And the Number One Leadership Skill Is. . .

Leadership is a vague and hotly debated concept; I often hesitate to admit I do leadership development as part of my job; but it is my job, and therefore I’ve given it lot of thought. There are a lot of leadership programs out there—some very good; others, not so much. Most leadership programs, typically, start with a definition (as if we’d never heard the term). For example:

“Leadership is organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.”1

“Leadership is the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” 2

Note that the focus in these definitions is on, respectively, organizing people and enlisting support. But in each of these something is left unaddressed, leading me to ask:

  • Which common goal?
  • Which common task?

Zeroing in on that one goal and that one task is, in my opinion, the most difficult part of being a leader. To develop stronger leaders in an organization, I could roll out programs covering a wide range of leadership behaviors and concepts: inspiring people and communicating effectively; project management and accountability; coaching individuals, rewarding performance, setting strategy, and even developing other leaders. In doing so, I would exhaust all of my training resources. Alternatively, I could focus on the single most important leadership skill, the one that no one seems to notice but that is core to virtually every leadership ...

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