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Essential skills for leaders

The HBR Leader’s Handbook draws from years of research and experience observing and analyzing the world’s best run organizations – and the executives who lead them.

Contributors Brook Manville and Ron Ashkenas are careful to point out that this primer for aspiring leaders is not enough just to read. Real proficiency is developed through continual practice and experience.

The research points to six leadership skillsthat must be learned – and practiced – if they are to be developed and improved:

  1. Shape a vision that is exciting and challenging for your team.
  2. Translate that vision into a clear strategy about what actions to take, and what not to do.
  3. Recruit, develop, and reward a team of great people to carry out the strategy.
  4. Focus on measurable results.
  5. Foster innovation and learning to sustain your team (or organization) and grow new leaders.
  6. Lead yourself — know yourself, improve yourself, and manage the appropriate balance in your own life.

Leaders often have a bias for action that keeps them from stepping back and evaluating progress on the above — but it’s important to reflect on performance if you’re going to get better.

And don’t try to work on them all at once. Pick one or two and start with these questions: What are we trying to do? Do we have the right people to do it? How do we know if we’re winning? What have we learned lately?

These leadership skills don’t get better the more books you read. They get better with trial, error, correction and practice.

Have a great week.

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