Skills Are Not Enough

When we think of great leaders and what allows them to achieve optimal performance, frequently we point to the skills they possess.

A myriad of training and educational programs equip leaders with the know-how associated with performing specific tasks, including:

Communicating clearly.

Managing time effectively.

Applying technical knowledge.

Working collaboratively.

While skills tend to be easier to assess and measure, often they only predict how we will act when there is a high degree of certainty and stability in our environment.

What matters just as much or more is how leaders respond when circumstances suddenly change, and they are faced with situations that are new, frustrating or even frightening.

That’s when attributes, or our internal wiring, come in to play.

Skills, for example, teach us how to do something, like ride a bicycle or play the piano. It is our level of patience and resilience (these are attributes), though, that encourages us to keep getting up when we fall off our bike at first, or become frustrated when we can’t play that song perfectly.

The relative strength of one’s attributes such as humility, situational awareness and self-efficacy will do more to predict a leader’s ability to respond appropriately than simply checking off a list of skills.

How do you show up with the attributes mentioned above?

How about other attributes, such as courage, perseverance, adaptability, learnability, open-mindedness, empathy and decisiveness?

Both skills and attributes can and must be taught and cultivated. And, while skills are important, our attributes are as or more important when it comes to successfully and consistently applying those skills.