Leadership – Top Skill Needed

I was recently writing a report for a client and my research led me to go through the “Future of Jobs report – 2020” which was issued in October 2020, by the World Economic Forum.

This analysis report lists the following cross-functional skills which will likely be needed in the future, across various jobs and economics sectors:-

As you can see above, Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Persuasion (which is a communications skill needed so much in leadership) are all among the top 15 skills that are earmarked as very much in need in a post-pandemic labour market.

Which is why I keep hampering, that any training you give to your employees on these skills is an investment as you would be preparing them to be more efficient and effective within your organisation, as your organisation adapts to a post-pandemic world.

The first step I always go through in any leadership course, is outlining what leadership is about :-

  • Leaderhsip is about looking after persons
  • Leadership is about being self-aware – knowing your weaknesses and able to ask for help
  • Leadership is about listening – actually it’s about being the last to speak
  • Leadership is about having a humble outlook
  • Leadership is about being able to articulate a clear vision and purpose – inspiring others
  • Leadership is about Trust – others trusting you and allowing themselves to be led by you

…..and today I want to focus on the importance of trust when speaking about leadership. You cannot be leading anyone if you do not win their trust. This point was clearly made by Colin Powell (US Secretary of State between 2001 – 2005) in this video, which I strongly encourage you to listen too by clicking HERE.

So I hope that by now, after seeing that short video, you are convinced of the importance that the people you lead see you as trustworthy. Hence here are some important tips to make sure that they do so and you win their trust.

Be Transparent – Be who you say you are: Consciously or not, we all navigate the world guided by a set of values that are revealed by our actions. We may say we value compassion, but if the first question we ask upon hearing about an accident at the place of work is ,“How bad is the damage?” instead of “Was anyone hurt?” our commitment to compassion appears pretty thin. Others judge our trustworthiness by the extent to which our actions and words match. So you need to make sure they do. So if there are any say-do gaps (none of us are consistent all the time) you need to identify the places where your actions have belied your values, leading to unintended consequences for others. Where necessary, apologise to those who’ve experienced those consequences. Otherwise, the hypocrisy people attribute to you will erode trust quickly. But demonstrating humility for the impact of those moments can be a trust multiplier as people see that you’re humble enough to take responsibility when your words and actions don’t match.

Treat others and their work with dignity: People’s output is often a reflection of themselves — their ideas, insights, and ingenuity — the importance of treating both the contributor and the contribution with dignity is vital. People are more likely to trust colleagues who graciously regard what they do as a distinct part of who they are. To achieve this you need to make sure you always park your ego. Leadership is difficult. When things go right you need to allow others to shine. When things go wrong you need to shoulder responsibility….and so looking for ways to allow others to showcase their talent is very important. Another important aspect is culture – creating a safe place to fail. Fewer moments call for dignity more than when someone’s efforts fall short. People inherently trust others they feel no need to hide from, especially in the shame of failure. When others make mistakes, even substantial ones, make sure that accountability includes keeping their self-respect intact. Balance expressing your disappointment with making sure you remain an ally, doing whatever you can to help them get back on track.

Balance transparency with discretion: Discerning when to be vulnerable and open and when to protect confidences are both key to being transparent. You earn trust when you disclose information that helps people learn who you are and how you think, as well as when you withhold information while being transparent about why. Hence the great importance to strike the right balance. Be clear on what information you’ll share about yourself, and with whom. Disclosing things about your life, like family, outside interests, social life, and even certain challenges, opens a window into who you are behind your work persona, creating greater connection and trust between you and others. Further, be generous in sharing work-related information, never treating it as a source of power or using it to signal that you know something others don’t. Sharing information about the status of projects or that might help others make informed decisions enables them to see you as a helpful source of trusted data. Lastly, make sure you steer clear of your organisation’s gossip and rumor mills. People who have trusted you with sensitive information must never feel that their trust was misplaced. Embolden others’ voices through rituals that invite people to offer out-of-the-box ideas and candid feedback or express personal vulnerability. It’s equally important to use your voice to offer feedback and dissent in the service of helping others improve their ideas and work. If you struggle to be candid with important people in your life, worrying about how they’ll react, it likely means you haven’t earned their trust. Don’t let your discomfort keep you from offering input that could fuel their growth. People naturally trust others who care enough to graciously bring them hard information that others won’t.

Build bridges that unify: If the last year or so has not showing anything, it has laid bare how fragmented our world has become. So it is important that leaders help create a sense of unity across their organisations, as such leaders will be far more trusted than those who perpetuate division. After all, the vast majority of an organisation’s most important work happens across departmental boundaries. Unfortunately, those boundaries create silos, and those trying to work across them can become rivals, often due to competing metrics and priorities or accumulated distrust. Those who build alliances across those boundaries earn greater trust, not just from their own teams, but from teams that once scorned them. The courage to serve a greater good with others instead of remaining antagonistic toward them shows a willingness to put your ego aside and trust those you might once have struggled to trust — in turn, inviting greater trustworthiness. Finally, do an extra effort to create belonging. The busyness of daily routines, compounded by having been separated from colleagues for more than a year, makes it hard to notice others’ unique qualities. Look and listen for important details people share about their lives — perhaps a hobby, a recent trip they took, or an aspect of their family life — as these offer important entryways to cultivating belonging. Express genuine enthusiasm to hear more about what you learn. When people believe you care about the things they care about, you make them feel welcomed….and the more they will trust you.

I hope that by now you are convinced of the importance of training your team/s in the so called soft skills (I call them core skills) of leadership and communication. As the World Economic Forum itself mentions, these are skills that will become even more important (not less) as the world has to handle various changes related to a great adoption of technology in the working world. Which is why, at EMCS, training the employees of our business clients, is a core service we offer as part of our coaching service with businesses. Do not allow yourself to wake up one morning to realise that your short-term view of things (operators’ mindset) is hampering you from winning the race with competition as your organisation and your staff do not have the core skills necessary to adapt to change. Just drop me an email on silvan.mifsud@emcs.com.mt to have a chat on all this, at zero cost.

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