Knowing where to go
To me, the essence of leadership boils down to two things.
1. Knowing what needs to be done.
The ability to identify and articulate what needs to be done is enormously useful.
In most business situations, it means understanding the customer. It means focus on a few relatively important things. It means explaining this to other people in a persuasive way.
There are, of course, many skills related to understanding the customer. Understanding the customer is so very difficult, partially because it is an act of selection and editing (not everything that a customer might want, but those few essential things). Knowing what needs to be done can, for example, be partially a financial understanding (ROI and NPV), but not mainly in most cases.
A listing of skills is not essential. Decomposing “what a leader does” into parts misleads as much as it helps. It is how the cake is put together and how it bakes as much as any list of ingredients. Finally, it is in the eating that its true meaning is fulfilled.
Once one has a vision, it is necessary to communicate this to others, so they are inspired, encouraged and then they act. Knowing is not enough; acting in such a way that the team gets started is part of guiding the initial direction. Imagine Moses setting off.
2. Getting us there
This is discussed in the next blog post.