As I have been talking with you the past 2 months about the changing world of work, I have been personally reflecting on the counsel many CEOs offered during the Executive Summit at our annual conference: “Build your leadership skills.” As we navigate the changing world of work and seek to influence our stakeholders, that advice has never been more important.
As you likely know, a long-running debate centers around whether leaders are born or made. Various studies of twins reveal that genetics account for only 25% to 30% of the traits that typically result in holding a supervisory role, such as intelligence and extroversion. That leaves 70% to 75% of leadership traits that can be learned, which is great news for anyone seeking to become a better leader.
When we think about leaders and leadership, we need to recognize that having a title has little to do with actually leading. An effective leader drives an organization or a team to continuous improvement. Isn’t this exactly what each of us strives to accomplish in our organizations and with our workforces?
There are many different leadership styles. The style you use depends on your relationship with your team and those you are trying to influence, as well as on what you are trying to accomplish. All leadership styles share characteristics and require certain qualities and skills that you can learn.
The first step in developing as a leader is to know yourself. What strengths do you bring to the role? This is not too different from assessing a work environment to identify areas for improvement. In this case, you assess how you can leverage your strengths rather than focus on what is wrong. These strengths influence your leadership style.
This past year, we have been using the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment among ASSP’s elected leaders and staff to individually and collectively assess and understand our strengths. Doing so enables us to focus on common leadership traits such as integrity, confidence, communication, setting a vision and motivating others. These traits help us build trust with our followers, create hope, provide stability and act with compassion.
Depending on your position, you may develop or demonstrate these traits in various ways. One benefit of getting involved with ASSP is the ability to develop these skills in a safe environment. As a volunteer leader, you can improve your communication skills, learn how to create a shared vision for a particular project and develop skills to motivate others to participate.
For example, if you want to gain confidence in public speaking, consider asking your chapter leaders if you can introduce the speaker at the next meeting or serve as a roundtable facilitator. If you want to work on your communication skills, try practicing being an active listener at your next meeting. Truly focus on what the person says and reframe it to ensure that you understand correctly. These types of skills, along with many others you will learn as an active ASSP volunteer, are transferable throughout your career and across your relationships.
Each of us must continue to develop our leadership skills so we can be influencers who make a true impact within our organizations. ASSP provides training and education to help. We also offer several publications that address safety leadership and influence, and PSJ regularly features columns and articles with tips you can immediately put into practice. Invest in yourself to become a better leader. It will help you, your employer and the profession.