What nobody knows about being a leader

13 November 2017


The secret of leadership by Simon Sinek

Becoming a recognized leader demands having a mindset not everybody has. As Simon Sinek points out in this video, not every manager is a leader because not every manager has the mindset dictating willingness to sacrifice themselves for their people’s good. Indeed, in the video, one may recognize the characteristics of the ideal leader:

1. Visionary

2. Courageous

3. Empathetic

However, I always wondered if any great leader was born with those qualities, or if it was an organic evolution of their inner values through time and experience. Maybe a bit of both, but I would argue that a great leader, most particularly in business, is someone who is willing to risk stepping outside of his safety zone to express his/her inner values, world beliefs and long-term vision.

Of course, there are different types of leaders ranging from school to government offices. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, not everyone gets the perfect combination of leadership skills. Everyone should be wandering by now, how can I become a leader? What is the process to develop leadership qualities? Let’s dive into the truths of social success and see how you can develop your inner leader. For that, you have to wait until the end of the article!

 

Technical skills at the beginning of the process

“She is a marketing genious”

“Sales presentations have no secrets for her”

“He communicates so much passion when he talks about his management techniques. He is definitely the best!”

In the workplace, It is common that the most successful professionals master their field of expertise. Indeed, knowing what nobody else knows or doing things better and faster than everybody else significantly improves your chances to be recognized as a valuable asset in the workplace. The reason is you are an added-value to the organisation because you are knowledgeable about a topic nobody else is.

In a TED-Ed video it is mentioned in that the only reason one is more skillful than the next is successive repetition of a specific task.Indeed, the neural pattern associated with the task is integrated in the long term memory optimizing the pace with which the information travels between neurons.

So you might agree with the saying that technical skills, obtained through successive repetition, are central to social success because of the added-value it creates. However technical skills are not enough. Indeed, they are accessible to practically anyone willing to put in the right amount of practice.

 

Interpersonal competences to complete technical skills

‘They are so confident when they speak, it’s inspiring’

‘She was actively listening to what I said and asked questions, I felt empowered’

‘He always on the lookout for new ideas, a creative genius!’

The former NYU professor, Finbarr Bradley, author of Digging Deeper, comments on the value of training the interpersonal competences. He highlights that technical skills have lost value over the years because of large accessibility. Of course, the availability of knowledge does not guarantee the rightful use of it but it certainly diminishes its value.

So, how can a knowledgeable professional stand out from other knowledgeable professionals?. A possible answer is well-mastered interpersonal competences also known as soft skills. They are competences used to leverage one’s value by convincing, listening and inspiring others. In fact, some would talk about human skills,meaning the ability to communicate efficiently with others.

For instance, Forbes magazine mentions competences such as curiosity and creativity as number one skills to master in today’s workplace. However, other competences might be more important depending on the environment and the availability of the competence.

If innovativeness is not very common, then it will be more valuable than where innovativeness is fairly common. For instance, in my personal experience, I  find adaptability and proactivity the most important skills to succeed in the aeronautical world and the public administration because the environment is hostile to change and due to the many people involved you have to make sure to be visible by having the courage to raise your hand.

If you are not convinced that interpersonal competences trigger success, the large media coverage on the topic will. Check out Forbes’ magazine article on the topic.

So, given that a lot of people know about technical skills and interpersonal competences, how come so many talented individuals fail to become great leaders. Well, another factor comes into play.

 

Self-development skills, the last step before being a recognized leadership

Toulouse Business School’s motto, Think outside the box comes as very relevant here. In fact, limiting education to technical skills and interpersonal competences is not enough to raise leaders. Indeed, a great leader seems to holds a vision and has a developed self-awareness. The awareness of yourself, of your values, of your vision for a better life.

The learning on your inner vision is called under the category: self-development. After researching the topic, I found that self-development is the ability to become the best version of yourself. A leader is most often than not engaging in meditation, morning rituals, self talk which favors the activity of concentrating on the inside.

For instance, if you look at one of my favorite leader, Oprah Winfrey, she knows what she wants to accomplish in life and admits her vision drives her life and her decisions. In other words, leaders are driven by an ideal vision of life and act towards it. The vision becomes so strong that it makes them secure and self-confident enough to stand out and share their vision with others. That’s where courage comes into play. Others will then feel inspired by authenticity and truth but they will only follow you if they feel safe. Making them feel safe is the result of a perfect use of technical skills and interpersonal competences.

To recap, as a visionary you create a vision. Courage will trigger sharing it with others. And finally you will bring your vision to life by making others safe, fulfilled and empowered. What’s amazing about the sharing experience is that you develop empathy skills, at the center of leading.

In one sentence, the key to self-development is finding your vision with appropriate exercise, then having the courage to share it with others and using empathy to get them to act for it.

So now, I want to hear from you:

Do you think you are a leader to your peers?
Do you practice developing self-development skills?
What is the number one success story you would like to share with me?

 

Théo Beyt, TBS alumni, marketing management & data analyst professional, world traveler and world citizen.

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