Have the Rules for Competent Leaders Changed?

Have the rules for competent leaders changed over time? 

Has social media and the fast pace of the world made the qualities of what real leadership is so different? 

I say NO. 

I spent time researching what the leaders of old did to keep projects moving quickly. I spent time looking at what was expected of leadership teams and leadership development way back when there were so few ways of calculating and keeping records

Here is what I found.

There are 5 qualities of competent leaders that have not changed over the centuries. 

I was musing about this looking at old photos from when we took a group of senior executives on our “Leadership in Action” trip to Peru.  

When we visited Machu Picchu, I was awestruck by the buildings fused together without mortar, as if dropped from the sky in the middle of this gorgeous Andean mountain range. I asked and really pondered over the magnificence, thinking “How’d they do that?” 

Then on another trip to Egypt, I stood in awe at the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza and had the same thought, “How’d they do that?” 

I imagined the leadership teams that were assigned the tasks of getting these sites completed. I mused about the challenges and disputes that likely occurred. How did the ancient leadership executives get the jobs done? 

Here are the 5 qualities of competent leaders that have lasted over time and are still in place today. Please let me know if you agree. 

Quality #1: Effective communication.

Whether by megaphone or cell phone, a key requirement is to let people know what is expected of them. The words and the images these words create are vital to getting to the goal. 

Finding the exact ways of requesting and requiring what has to happen is a skill for leaders that transcends the centuries.

Quality #2: Preparation.

Being proactive is the ability to make things fall into place, rather than merely responding after the fact. When you are prepared, you can, in a sense, see the future before it occurs. 

You study the weather, the adversaries, the details, and you are ready to intervene rather than be at the mercy of unforeseen events.

Quality #3: Listening.

Leaders pay attention to the body language, gossip, rumblings of the subtle discontent. It’s not about arguing and making others feel stupid or unnecessary.

It’s about taking in all the information to make the most effective decisions rather than grandstand what you and only you think and want. 

Quality #4: Understanding the system.

 Knowing how the whole is connected to the parts is critical for leaders. It has been said that when someone sneezes in India, someone in Indiana may catch a cold (or a virus). 

The ability to facilitate sustainable change by identifying and strengthening positive connections and limiting the negative implications of a project is a high-level leadership skill.

Quality #5:  Balance macro and micro initiatives.  

Finding the sweet spot between too much or too little interaction keeps things moving smoothly. The need to exert excessive control can kill creative energy and teams become like robots. However, on the other side, letting it be a free-for-all creates havoc and shoddy work results. 

The key is offering suggestions and making definite calls in the moment, where they are required while permitting input from others, is the sign of adept leaders. 

While the modern workplace is now volatile, bewildering and frustrating, is it really that different in the human requirements? 

My e-book, “5 Leadership Development Lessons” continues the dialogue and is available here. 

Comments? Send me an email or better yet, pick up your smartphone and call me. 

Sylvia Lafair

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