7 More – Key Leadership Abilities for the 21st Century



In my last article, 7 Key Abilities of 21st Century Leaders, I described some of the abilities that I believe leaders should develop in themselves and others, in order to be effective now and in the future.

In this article, I continue with 7 more abilities that require interaction with others. In considering these leadership abilities, it is important to realize that they also require a great deal of internal work and typically involve an iterative process to develop.

  1. Engender trust – Steven Covey taught us that trust is the “one thing that changes everything.”  I believe that, without trust, it is impossible to lead for the long term.  And trust can be very fragile.    Understanding how trust happens, how to build it, maintain it and how to restore it when it has been lost, is a worthy field of study for anyone in a leadership position or with the aspiration to be the best leader possible.
  2. Inspire the best in people – Creating the type of environment where people can do their best work and make their best contribution, is central to the responsibility of leaders.  The best leaders are able to bring out the best in others, to challenge them, to create aspirations for continual growth and development.
  3. Connect – The ability to connect sits at the very foundation of the ability to lead.  The best leaders are connected to their own purpose and to their core values and this, in turn, allows them to connect with others in a way that is authentic and believable.  And before you can influence others, before you can lead others, there has to be a connection with them.  There has to be something that creates a willingness on their part to follow and support the vision and the goal.
  4. Build Relationships – Once an initial connection is made, building a solid relationship enables progress and supports the achievement of results.  Without solid relationships, it becomes more difficult to overcome challenges.  Relationships are based on trust and without trust, things take longer and carry a greater cost.
  5. Collaboration – In today’s business environment, the skills of collaboration are more important than ever.  There are more informal and transactional partnerships that are required in order to achieve desired results both internally and externally to the organization.  The skills around creating win / win solutions are essential to survival within the increasing pace of change and challenge.
  6. Influence – The ability to influence is central to the definition of leadership.  John Maxwell says that leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.  Learning to expand your level of influence with people – and to do that in a way that inspires trust – is ultimately what learning to lead is all about.
  7. Uncommon Communication — We all recognize the importance of communication in leadership.  The best leaders, however, have an uncommon ability to effectively get their message across. They do this by truly understanding the needs and wants of their audiences or teams because they have extraordinary listening skills and because they understand the importance of their position as role models.

Together, these comprise what I believe to be the most important abilities for leaders to cultivate in themselves and others.  This takes deliberate, intentional commitment to one’s development.  These are life skills, not only from the perspective that they contribute to increasing the impact and influence one can have in life, but also because they can continue to develop throughout life.

Measuring your ability in each of these areas on a regular basis is one way to contribute to your progress as a leader over time and to build your effectiveness and your impact as a leader.

What are your thoughts on these abilities?  What has been your experience and what may be missing for you?  I welcome your feedback, questions and comments.

7 Key Abilities of 21st Century Leaders

In my research on the subject of leadership, along with my own experience and observation, I have developed a composite of the 21st Century Leader that describes the necessary abilities, as well as their critical attributes, behaviors and perspectives.  In this series of articles, I will briefly describe my point of view and welcome your feedback and comments.

I have divided the critical abilities that leaders should cultivate in themselves and into others into two categories:  those that essentially involve self and those that-by definition-involve others.  Note that the self-directed abilities will strengthen through and with involvement of others.

If you aspire to leadership and are currently not in a position to influence the behavior of others, the self is a great place to start to build your leadership ability and credibility.

About Self

  1. Recognize Strengths  – one of the most important skills for a leader to develop is that of identifying his or her own strengths, as well as those of others.  This is generally done by paying attention:  to what you are good at and love to do, or what causes others to seek you out.  Building a team or organization based on strengths vs. looking to “fix what’s broken” delivers faster, longer lasting, more dramatic  results.  The  use of assessment tools can be helpful in this process as well.
  2. Minimize Blind Spots – The ability to recognize blind spots and lessen the impact from them is also critical.  I’m a big fan of finding people with complementary skills and abilities to mitigate one’s own or a team members areas of “weakness.”  Blind spots are even more important because these are the things that may get in the way of success and that we are not even aware of.  Again, I recommend the use of assessments to aid in this process.
  3. Get Results – If you can’t make things happen as a leader, you will not last for long.  The ability to get results is critical.  And, being clear about  what outcome is expected, how success will be measured, what resources are available and what the time frame is are all critical components.  Ultimately, without the ability to produce results, one cannot truly influence the activities that will lead to results by others.
  4. Build Vision – The ability to clearly articulate the ultimate outcome or destination is essential to building an organization of leaders.  You don’t necessarily need clarity on the “how” when you are crystal clear about the “what” and the “why.”  People will be better able to find their own path when the what & why are known.  It is very difficult to get people moving in the same direction, creating synergy, when the destination is not clear.
  5. Create Momentum – Once a vision is created and a plan is established, building momentum involves mobilizing the resources required to move in direction of the ultimate goal or objective.  Momentum facilitates forward progress and the ability to overcome obstacles.
  6. Execute – This is where many organizations fail.  Having a vision, and even a plan to get there, is relatively worthless without the ability to see it through to completion.  We all know people with lots of great ideas and yet, nothing ever happens, nothing comes to fruition.  Ability to follow through and achieve the goal efficiently and effectively is critical to leadership impact.
  7. Problem-Solving – Realizing a vision and achieving goals requires the ability to recognize and overcome the inevitable obstacles on the path.  Solving problems is an essential part of the process of leading.  Having the courage to make the difficult decisions and to move past fears and doubts is also part of this process.

In the next article, I will share my list of leadership abilities that require interaction with others.

In the meantime, I welcome your comments, questions, personal observations on the subject of leadership abilities.