Though leadership might seem like an innate trait, it’s possible to build the needed skills and attributes. Youngstown State University’s online Master of Business Administration with a Specialization in Leadership integrates cross-functional business management studies with exploration of leadership in theory and practice.
Here are seven skills that will help leaders steer their companies through unusual circumstances and difficult times.
1) Agility and Adaptability
Even in “normal” times, agility in leadership is necessary for keeping ahead of new advancements in technology, market shifts and customer expectations. Leaders need to think on their feet, adapt and respond to shifting situations.
The large-scale disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced rapid organizational change at every level, from the supply chain and distribution channels to the workplace. Agile leaders can navigate challenges surrounding disruption and volatility, mitigating losses by adapting and taking quick, decisive action.
Empathy is an essential component of understanding your employees and leading them in a way that supports their well-being, motivates them and creates a cohesive, high-functioning team. Through active listening and clear communication, leaders can respond to employee needs and communicate expectations clearly.
Empathy is especially important in times of disruption to workflow and environment as employees’ physical, mental and emotional health is central to their performance and engagement. Simply put, good leaders strive to understand their employees at a deep level and support them from that perspective, developing a foundation of trust and mutual respect.
Authenticity is another component of building trust and respect. It means knowing yourself and your natural leadership style, and applying your strengths in a positive way. It is based in a combination of honesty, confidence and humility. This involves being open to personal growth and encouraging the same of your employees. Authenticity inspires genuine followership, a core aspect of a strong, motivated team.
4) Creativity and Innovation
Businesses must be innovative to maintain a competitive edge and manage change. This innovation comes from businesses’ most important assets: the employees. A leader who models and encourages innovation inspires creativity in employees, fostering an environment that supports new ideas and growth.
5) Critical Thought and Problem Solving
Leaders are constantly tasked with solving complex problems, making quick, well-informed decisions based on research and careful consideration of various factors. A highly developed aptitude for critical thought is necessary for effective decision-making and problem-solving.
6) Cultural Intelligence and Responsiveness
In the current era of diversity awareness and social justice movements, corporate responsibility is a must. Better yet, businesses can leverage their economic standing and broad public reach to drive social change and support disadvantaged, underrepresented populations.
It is important for businesses to develop cultural awareness, intelligence and diversity in every facet of their organization and operations, from hiring and training to corporate leadership structures. To effect real organizational change, a leader’s actions and initiatives should reflect this commitment to cultural responsiveness.
Resilience is of utmost importance as organizations move from crisis response to recovery. Organizational resilience falls to strong leaders who are purpose-driven, dependable, consistent and committed to maintaining business continuity while being responsive to challenges. It takes this skill to manage change and drive innovation in organizations.
Leaders who strive to improve their skills in all of the above areas can help their companies work through challenges and thrive in times to come.