Thinking about leadership, I will put my hand up and admit that it took me a number of years after I became a manager to understand the difference between a manager and a leader.

I simply did what my manager was doing and thought that would work.

How naïve that was!

I was fortunate to be approached to work with another company where my boss was a real mentor. He understood leadership and I learned the simplest of lessons from him – you manage things and you lead people!

Simple but so profound.

The “Hygiene” Factor

Working with companies in different industries with different cultures, I am frequently fascinated how leadership is misunderstood, and very often not valued as highly as it should.

There is the token “acknowledgment” and “talk” about leadership, but it is not alive in the culture of the business. Those companies are at risk if they do not change – sustained success is a consequence of great leadership.

I am not dismissing management as unimportant. Process and systems need to be managed with efficiency and excellence – they are what I call the “hygiene” factor.

Leadership is what sets you apart.

I am often dismayed when I observe that those who are charged with leadership so often struggle to know what leadership means, and what it takes.

Recently, I was asked to speak at a business conference where I took the opportunity to talk about leadership skills and I also want to share them here with you.

So, here are my 6 leadership skills:

1. Leaders Get Results

To have a reputation as a leader, you must have a track record of getting results, but getting results in the right and honorable way.

Many are surprised when I put this first as they often equate leadership with “soft” skills and not the hard-nosed business results. But it is fundamental to any leader to have a track record of achieving the required results. No avoiding it!

2. Leaders Care About Their People

Not just in words, but in their behavior. There is an old saying – people will not remember what you say, nor will they remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.

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The bottom line is that your people know you care about them – for their sake.

3. Leaders Share Their “Why”

We all know that businesses must make a profit – that is a given. But that is not the purpose. When Steve Jobs set up Apple, his “why” was not about money, or computers, or mobile phones. It was about giving a “new experience”. True leaders are clear about their purpose and mission, and spend time communicating that to their people. They also clearly live it.

4. Leaders Deliver on Their Commitments

Leaders always do what they say they will do. When you say you will do something, your people must have the mindset that it will definitely happen – not that “all things being equal, it will happen” mentality. There must be no doubt.

5. Leaders Develop Talent

Your people are more developed and have acquired more skills as a result of your leadership. If you cannot say that, you have failed.

You must motivate and encourage your people to reach levels they thought impossible or unattainable. If you don’t, what benefit have you been?

6. Leaders Clearly Value People Over Process

If you clearly do not trump people over process, then process becomes more highly valued than people, and your people are lost in the milieu of statistics and reports. As a leader you must demonstrate through your behavior and decisions that people are above process – all the time.

So, what do you think?

If you had to pick your 6 traits, what would they include?

What Are Your Six Critical Skills of Leadership?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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John Murphy
John is a Business Coach, Mentor and all around “sounding board” for CEOs, Senior Executives and Business Owners. His main focus is to help clients become great leaders. Follow on: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.