Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership

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Leadership and followership

2.1 Different employers value different skills

As you can see, these are different models each emphasising different facets of leadership. Some are presented in a very formal style, others are more informal. Most are clear about how the themes and dimensions should impact on all employees regardless of their role.

If you are interested in working with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), you may have to look harder for a list of their preferred leadership competencies. Smaller organisations often don’t have the resources to develop and publicise relevant structures. You could talk to someone in a senior position to better understand their priorities, or look for clues on their website or in their annual report.

Activity 2 What leadership skills do employers value?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Choose the leadership frameworks of at least two different employers. Either use the ones outlined here or choose an organisation that means something to you and try to identify its leadership focus. You might find leadership discussed in a framework, a professional development programme, a job description or recruitment literature.

Use the space below to consider the following questions:

  1. What are the similarities between the frameworks you have chosen?
  2. What are the differences?
  3. Are they written in a different style?
  4. Do they highlight different skills?
  5. Can you see why they would focus on different elements of leadership based on their context?
  6. Do you feel more aligned to a particular style or culture?
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The more you understand about the ethos of leadership in an organisation, the better you’ll be at aligning yourself with the culture, and working and progressing within it.

If you chose to look at the leadership skills prioritised by your own organisation, or one that you want to work for, you’ll now have a list of the skills you need to develop. Alternatively, you may have realised that their ethos doesn’t work for you and be starting to consider other approaches that do.

By comparing two frameworks, you can see the relevance of context again (as discussed in Week 2). Reflecting your understanding of their context will be attractive to employers during an application process.

Rebecca Fielding draws on her extensive experience of recruiting leaders for a variety of organisations to summarise key skills and attributes, including self-awareness and self-belief.

Download this video clip.Video player: lf_1_video_week3_section2_fielding.mp4
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The key skills and attributes that organisations look for in leaders differ. And I think, perhaps, that's one of the most important messages I can offer to everybody listening, is there is no secret sauce here. There's no one recipe that I can offer you. Different organisations are looking for different things. The most important thing that you can be is the authentic version of you and bring your best self. Understand who you are and bring your best self to an organisation. And I would say that's the first and most important part of not only being great at work and happy at work, but being a great leader and demonstrating leadership. It starts with knowing yourself, being the best version of yourself, and striving to be that best version. So that's the first thing, is that sadly, I can't offer you an easy answer to this question. However, I've worked in lots of different organisations. I've recruited on behalf of lots of different organisations as well in the last few years. And I think there are probably a couple of key qualities which, regardless of whatever language or label they use- values, behaviours, competencies, strengths- they all use different languages- there are some similarities that I see that most people look for in a leader. So I've already talked about self-awareness and striving for improvement, both in yourself and in everything around you. I think those two key qualities are really important. The other things that I think link to that very strongly are about self-belief- so not only being self-aware, but being comfortable and confident and happy with who you are. There's a lot of uncertainty in being a leader. There is no handbook that tells you if you're making the right decision or the wrong decision. Often, you have to weigh things up, make careful decisions, but the best decision that you can, and then confidently convey that to people. So I linked to self-belief. I think that leads me on to the final two, which are about good decision-making- so using your intellect, using the skills that you've learned through your life and through your work and through your studies to help you make sense of all the information that you've got in front of you. And outside of academia, that's often imperfect information. You don't have the whole picture to enable you to do a perfect case study. You just have to do the best you can do with what you've got and seek out as much information as you can and then make the best decision that you can, so decision-making. And then the final thing is about communication skills. So how do you share the decisions that you've made, or the direction that you're going in, with your team as a leader? Most people will tell people what they're going to do. But really great leaders and good communicators spend much more time on why. Why are we doing this, and why is it important, and why have I made this decision? Those are the most important factors for me. You'll see them called all kinds of different things on graduate web sites and employer web sites. But those are the fundamentals that, wrapped in different clothes, I would say I've seen again and again and again for 20 years.
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Understanding the skills and abilities that employers value is an important part of preparing for a leadership role. They will be looking for evidence that you have the skills they require. In the next section, you’ll start to assess your own skills and to identify any gaps in your experience.


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