What does it take to be a leader?

Being a Boss

By Kate Southam

US President Dwight Eisenhower said: Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

In the world of work, leadership can come from anywhere not just the top. The next generation of leaders need to have superior people skills as job tenures have shrunk and employees have greater choice of where and how they will work.

According to recruitment giant Hays the next generation of leaders want greater work life balance and the opportunity to use their entrepreneurial skills.

The baby boomer generation is now aged 65 down and starting to retire or looking for new ways of working without as much responsibility making way for Generation X.
Nick Deligiannis, director of Hays, describes Gen X as “independent, entrepreneurial thinkers who already have a significant number of years experience in the workforce” and ready for leadership.

“The most significant dynamic that has changed between the two generations is the desire for a better work/life balance. Common traits that exist are the capacity for multitasking, thriving in a challenging environment and looking for individual growth and development,” Mr Deligiannis says.

“While there will be a void to fill as the baby boomers move on from their leadership roles, this will shift the market in terms of allowing not only Generation X but ambitious Generation Y’s to move up the ladder faster to fill the gaps.

“For candidates looking to step into leadership roles, it is important to note that organisations look for leaders who show an ambition for the company, not just the individual, and determination to deliver long-term, sustainable results.

“Potential leaders will already be working towards safeguarding the company for the long-term, engaging with a variety of stakeholders across the business, working closely with both the senior business leaders and staff at the ‘coal-face’.

“This requires skills, which will also be needed in a leadership role, such as strong communication skills, a high degree of self-motivation and drive.

“Most importantly, an ideal leader will have a mixture of both hard and soft skills. We recently released our top ten global skills shortage list which named people and communications, team management and leadership and organisational as some of the key soft skills we felt formed part of a common global perception that today’s candidates do not have a sufficient standard of.

“Baby boomers have been quite exceptional in these areas and many of today’s younger generations have looked to them for training, support and guidance as a result. While some of these skills can be learned, many are qualities that need to already exist within a potential leader.”

Tips for candidates

•    Understand your contribution
Think about the value that you add to the organisation – not just in a functional way. How do you    support and promote the right culture, both in your own team and more broadly? Do you generally contribute to the achievement of the business objectives outside the area of your own remit?

•    Ask for regular feedback
While you are aware of your own strengths, it would be beneficial to understand how others    perceive your ‘leadership’ style. It may help to identify some areas of development.

•    Look for ways you can help to support the senior management team, non-executives and other stakeholders – use the opportunity to proactively demonstrate your solutions-driven approach. Acting as an advisor to management, providing strategic advice and producing results will ensure you are seen as adding value.

•    Be across the business

Develop strong working relationships with all key business heads. As a leader you need to be   able to map stakeholders, establish effective relationships, define priorities, generate quickly wins and establish ‘a presence’.

•    Demonstrate clear vision
Demonstrate that you have set clear vision by gaining buy-in, inspiring people and motivating employees to achieve strategic objectives.

Tips for employers

•    Identify gaps
Identify leadership gaps through succession planning  through succession planning to determine     current and future leadership requirements.

•    Cast a wide net
Look across the market and within your existing workforce to source and recruit leadership talent.

•    Training
When training a candidate with potential, offer training that will help them move up the ranks in the future, such as leadership skills.

•    Use mentors
Pair high potentials with a mentor who closely matches their personality and skills to develop a successful coaching relationship to help transfer knowledge and provide development opportunities.

•    Examine your culture
Look at your culture to see if it really supports all individuals that demonstrate leadership   potential, women for example? Do you need to expand your pool of talent?

•    Regular performance management
Use regular performance management and assessment to monitor and support developing leaders. This will to allow employees to understand their leadership options and set development goals as well as giving employers the knowledge they need to properly identify future leadership potential.

CareerOne.com.au, February 2012

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