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Some say that they find the concept of leadership skills training to be a woolly, ill-defined area. Far from it. An objective approach with scientific metrics means an organisation can drill down on the key attributes for great leaders that can help to ensure the organisation’s continuing evolution and success.

Two of the foremost practitioners of the scientific approach are the US business consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, of strengths-based leadership skills consultancy Zenger Folkman. The pair interviewed an astonishing 330,000 bosses, peers and employees, asking them to rate their top four leadership skills from a list of 16.

By crunching the data, they were able to formulate an objective top ten of the most important leadership skills. We’ll take a look at the top five here, and the next five in another post on leadership skills next week.

Inspire and motivate

The report authors found “great leaders create a vision of the future that is vivid and compelling”, and that means a motivated workforce that will fight to achieve that vision, through helping both customers and communities.

Show honesty and integrity

The authors’ research shows that great leaders display honesty, transparency and integrity. In another report, business consultant Kristin Chapman says: “It may not be enough for you to simply tell the truth when challenged or to turn in accurate expense reports.

“To be known for your integrity, honesty, and trust, you may need to demonstrate more personal courage; you may need to create an environment that is more open and transparent; or, you may need to build a stronger sense of teamwork and cooperation.”

Solve problems and analyse issues

The authors point out that great leaders are there both to solve organisational skills and to exploit opportunities in their sector. This requires what they call “above-average people skills”.

Show the drive for results

Some people are what the authors describe as “happy to watch the world go by”. Not so with great leaders; they are results-driven and will do whatever is needed to effect they change that they, and their organisation, wish to see.

Communicate powerfully

We are all familiar with people who put “great communication skills” on their CV. But what does that mean? It’s a sign of a great leader that they communicate powerfully and prolifically with their team members, whether that be by email, on the phone, in one-to-one meetings or by public speaking, addressing both the workforce and customers or other external stakeholders. The authors state, “Leaders don’t talk about communicating– they just do it.”

In our next post on leadership skills, we’ll take a look at the next five essential habits of great leaders.

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