How to apply leadership skills

If you want to learn how to apply your leadership skills, you have to develop your mind. Your intellect is a fundamental aspect of engaging in successful leadership. It's not ALL about your IQ or how much knowledge you have; it's more about how you can use your creativity, how you can gain situational awareness, how to make sound judgments, how to problem-solve, and how to take decisive action. Remember that leaders use discretion to think critically, ethically, and with great respect for cultural differences. These aspects will help you figure out what is the most effective leadership style for you. So many times, leaders forget to anticipate second and third-order effects. 

So what are second and third-order effects? For instance, if you decide on something, a second-order effect would be someone or something that's immediately affected by that decision, and the third-order effect would be the person after that one thing that gets changed by that aspect or dimension. The best way to think of it would be to consider the idea of 6 degrees of separation. We are all connected by six social connections, so remember your decisions affect everything in the entire organization as a whole.

How agile is your mind? How quickly can your mind react to change? A leader has to adapt and change to a wide variety of situations because that is the new business environment that we live in. If you're the type of person to stay stuck on a problem or obsess over mistakes, get stuck on weak solutions, are not agile, then you aren't ready to adapt to this new business environment. An agile mind is a disciplined mind. 

So how does one develop agility? You have to be able to reason critically, be intellectually curious and eager to understand a wide variety of topics. You have to keep an open mind to multiple possibilities, especially if they come from somebody you are leading. During my military career and leadership development, I was always told by my mentors that leaders place themselves at the point of friction. So what does that mean? What is the point of resistance? If you know that progress is not going as quickly or as smoothly as it should, where is it getting stuck? What is the problem? Maybe it's paperwork that isn't getting done correctly. Perhaps someone doesn't understand how you're trying to communicate; maybe someone doesn't understand that email or memo you sent out. Whatever it is, you have to place yourself at the point of friction to make sure that things move along smoothly. 

Let's talk situational leadership...why is situational leadership effective? Unfortunately, in a globalized business environment, many things happen in close succession...so what are you gonna do about it? In this new environment where everyone interacts with diverse cultures from all over the world, a leader needs to develop tact. To build tact, or diplomacy, you must learn how to interact with others with a certain amount of finesse and self-awareness. Tact relies on understanding another person's character reactions, as well as your own motives and those of others. Basically, tact means seeing how honestly you can state your views about an idea without offending the other person while being understood as clearly as possible.

Tact is not being blunt or rude; in fact, it's as honest as possible while being professional and empathetic of others. As a leader, you will realize that your employees, peers, and those above you have a different understanding of information because they have different backgrounds, personalities, and so on. So you must tailor your approach to communication to each person as an individual rather than a whole.  That is part of the reason why servant leadership is effective! Everything a leader does is in the service of something bigger than themselves. The well-being of the people you lead is essential.

The last thing I'd like to leave you with is the importance of maintaining your composure. Emotional self-control is the ability to help leaders make sound ethical judgments, especially under pressure. As a leader, you have to understand that all you can do is influence, and you cannot depend on attempting to control things you cannot affect. Of course, your level of self-control changes depending on how you interact with other people, especially during crises with things that are not going well. You must always ask yourself what are effective leadership skills worth learning. 

Being a leader is a matter of running a marathon, not a race. It's not a race to the next promotion; it's a marathon and endurance contest of how long you can understand and control your emotions to energize other people specifically during challenging conditions. As a leader, you have to realize that you can influence the feelings of those that you lead. This is why it's important to ask yourself "when is democratic leadership effective?" If you're upset and nervous, they can become unsettled and worried even if they can't put their finger on it as to why they feel that way! Of course, you can't seem like a robot, but also you can't display your emotions in a manner that appears threatening to someone else's confidence. So you could demonstrate concern, not panic, frustration, but not rage, and passion, but not extreme disappointment. As a leader, if you lose your composure, you can't really expect anyone else to maintain theirs. 

Moving Forward...

Part of being a great leader is reading other people's emotions and learning how to employ the right balance of tact and delivery in a specific situation. Draw on your experiences to provide those that you lead on a new perspective on events. You have a wide range of experiences and abilities to draw from to use appropriately in many circumstances that you face. Remember venting your frustrations publicly releases stress, but only temporarily. All it does is increase the stress of everyone around you. So stay levelheaded when you are under pressure, tired, and frustrated, and things will go just fine.