Only 3 Skills Define a Leader

If you want to be a leader and make change happen in the world, you’re going to need these three essential leadership skills. Not only will they help you get ahead in your career or make you attractive to top business schools, these skills will help you build great relationships and, eventually, the kind of network that can achieve anything.

But it isn’t just about being a leader – other people need to know you’re ready to step up. This week, Angela Guido will guide you through the 3 core skills of leadership as well as concrete steps to develop them.

YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Welcome back to the Career Protocol YouTube channel, where we are streaming the very best of career education every Monday. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, a Career and MBA Coach for the last many, many, many, many, many years, and today I'm talking about the three leadership skills you need for any job or also for any MBA application! So this is both a Make Mondays Better video and an MBA Monday video. Two birds, one video. So if you have a job application or an MBA application in your future, you want to be thinking about how you're going to convey your most salient leadership skills in the application process. The term leadership, I think, has lost almost all meaning. We use the word leader and leadership to refer to so many things that inherently we've lost a sense of innate meaning. It just means different things to different people. So instead of focusing on this broad nebulous concept of leadership, I'm going to drill down on the three skills that are going to be the most important to you if you're going to drive positive change, which is maybe a good way to define what a leader should be able to do.

1. Make Change Happen

  • That means RESULTS
  • That means IMPACT
  • You need to be able to communicate this (there will be a test)

So we're talking about making positive change happen and not to beg the question, but that itself is the first skill that you need if you're going to present yourself as a leader. You need to prove that you know how to make change happen. Now, the good news is you already know how to do this. What you may not know how to do is communicate it. But when you think about your work, most of the time you're engaged in tasks. Your day-to-day doing the things that are on your plate, clearing them off your plate, passing them off to superiors or subordinates. You're just churning through the work a day world of everything you've got to get done. Making change happens means that you take a moment every once in a while, to take stock of the results that you've produced in the world as a result of your work. You're going to need to be able to communicate exactly how you had an impact on your team, on your organization, and on your clients and customers. You're going to need to be able to convey the outcomes that were the result of your work. Even if the outcomes of your work depended on other people, you played a meaningful and important role in arriving at that outcome. You need to be able to distinguish your role, what the outcome was, and the link between the two. And you need to be able to convey how things were different and better after you were engaged than they were before or than they would have been if no one or someone else had taken on those tasks and responsibilities. This is really about self-knowledge and self-awareness, but then it also extends into communication. You're going to need to be able to convey the impact that you've had. The most important place that you're going to do this is in your resume. Most people's resumes outline their job description and not the ways in which they excelled at producing change in their organizations. If you want to get really good at this, consider checking out our resume course. There's a link here. You can watch a master class about it and then jump into our program if you want to get deeply trained in impact thinking and being able to measure the change that you've made happen in the world. It's the most transferable skill. When I look at a resume, the first thing I'm looking for is has this person made an impact? If they've had an impact before, then I know that they'll be able to do that in my organization no matter how different the job they did before is from the job they're doing now. So especially for those of you who are looking to make a pivot either in your next job or through the MBA, you need to be able to understand and communicate that you know how to make change happen, and you have done so repeatedly thus far in your career. That's the first and most essential leadership skill for whatever it is that you'd like to do in your career.

2. Don’t Let You Be Misunderstood

  • Soft skills 101
  • Be useful & make others useful to you
  • Good communication begins with self-knowledge
    … and continues with knowing others

The second skill really relates to what I've been saying about the first skill. That is that you need to be able to make yourself understood to someone who is completely different from you. Nothing in this world happens anymore, or really, frankly, ever without collaboration. Even if you're an individual contributor, even if you're not embedded within a team that's collaborating at all times, your work is still just part of a much bigger picture of the impact that's happening within and outside of your organization. That means that to get your job done, you've got to communicate. You've got to do your work in such a way that other people can take it and own it as though they did it themselves. That's a communication challenge. You've also got to be able to ask for what you need. You've got to be able to ask for feedback, ask for help, ask where the copy machine is. You've also got to be able to convey your achievements: what you've done, the way you've solved problems, the way you've thought through the analysis that you've done. This all hinges on your ability to communicate and most importantly, to make yourself understood to people very different from you. When we talk about cross-functional collaboration, this is all we're talking about. It's being able to talk about the technical component that you're responsible for in a way that the legal team will also understand, or the product team, or the sales team, or whatever other groups of people you're communicating with in the course of getting your job done. Communication begins, first of all, with self-knowledge and self-awareness. What do I know and what's important about the things that I know? It then includes empathy. Empathy, again, a term that I think has gotten a bit confusing for us, I define it really simply as being able to understand that other people are completely different from you. They have a different set of experiences, a different knowledge base, different emotional reactions, different stories, different baggage. We're all completely unique. So if you can understand that someone you're speaking to does not share your knowledge base, your experience, your intimate awareness of the things that you're aware of, then you can begin to convey them in a more objective and intelligible way so that someone who's not like you can understand what's important and what's meaningful in the information that you're presenting. This is a really critical skill, and it's one that most people really spend a lifetime honing. There's no quick fix to being able to communicate yourself to people different from you. This is, of course, a lot of what we focus on at Career Protocol so if it's a skill you'd like to build, please consider having a chat with us about working together on your MBA applications or your career advancement. As always, here are the links (MBA strategy and career strategy) for you to talk to us. But be thinking now about how you're going to communicate. Imagine you have an interview coming up. How are you going to communicate your most important achievement to someone who knows nothing about your firm, about your job, about your tasks, and about your industry? You've got to be able to tell a story that they can understand and find meaningful, even though they have a different experience base than you.

3. Upward Management

  • Relationships
  • Seeking & action on feedback
  • Making good friends (but with your boss)

The third and final essential leadership skill that you're going to need for any job you take is what I'm going to call upward management and this is actually a basket of skills. It includes nurturing relationships. It includes seeking and acting on feedback. It includes maintaining connections with people over time. It includes communication, sharing your experiences, sharing how you've grown, but it all amounts to getting support for yourself and your own advancement among the people who are senior to you. This is fundamentally an aspect of personal growth that really differentiates the top performers, the people who advance really quickly, from the people who just languish and struggle in the middle. It's having support above you, having people who are rooting for and championing and taking responsibility for your success. This skill is so important that we have an entire course dedicated to upward management. So if you're trying to become a top performer in your field, if you're trying to make a big change and you need help making that transition, if you're applying to business school and you need stellar recommendations, then you need to know how to upward manage effectively. It's also the way you're going to create work-life balance. I could go on and on about the importance of upward management. If the people senior to you trust you and believe in you, they will give you a lot more freedom to do the kind of work that you want to do and to create the work-life balance that you want to have. It's really what differentiates the people at the top versus the people who just hang around in the middle. Continue with our 5 Tips for Upward Management blog post if you'd like to learn more.

All right, so that's it! We've done a deep dive into some of the components of what I think leadership really is in your career, what it is in this day and age, and most importantly, what are the three core skills that will form the foundation of your success as a leader in any endeavor you undertake in your career. If you've got a job application coming up or an MBA application coming up, please take heed of these skills and do your best to act on them as it pertains to your job and MBA application, and you will very rapidly stand out from your competitors as someone who is destined to be a top performer. Even if companies don't use this same vocabulary, even if they aren't fully aware or in alignment with the three skills that I outlined today, I guarantee you that that is what they are screening for. It's what MBA programs look for. It's what job recruiters look for. They look for people who know how to get ahead and advance their goals in their career using the soft skills of leadership. I'm wishing you all the best in your career and your MBA applications and I'll see you again next week right here on the Career Protocol YouTube channel. Bye!

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Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder of Career Protocol

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Business leadership

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