Skills Kills

I was recently listening to a leadership podcast that made this proclamation: leadership is nothing more than a set of skills that you acquire over time. While I believe that some elements of leadership are acquired skills, leadership is rarely the outcome of acquired skills. In fact, too often leaders are looking to be told what to do and how to do it (acquiring skills) so that they can be good leaders. Leadership is far more than a set of skills and, as I contend in the title above, the pursuit of skills can kill leadership.

How many leaders to you do who are technically skilled at what they do or in the business of the business, but they are failing as leaders? This is what I see when organizations promote people to leadership roles — they were great at the skills of their job, but when they’re put in leadership roles they fail.

Why, because leadership is so much more than skills.

The leaders that I work with in my coaching business are often asking me to tell them how to do things (skills acquisition), and I tell them that they’re asking the wrong question. Since leadership is ultimately about building followership and influence, the more important question is who do you need to be with your team so that people want to follow you. This is not about acquired skills, but rather about who you are as a person that makes you trustworthy and worthy of being followed. Skills do not create influence or followers.

Thus, my statement that skills kills leadership. It’s time for leaders to stop looking for better skills and tools and to instead start taking an honest and hard look at themselves. Are you trustworthy? Do you care about your people? Do your actions communicate to your team members that they and their growth is important to you? Do they feel like you have their back? Are you able to create a vision for your team? Do you trust yourself and your intuition? Are you able to anticipate and plan versus reacting?

All of these things are important to leadership, and none of these things can be boiled down to skills. As you look to grow your leadership and the leaders in your organization, stop focusing on skills and instead focus on a different way of being. Yes, skills seem like an easy path to leadership, but it’s a failed path and we’ve all seen this truth. It’s time to shift our focus on growing leaders versus training leaders because skills kills when it comes to leadership.

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