Ensuring leaders lead

Written by
Robin Kermode

26 Nov 2015

26 Nov 2015 • by Robin Kermode

We often talk about leadership and leadership skills. But what is that skillset? What makes a good leader? And how can good leaders encourage their teams to stay?

What key skills does a leader have?

As a communication coach, I find that 1:1 coaching can work wonders. For senior managers born long before either Generation Z, or even the post millennials, it often requires a total mind shift away from old styles of leadership and understanding that being a strong leader doesn’t simply mean telling people what to do in a dictatorial way. It means listening, coaching and empowering them in a way that inspires them to grow themselves. 

There are many differing management styles, of course, suiting particular challenges facing an organisation - but all good leaders will have these attributes:

Gravitas: They speak and behave with gravitas. Gravitas is one of the original Roman Virtues bringing with it a sense of seriousness, dignity and substance of personality.

Direction: They have a clear sense of where the organisation is going - and are able to articulate that.

Consistency: You know where you are with them. This is also true of teachers at school. We all hated teachers that laughed at our joke one day and punished us for the same joke the next.

Decisive: They are able to make tough decisions and also explain why they have had to take them.

Listen: They don't just ‘act’ as if they’re listening - they really listen. Have you ever been to a party where someone asks you if you are going on holiday this year? Often they aren’t really interested in your reply, they’re merely asking you in order that they can brag about their wonderful holiday! Good leaders focus their attention on you and ask questions that make you feel that they are genuinely interested in you.

Charisma: This comes from the Greek meaning ‘favour freely given’ or ‘gift of grace’ bringing both a sense of authority and respect. This derivation is interesting because it implies that charisma is about giving something back to other people. It is the exact opposite of what most people think of as charisma. It’s not about making themselves look important. It’s by making others feel special that leaders have real charisma.

Humour: They smile - when appropriate, obviously. They seem to have a passion about something. Loving what you do is clearly a great start.

Confidence: Confident leaders have a low centre of gravity - their centre of gravity will be in their gut, below their belly button. If you’ve studied any martial art, done pilates or gone to gym you will have heard of your ‘core’ or your ‘centre’. This is where you want your centre of gravity to be, if you can keep your centre of gravity low, you will look confident. Confident people often have slower movements and their gestures are relaxed. They never seem rushed. They dress well – I don't necessary mean expensively, but they have a keen sense of who they are and what suits them and they have a style that is right for their personality and status.

Voice: Their voice often has a calm authority. They usually seem unrushed and speak slightly slower than the rest of us. Speaking slowly gives leaders more gravitas making them seem unhurried and relaxed. Their voice should be centred – so they are speaking from their gut. When we get nervous, most of us lift our centre of gravity and we speak on our throat. So senior leaders should learn to keep their voice off their throat and breathe into their lower stomach before they speak.

Employee turnover is one of the highest costs for any organisation - so if, as this research suggests, 40% of employees leave because of their boss’ lack of leadership skills then it is important for HR departments to invest in leadership training.

In most cases, managers and directors are keen to learn these skills and I have rarely found any resistance to coaching from senior leaders. The vast majority is always thrilled to attend training sessions and is excited at the chance to grow their skill set.