If you go to the bookstore and look in the business management section under Leadership, you will find book after book after book listing THE skill or skills that a leader MUST possess in order to be successful.  There must be hundreds of books extolling some virtue or set of virtues as being the definitive answer to the age old question, “What are the skills one must possess to be a good leader.”  Well, if one of those books is actually right, then it follows that there are hundreds of others that are wrong.  Too bad for those authors!!!

The truth is that there are actually hundreds that are RIGHT!  These books are lists of skills that HAVE worked for someone, at some time, in some situation.  They are all good skills and they are all right.  There are hundreds of skills that a leader must have at their disposal in order to handle all the situations they will face.  However, any one of those skills can also be wrong depending on the situation, and how and when you use them.

This is where most leadership books fall short.  They are a fixed set of skills.

Leading needs to be a way of looking at situations, determining the needs of your constituents, and determining what actions you need to take.

The requirements of a leader are not fixed.  By definintion, leading means going first and getting others to follow.  By going first you are facing new challenges, obstacles, threats and opportunities.  It is highly improbable that a fixed set of skills that worked for someone at some time in some situation will work for you in an entirely new situation.

It is like a tool box.  If you have a tool box with wrenches, a pipe-cutter and soldering equipment which you used for some plumbing work, and you take that tool box to a job where they ask you to repair the roof, you will be ill-equiped to handle the job.  The box may be full of good tools, but those tools may not be the right ones for the job you have to do.

The same is true with leadership.  If you have a specific set of skills, and you try to handle every problem with those skills, you will surely be ill-equiped for some of the challenges you will face.

A leader’s ability to face those challenges and achieve business success lies in the support and motivation of the people he or she is leading.  Earning that support and motivating people to achieve the goals and objectives of your business requires understanding and meeting their needs, within the context of the business goals and objectives, of course.  Those needs will change from one situation to the next.

Therefore, it follows that the tool box for leaders needs to be a process, not a specific set of skills.  It needs to be a way of thinking.  It needs to be a way of looking at situations, determining the needs of your constituents, and determining what actions you need to take and what skills you need to employ to meet those needs.