultimately rebound on them, their followers and their organisation while disowning their responsibility in having created these circumstances in the first place.
Leadership is a complex role to fulfil and a constantly challenging role to handle. But, even with leadership talents, skills and knowledge, it becomes that bit more challenging a role to handle well when the leader has neglected their primary duty of learning to know themselves.
What impact does your leadership style have your followers? What qualities and attributes do you value in your followers? In which situations does your natural leadership style work well for you? In which situations does it prove counter-productive for you? Overall, how do you characterise your approach to leading?
Aryanne Oade is Director of Oade Associates
She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Image Sources: lmcuk.com, hewittassociates.com