Fostering leadership in any organization is fundamental. Companies who foster a culture of leadership set the tone for a positive, empowering work environment. Leadership must drive this vision and lay the groundwork to cultivate a positive result. This starts with attracting likeminded talent and nurturing “leaders in the making.”
Some people are born leaders, while others are “leaders in the making.” Leaders are those who step up to the challenge. They practice active listening, are open minded, creative, and think outside the box. Great leaders communicate effectively, are decisive, and empower those around them. They are honest, loyal, and have integrity. Leaders are part of the solution!
Researching what makes a person a good leader has led us to three core competencies—interpersonal skills, time management, and organization.
The first of these competencies is possessing and practicing good interpersonal skills. Leaders are active listeners, reliable, and self-confident. They show empathy, have a positive attitude, and are team players. Leaders have a positive influence on others, often without knowing it. They motivate and inspire others around them. Leaders are creative problem solvers. Most importantly—they communicate effectively!
Second, a good leader practices time management. This includes focus, self-awareness, goal setting, prioritization, and more. Example: Having 30-plus years of sales experience and worked for several sales managers, it has been our experience that holding team calls or one-on-one meetings at the beginning or end of the day frees up sales personnel to reach more clients during peak hours. Hosting Lunch and Learn sessions is another great way to communicate with your team without taking them away from precious selling time. This also is leading by example and unconsciously mentoring. By encouraging the sales team to focus on administrative tasks during times when clients are typically not available, you are fostering good time management.
The goal of any company/organization is to ensure work flows smoothly. Implementing deadlines, creating tasks/deliverables, and managing milestones establishes a plan for achieving the desired outcome. This includes creating general work tasks for yourself and others. Set a goal for every meeting. If you do not establish a goal, you are wasting your time and that of your team or your client.
A Mentor’s Role
Practicing the three core competencies—improving interpersonal skills, time management, and organization—are the foundation for a leader in the making. The principles of leadership are simple when you think about them. They can be applied to any leadership role. Consistency and practice are instrumental in becoming a great leader.
Finding a mentor is key in learning and gaining experience in applying these skills effectively. A mentor could be someone you know or work closely with on a regular basis. It could be a business professional you look up to at work or a coach you have employed through a leadership training program.
Mentoring is based on relationships and communication. This is an exchange of knowledge, advice, and insight. Mentors offer invaluable skills and knowledge such as storytelling, candid feedback, tips and tricks on how to handle different scenarios, and more. Often, mentoring is a learning experience for both the mentor and mentee.
As mentor, we found there were areas in our skill set we needed to improve upon, as well. Mentoring afforded us the opportunity to learn more about our own leadership style. We gained a wealth of knowledge (including a few lumps) through client-facing, sales, and customer service management roles in our careers. Sharing this knowledge has provided a sense of fulfillment. We hope by sharing that others will benefit from our experiences in a positive way, as well as enable them to tackle challenging situations.
Leaders in the making may be self-motivated to take the next steps in improving their soft skills for personal or career reasons. Others are encouraged by peer leaders to continue building their foundational skills. These peer leaders see the potential in others and nurture them, sometimes simply through their actions—much like a mentor. Leadership cannot be taught, but it can be fostered and developed through experience. The team at BluSkye Consulting recommends the leadership training solution, Leadership 9 Box, by Square Peg Solutions to all its clients. The program offers an e-learning experience in the core competencies of leadership, as well as mentoring by subject matter experts (SMEs).
Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” This rings especially true in leadership. Preparation is a trickle-down effect. Companies where leaders share the organization’s vision, focus on customer success, and empower employees are building a strong foundation for the future and ensuring success. Organizations employing mentoring programs are ensuring their future by essentially creating what is commonly referred to as succession planning.
Whether a leader in the making or someone who already holds a leadership role, improving your skills and practicing them are the building blocks to success. You hold the key to future opportunities. Foster success for yourself and others. Find a mentor (most great leaders have one), seek a great leadership training program to sharpen your soft skills, and practice those skills regularly—there is always remove for improvement!
Kimberly Ross is an entrepreneur and president of BluSkye Consulting. Ashley Prisant, Ph.D., is president of Square Peg Solutions, LLC, and an instructor at Harvard Extension School.