The Engineering of a Leader

The Engineering of a Leader

Leadership is about mobilizing people to unite in the pursuit of a vision or clear objective. Having a title or position to do this only establishes authority, it does not equate to leadership. Leadership is influence and influence comes from connecting. Relationships take time, effort, and communication that is skilled and sincere. Leadership implies that there are other people in the picture – direct reports, peers, customers, or anyone that the leader is trying to move in an intended direction or outcome.

A few years ago I was hired by a business owner who was experiencing some stresses from business growth. Her success to this point was due largely in part to her expertise in the field. As the business grew, she added the necessary specialists to her team. But tension began to set in, and soon work wasn’t as enjoyable anymore, and moral on the team was low. We were able to quickly identify that her people skills with the team had some significant gaps. Her lack of self-awareness was eroding trust within the team which was slowly deteriorating the relationships.

When you’re an entrepreneur, despite the business type, you are in the business of people. People make up your business, and your business relies on the quality of those relationships. Your communication can build relationships up or tear them down. Consider for a moment the people in your life who have had the greatest influence on you. What do you observe about them in their interactions with you? We can all agree that they care about people, and the leaders who care have more influence than those who don’t. But there’s more to the leader than a big heart or positive attitude. They have people skills.

When it comes to engineering leadership, a great place to start is increasing self-awareness. When we have conscious knowledge of our own character, feelings, motives, and desires, then we can more easily relate to others and adapt to situations in a way that meets our needs.

To increase your self-knowledge, it’s helpful to access some key tools from the abundance of resources in the human development industry. These tools offer valuable insights into better understanding of yourself, and others. Personality &  behavior types - You’ll navigate life more effectively if you understand basic personality traits, including your own. Popular resources include: MBTI – Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC Profile, and Big 5 or OCEAN Personality Traits. These tools offer differing perspectives on how we process nformation, decision-making, and how we prefer to interact with others.

Communication styles refer to observed patterns of behavior when interacting in a group or individually. While personality can offer a deeper understanding here, often times the culture of an organization or the demands of a position can draw out certain characteristics in a person’s communication. Learning to build flexibility around your preferred style allows others to more successfully hear the important things you need to communicate.

Personal values – whether we are conscious of them or not, we each operate on a set of values. Your values reflect what is important to you. They are a shorthand way of describing your motivations. Together with your beliefs, they are the causal factors that drive decision-making and behaviors.

Listening is a communication skill that gets the least amount of attention and yet it can reap the greatest returns. Listening at a deeper level is about seeking to understand the message behind the message, rather than listening to respond. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. This selfless gesture goes a long way in relationship building.

Forgiveness is a less obvious skill that offers freedom from the weight of grudges and judgement. Let’s face it; we all mess up at some point. As leaders, we don’t want to be defined by a mistake we made. And the same holds true to those around us.

Coaching is a conversational skill set inside a framework for individual development that moves people from functionality to potentiality. As a leader, one of your most important roles is to coach people to do their best. By doing this, you'll help them make better decisions, solve problems that are holding them back, learn new skills, and otherwise make greater progress.

A 2012 Harvard Study revealed that 85% of one’s success in their career is attributed to people skills and only 15% to technical skills. While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what open most of the doors to come.

LeadershipJill Poulton