Success never comes on a platter. Sometimes, it comes quite early on and many a times a bit late, but what can make a huge difference is how we choose to build our capabilities over time. There are a plethora of personal competencies which are considered as leadership essentials. What I have endeavored to list here is a choice compilation of certain basic competences which form the bedrock for other leadership competencies to thrive.
Curiosity is all about an intense desire to know why, to know how and to know more. It’s not about sensation seeking or being impulsive but a perfectly natural trait which sets us on our path of daily discoveries. Interestingly we all are born naturally curious but somewhere this natural tendency gets ring-fenced and curbed. Partly, I blame our traditional education system where memory and knowledge is valued more than critical thinking and application. Partly I blame our social norms which condition us towards conformance than candor. So why is this important?
I believe all great leaders have nurtured and built on their inherent curiosity. They have always demonstrated a drive to know more, beyond what is expected, which helps them comprehend a range of opportunities to leverage. Curiosity incites learning and acts as a major impetus towards a person’s growth.
Observation is generally considered as a scientific competence area, however, its scope and applicability in non-scientific context is huge. It is important to realize that observation is much more than merely seeing something; it also involves a mental process. In all observations there are two elements : (a) the sense-perceptual element (usually visual) and (b) the mental, which, as we have seen, may be partly conscious and partly unconscious (W.I.B Beveridge). There is a third element to this cognitive process, which is developing the faculty of judging what is worth observing. This proposition might sound counterintuitive, but the best way to train yourself to observe more, is to learn what to observe, but that's the basic idea here.
Developing the power of observation puts you in the driver’s seat in most social scenarios and that in itself can give an individual the much required buffer to respond and act appropriately.
The advantages of this are too many to recount but sample this, knowing the right time and place to position an idea is half the battle won!
Reflection is a rare skill, primarily because spending time examining one’s goals, ideas, beliefs and experience need careful nurturing. Reflection along with observation is two critical complementary competences one needs in plenty while making career moves. The ability of reflection promotes transformative learning (Mezirow 1991), sense making and acts as a conduit to course correction. In fact if one refers to Kolb’s learning cycle, its simply impossible to ingrain any learning on offer unless one reflects and forms a metal schema about it.
Practicing reflection early on in one’s career not just gives the benefit of greater self-awareness but also helps regulate our inner biases, attunes our learning and molds us to be more open and flexible adults.
Not everything in life goes according to plan. In fact I may not be too far off mark by saying that hardly anything ever goes exactly according to plan. In times of turbulence and disruption as we live in, having the competence of resilience is a must have. Resilience is the ability to bounce back in the wake of an adverse situation. It is not about feeling or removing emotions but more about preparedness for and acting effectively in the presence of emotions. It’s more about recovery than endurance.
It’s critical to develop this ability because in times when one's career is going through a rough patch, resilience in an individual will ensure that the sudden dip doesn’t become a trough!
Bias for Application
One needs substance, knowledge and perspective to aid in any professional activity, however all of these are futile if a person does not have an inclination to apply what one knows. Learning holds value when knowledge is crystallized and then utilized to create value. It’s important to keep adding to one’s academic arsenal but unless one is a practitioner of the acquired intelligence it fails to really be worthwhile for the individual and organization. So fuel your career growth by constantly asking have you applied yourself completely while delivering an outcome.
Internalizing and Mastering these 5 competencies may take time but the effort will be the beginning of your success story. Here’s wishing you a fantabulous career ahead!
This is the concluding part of the Series on Career Management by Subhashini Acharya.
Read the other chapters: