Why People Skills Alone Are Not Enough To Be A Great Leader

Leadership is about two things:

  1. Delivering results
  2. Doing so in a way that people will want to work with you again

The first is important because any leader who cannot deliver results will find it hard to remain in a leadership position. Trust me, there is no end of really nice former leaders who couldn’t deliver, and leadership is a results-based occupation. Leaders are selected to make a difference. To move the needle, to generate improvements in whatever form they may take.

But Look At My Results

However, that doesn’t mean that the end justifies the means. Yes, you might get away with being toxic once or twice if you deliver the results. But over the long term will be detrimental to your career.

One leader I worked with used to brag about his approach, and he used to say, “yes, I am an a-hole, but I am an a-hole that delivers.”

The problem was that nobody wanted to work with him again, and as his reputation spread. No one was willing to work with him for the first time. People would look to get assigned to other projects, and if they couldn’t avoid him. Or they would do the minimum in the hope of getting moved somewhere else.

You Need People and Delivery Skills To Succeed

To succeed as a leader in the long term you need to have both delivery and people skills. One of these alone will not be sufficient for you to be successful as a leader.

One of the challenges is that there is a limited number of people with both skills, which is why some toxic leaders can survive beyond the short term.

Even worse, even with coaching many of the toxic leaders do not want to change, and many like my former colleague seeing their toxicity as a reason for their delivery success. Or it can be that they are too arrogant to admit there is a problem.

Character Is Hard To Change

A good friend of mine, and top leadership expert, John Spence told me that when choosing clients to work with, if a leader doesn’t see themselves as potentially part of the problem then he doesn’t work with them.

In my coaching and training, I do work to help people develop their people skills. As the stronger your people skills are the more impact you can have. But I also focus on delivery skills. Teaching people how to set projects up for success, understand what are the causes of failure and what you can do to avoid them.

I am always surprised that more leadership training doesn’t cover this area as much, as I find it’s easier to teach nice people how to deliver than it is to teach a-holes who can deliver how to be nice 😉

If you want to learn more about how to go from being a good manager to becoming a great leader click the like select a time to talk, and let’s see how I can help.