David Wray

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Three Core Leadership Skills Needed in Every Role

Core Leadership skills - continuous learning. Credit Scott Adams

Core leadership skills we need in any role

Core leadership skills lists are as plentiful as there are days in the year, and often depend on the flavour of the month! That said, three core skills serve us well in all roles and in all circumstances. They are:

  1. Being self-aware
  2. Communication
  3. Ability to continuously learn

The ability to communicate, which includes influence, persuasion and empathy, is arguably the human skill that results in the fastest career rise or fall. Self-awareness is needed to prevent blind spots, recall these are personal traits, mannerisms, tone of voice, body language, or other aspects we don’t even know about but are visible to others. This blog focuses on continuous learning, a skill that the World Economic Forum report on The Future of Jobs concludes will be critical through 2025.

So, what does the ability to continuously learn really mean? And do we ever reach a stage where we can relax our “learning opportunity seeking radar”?

Continuous learning as a core skill

Continuous learning is all about learning from our mistakes, asking meaningful questions, and being open to receiving feedback. An aspect of continuous learning that is sometimes overlooked is the ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities, as well as respond to challenging situations. In a leadership position, continuous learning then includes the ability to inspire others and promote a learning culture. 

There are two mindsets that present in the face of learning:

  1. A fixed mindset
  2. A growth mindset

Learning techniques considering mindsets

A fixed mindset tends to manifest itself as a limiting belief. Perhaps that we are unable to leverage emerging opportunities or that we are incapable of achieving something. The beliefs result in behaviours which may show up as being resistance to feedback, disproportionately emotional or defensive, or even appearing to give up.

There are a few steps that allow us to transition from a fixed to growth mindset:

  1. Recognize what triggers the reaction, is it:
    1. An event?
    1. A word (or words)?
    1. A person?
    1. Or something else?
  2. Identify the thoughts (beliefs) that attach to the trigger, what do you think is:
    1. Impossible?
    1. Unmoveable?
    1. A weakness?
  3. Challenge the belief with some questions:
    1. What prior experience has led to this belief (usually it is a negative one)?
    1. How can you reframe the way you are considering something?
    1. Is the belief helping you or holding you back?
    1. How can you look at the situation as a learning experience rather than as a failure?
  4. Move yourself into a growth position:
    1. What steps can we take to change/grow/improve right now?
    1. How can we embed a 10% new approach to learning in small ways every day?
    1. How can we convert our inner chatter/voice to one that is more supportive rather than critical of ourselves?

In transitioning our mindset, we need to move ourselves up the learning curve. In understanding the natural learning curve, we can change so we will look at that next.

Our natural learning curve

Let’s think about how people typically learn. So, how do people typically learn, anyway?

Mostly, we learn in a systematic way, starting from a place of not knowing—sometimes even from a place of being unaware of not knowing (colloquially, “You don’t know what you don’t know”). Learning results from evolving from this into a phase of knowing that we don’t know: the state of “conscious incompetence.” 

When someone begins to feel comfortable in applying a new skill, a new level of self-awareness (of competence) emerges. This “conscious competence” phase replaces the state of “conscious incompetence.”

Once the wished-for skill is fully acquired, we naturally put less conscious thought into doing it. At last, we can demonstrate mastery with ease. This final phase in the learning curve is referred to as “unconscious competence.” This is where excellence lies.

Final Thoughts

When we allow ourselves to be open to see and recognize weaknesses or gaps in our performance, we have the potential to learn, grow, and change. The Power of Potential was written to accelerate this very skill, which I believe is the most valuable of all skills. When we possess the ability to learn any skill, we are well-equipped with the tools necessary to acquire every leadership skill! 

Self-awareness, communication, and our ability to continuously learn are at the heart of our leadership journey. So, possessing these allows us to build ourselves up for new opportunities and comfortably take the next step up the proverbial ladder. These skills serve us well in every role and stage of our careers.

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your views and ideas about what the core leadership skills should be or how you adopt a continuous learning mindset. 

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Scott Adams – Dilbert

Diagram credit: The Power of Potential, D. Wray

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