We’ve all seen them lined up in impressive displays at Barnes and Noble. We’ve read some of them. We may have even been told we need to take some cues/lessons from them.
Books on Leadership. Just googling the phrase gives me 138 million results.
Now I’ve read my share of books, articles and posts from a diverse group of authors on this subject. I’ve immersed myself in academic materials and skimmed through excerpts in business journals. I’ve definitely gleaned bits of wisdom and invariably, when reading these materials, find a nugget or two that I can place in my pocket and use to make me a better leader. I enjoy reading stories of successful leaders who have transformed themselves and transformed organizations. But I think I’ve latched on to the two ingredients necessary to develop one’s leadership capabilities. Just as when making a roux, it seems to me that being an effective and ultimately inspiring leader requires just two ingredients to start:
- Continuous curiosity
- Appropriate use of one’s social skills
So let’s break these down.
As children we explore, learn and test out new things by touch, by taste, by just ‘doing.’ Successful adults still retain that thirst and desire for new knowledge for ongoing learning and acquisition of new knowledge is necessary for a successful leader who needs to regularly ask “what’s happening in the world beyond my four walls?” “How does A impact Z?” “What do we need to do to spur innovation or growth or sustainability?” “How can I acquire the knowledge that I need to get myself – and my team – there?”
Social skills are those skills that allow us to communicate and interact with others and socialization (which begins when we are infants) is the process by which we learn the norms and expectations for how we socialize with others. Refining one’s social skills is necessary for business success of course – any time a new employee enters a work group or organization, they must be socialized to the culture. Naturally, managers and team members need to have the ability to interact with others and resolve conflict while managers must tap into their social skills in order to delegate, manage, counsel and coach others, and model and reinforce expected behaviors. Leaders take this one step further however by harnessing the power of their social skills to drive this process for others; adjusting as needed to fit situations and people. But make no mistake about it … a leader must be able to succeed in social interactions.
Peter Northouse has a definition – “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”
So is it a tad too simplistic – putting together a complex dish like LEADERSHIP with just two ingredients? Perhaps. But just as with a recipe, we can start with a few basic ingredients as the foundation of a scrumptious dish. Layer in the rest.
And flavor to your taste.