Leadership training focuses intently on high level leadership skills – strategic planning, negotiation, managing stakeholders, projecting charisma, developing and communicating a vision. These are certainly vital skills.
But, to be an effective leader first requires that we master basic productivity and management skills. Without these fundamentals, the most visionary and charismatic leader will fail.
Below, I offer a list of 14 mundane basics that we all most master to become a good, even a great, leader. None of them are exciting; but all are necessary.
- Close Reading – necessary to understand complex documents and documents on subjects far outside our area of expertise.
- Speed Reading – needed to get through the overwhelming volume of information that assaults us each day in order to “detect the whispers of useful information in a howling hurricane of noise.” (The Economist)
- Writing – we need to be able to write clearly and simply in a way that our points are understood by the intended audience (Think: write at an eighth-grade level).
- Organization – especially managing commitments and follow up. Without a system to ensure follow up we will not be able to create a culture of accountability
- Typing – We still use keyboards in this world of ours. If we spend all day hunting and pecking with our fingers instead of typing, then we are not being efficient. The one exception is those who are proficient at using voice software to interact with their computers
- Excel or Other Spreadsheets – Even after 40 years, spreadsheets remain everywhere in business; we need to be able to use them well to analyze and understand information
- Database Understanding – We need to understand how databases in general and our company database system (ERP) in particular work and what information can and cannot be gotten out of these systems
- Statistics – knowing the difference between correlation and causality; understanding the basics of probability; understanding data, especially how to use data in decision-making and how data can be manipulated to mislead.
- Smartphone Use – how to use our Smartphone effectively and have it link back to our computers, especially on keeping a calendar and reminders up to date
- Public Speaking – we need to be able to speak effectively in front of groups large and small to convey our message
- Psychology – understanding the motivations of people who work for and with us, especially in determining why someone or some team acts the way that it does.
- Accounting – we need to understand the basics of accounting: the debits and credits, revenues, profit, cash flow, and understanding a balance sheet
- Focus – we need to know how to focus on the most important and learn how to say ‘no’ to keep that focus and to learn how to avoid getting bogged down in unproductive activities
- How to Run a Meeting – we need to know how to create agendas, keep meetings on track, ensure everyone participates, and make our meetings productive
The first step to being a great leader is to be a good leader. To be a good leader requires that we master these basics to move our companies forward.
What basics did I miss?