“Leadership” has become a common buzzword we hear thrown around a lot these days. To succeed and excel in any professional environment, one needs to be equipped with leadership skills. People often associate leadership with power, influence, activism, and taking charge of situations, which brings to mind such qualities as confidence, skills in communication and persuasion, and a strong work ethic. While these are certainly important qualities to have as a leader and should not by any means be downplayed, they make up a narrow definition of leadership and miss much of the bigger picture. Discussed below are five skills that may not be commonly associated with leadership, but are imperative to instill in the next generation of leaders in order to prepare them for success in their professional but also their personal lives.
Self-Care: Having a strong work ethic is a necessary trait in a leader. However, this should not come at the expense of self-care. It is often said that you cannot pour from an empty vessel. It is only when one properly attends to one’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing that one can truly perform one’s best work and have the strongest impact on the communities they are serving. A leader recognizes the necessity of boundaries and not taking on more responsibilities than he or she can handle. To be effective as a leader, one should make sure that they dedicate a portion of their day — even as little as a half hour — to themselves and to activities that they enjoy. This in turn ignites and maintains the motivation to serve others to the best of one’s ability.
Cultural Awareness: In our increasingly globalizing society, having an understanding of different cultural norms and the ways in which people interact in different cultural contexts is of utmost importance. If one has the resources and opportunity to do so, traveling and immersing oneself in an environment different from one’s own is an experience not to be missed. One can also build cultural awareness without having to leave home by reading about different cultures, studying a new language, engaging in activities outside of one’s comfort zone, and interacting with people with whom one may not normally. Interacting with diverse groups of people is a great way to expand one’s horizons and to expose oneself to different points of view and ways of thinking, which is essential to leadership.
Introspection: Leadership requires the ability to look within oneself in order to better understand one’s strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness is therefore an important skill to cultivate in leaders. Introspection is a necessary ingredient on the path towards self-improvement — a path on which all leaders should be in order to equip them to face whatever challenges they meet.
Resilience: Resilience refers to the ability to bounce back after facing an obstacle. Challenges and even failures are inevitable when working towards a goal or an outcome. An effective leader recognizes that challenges and failures are not destiny, but rather detours on the path forward. Having a strong sense of resilience builds positive morale and optimism, which in turn bolster one’s ability to push through challenges and figuring out creative, innovative ways to grapple with them.
Humility: Part of being an effective leader is recognizing that leadership is a fluid role into and out of which one flows. People tend to think of leadership and followership as opposites. Instead, they should be thought of complementary and co-existing roles. An effective leader is humble and recognizes that he and she does not have all the answers, and therefore knows how to take a step back and defer to the leadership of others. Being an effective leader therefore entails knowing how to be an effective follower.
Leadership is no longer about having a fancy title or a corner office or an Ivy League MBA. The next generation of leaders needs to be equipped with a new set of skills so that they are better prepared to take on the world’s current and future problems. The above skills are becoming increasingly important to the ever-evolving leadership landscape.
A modified version of this post appeared on MixR.