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News & Blogs: Rising Above the Middle

10 essential skills to be a leader in demand

Tuesday, September 23, 2014  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Wendy Capland

With the internet, email, social media, smart phones and tablets dramatically changing the way an organization leads, markets and operates, you’ve probably noticed a huge shift in the workplace. To stay relevant and ahead of your competitors, it’s not enough to perform your work well or offer good products and services.

To surge ahead, look at your skills and the skills of others within your organization and map them against the latest trends. The Institute for the Future identified key skills needed in today’s workplace. As you look at each of these skills, you might notice yourself feeling challenged to develop them:

Related: "3 types of inspiring leaders (which are you?)"

1. Sense-Making. Can you connect trends to create new ideas? Think of the smartphone. It connects email, voicemail, the phone, Skype, Facetime, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. All the dots across multiple channels of communication are brilliantly connected on one easy-to-use mobile device. Ask yourself: What dots can you connect in your own work that might offer you or your organization a new product or way of operating?

2. Social Intelligence. This is the ability to connect with people in a deeper more meaningful way. One of my sales mentors always told me if you want to build rapport, ask people about things they consider important. Every person has their own goals and desires. To thrive, we need to understand each other’s emotions, motivations and triggers. This allows us to influence, lead and sell our ideas to others.

3. Novel and Adaptive Thinking. Adapting to new realities creates value. Every day new technologies impact the way we make decisions and live our lives. On the flip side, if we are not creating enough value, it’s easy for our services and jobs to be outdated and outsourced.

4. Cross-Cultural Competencies. Globalization is a reality and success depends on being effective in different cultural settings. Almost daily, we speak and collaborate with people across multiple geographies and cultures. I run meetings on Webex, Google Hangouts and Skype. It’s sometimes hard to fathom that we are actually located all the way across the world from each other.

5. Computational Thinking. Are you able to translate vast amounts of data into insights by spotting trends and patterns? This includes spotting trends in what people say on social media about similar products and services. Noticing the trends and utilizing them to your advantage can help you stay ahead of your competition.

6. New Media Literacy. I stopped reading the paper newspaper five years ago. I’ve heard that some church-goers are reading the Bible through their tablets or smartphones. We’re immersed in blogs, videos and podcasts and it’s essential to become fluent in digital and social forms of communication.

7. Transdisciplinarity. It’s important to see the big picture. Listen closely to your market, connect the dots between their needs and your resources, and synthesize ideas.

8. Design Mindset. A design mindset refers to continually solving problems, in any situation, by focusing on human values and understanding what matters to the people you are serving. Your ability to be empathetic though observations, conversations and experiences is critical.

9. Cognitive Load Management. Every day we receive 5,000 or more advertising, email, Twitter, phone, text and other messages. Each is designed to grab your attention. Your ability to focus and filter through the clutter to quickly determine which message requires your attention, determines your success.

10. Virtual Collaboration. As companies work globally or outsource their requirements, leaders must collaborate virtually. Although there are dozens of tools — Skype, Google Docs, Zollo, Google Hangouts, etc. — it’s still difficult to lead and collaborate virtual teams.

Consider how these 10 skills are needed in your organization — and how they can help you meet your career goals.

Wendy Capland, CEO and founder of Vision Quest Consulting, is an internationally recognized leadership development expert, author of Your Next Bold Move for Women, and the leading authority on "Stepping Into Leadership.” For more than 20 years, she and her team of 45 coaches, trainers and consultants have developed the leadership skills and capabilities of thousands of Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial executives. Her advice has been featured in numerous national publications and on, radio and television.

Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.

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