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Despite all of the books, interviews, TED talks, and lunchtime powerpoint presentations, the nitty gritty details of being a good leader are surprisingly murky.
Most leaders sitting at the top of the professional ladder will tell you that leaders are made, not born. So what does it take to become a good leader, and more importantly, how can you adopt some of their key skills?
The following infographic examines these leadership traits, and looks at actionable ways to practice them in an afternoon:
While you may have heard of “strategic thinking” as one of the defining leadership traits, “first principles” thinking is similar but more actionable. First principles thinking involves stripping away our preconceived notions about a topic until we’re left with the absolute basic truth, and then finding a solution based from there. Elon Musk explains:
“Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be… With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?”
It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can. Break that down on a material basis and say, “If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?”
It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. So clearly you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.”
A lot of time is wasted at work. A good leader will be a decision-maker. A great leader will make that decision quickly so the agenda can move forward. If you happen to be a serial procrastinator, this one is a difficult one to address without any guidance!
EQ, emotional quotient, has been seeing a surge in popularity in recent years, with many publications declaring EQ as equal to, or more important, than IQ when it comes to leadership. And indeed, the power of EQ in a leader can’t be underestimated.
Demonstrating empathy and being able to fire up your team is an indisputable asset in business.
Perhaps the most allusive of the list — and paradoxically the one with the simplest solution! Wisdom can’t be learned in an afternoon, but you can always better your intellect by consuming books, podcasts, or learning a new language on your commute to work. Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter if you’re never a master of Mandarin Chinese.
A recent study compared two groups of military students. The first group learned a new language at a very fast pace, while the other group studied medicine. Both groups studied at the same pace, but an MRI scan found that the group who learned a new language had experienced growth in specific areas of the brain, while the other group did not.
Thanks to smartphones, the average human attention span is now eight seconds long. The species responsible for space travel now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. The ability to focus is even more valuable than it once was.
For leaders especially, who can expect to be juggling an array of plates at any given moment, the ability to tune out distractions and finish tasks is of paramount importance.
Not every leader is an innovator, but every iconic leader is. The ability to visualize different concepts and brainstorm creative solutions is a trait that will take a business from a garage to global success.
Steve Jobs has long been heralded as one of the greatest innovators of our time. While creativity cannot be learned, there are plenty of practical exercises that you can use to overcome creative blocks and help you see a situation with a fresh perspective.
Of all the leadership skills none is as important as communication — and luckily it happens to be a skill that’s 100% learnable! There are hundreds of books and online articles that can help you master both verbal and nonverbal communication. In the meantime, practice some of these afternoon tips:
If you have what it takes to go to the top, why wait for a company to recognize you? Many of the entrepreneurs featured on this list shared another skill — they were self-made business tycoons. If you’ve always dreamed of owning your own company, it’s never been so practical. Click here to find out how Fundera could turn your dream into a reality.
Business Insider | Forbes 1 2 3 | Entrepreneur | Time Magazine | Harvard Business Review | JFK Library | The Huffington Post | Good Reads | CNN | Center For Work Life | Non Verbal Group |