Representor Fall 2022 - Cover Story


Leadership Skills – The Investment with Infinite ROI

By Sannah Vinding

Sannah Vinding

Leadership development is an investment that pays dividends over time in a range of ways. Mounds of research indicate organizations that invest in developing their leaders and future leaders see significant returns, including: Better performance. Research by Deloitte shows companies that invest in leadership development are three times more likely to outperform their peers. This is because people who are well trained tend to perform better than those who are not. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about salespeople, managers, executives or employees — well-trained and engaged individuals consistently deliver superior outcomes. Effective retention and recruiting. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report shows that the top driver of a great workplace culture is the availability of opportunities to grow and learn. Any organization currently navigating recruiting or retention challenges should take note. LinkedIn research also found 94 percent of employees want to work for an employer that focuses on developing leaders. Enhanced profits. The Association for Talent Development (ADT) reported companies that invest in comprehensive learning programs enjoy a 24 percent profit margin over organizations that do not. Yet, the current leadership landscape is pretty bleak. According to a recent report by Bersin by Deloitte on high-impact leadership development:

• 60 percent of leaders show commercial acumen and business judgment

• 48 percent are seen as driving change and innovation

• 44 percent build talent for competitive advantage

These statistics show there’s much room for improvement, and it’s up to companies to decide whether or not an investment in leadership skills is worth it.

Leadership development = employee success

Leadership development is something many companies may tout for recruitment. However, it’s critical to understand leadership development and why you need it.

You can’t do anything all alone. There’s no doubt that leaders are needed to make change happen. But without a team behind them, there’s nothing to accomplish. To see real progress on the bottom line, you need to develop your people (and keep developing them often). Employees follow effective leaders. People don’t leave companies. They leave managers. Along those same lines, they follow leaders who inspire and empower them. When leaders build up their own skills and abilities as well as their employees’ skill sets, they experience a more effective, engaged culture where high-performing employees will stay, grow and become influential leaders who keep the momentum going. Better decisions drive better outcomes. When a company’s leadership strategy is linked to its business strategy, employees are well-equipped to navigate the ever-changing competitive landscape more effectively. They can also shape the culture and future of the business through better decisions and improved agility. Leadership development is vital for organizations because it improves bottom line financial performance, attracts and retains talent, leads to better strategy execution, allows an organization to navigate change successfully, and leads to improved customer experience.

Communication skills are leadership skills

Communication skills are necessary to be successful in today’s workplace. Leaders must communicate effectively with employees, customers, partners, vendors and shareholders. But how can you tell if you’re doing it right? How do you improve your communication skills?

Focus on mastering difficult conversations. Leaders often find themselves in difficult situations where they have to make tough decisions or have uncomfortable conversations. For example, they have to weigh multiple factors, such as cost versus benefit, and sometimes they have to choose between one solution over another. Worse yet, they have to deliver negative performance reviews and terminate employees. In these cases, leaders must be able to articulate what led them to these actions or conclusions in a constructive way.

Practice active listening. When communicating with others, leaders should try to understand what people are really saying. Active listening is required. Ask questions to clarify if you don’t know what someone is telling you. You might even want to use body language to tell them you’re paying attention. For example, nodding your head while they speak lets them know you’ve heard what they just said.

Embrace feedback. Effective leaders should also master asking for feedback. People love giving honest feedback about performance reviews, promotions and raises. Request feedback regularly, and more importantly, take action based on it. Don’t ignore negative feedback — address problems immediately. On the other hand, don’t wait too long to act on positive feedback. If you don’t reward people for good work soon enough, they won’t feel motivated to continue working hard.

Critical thinking is crucial

Often without realizing it, people analyze situations and draw conclusions from them every day. Many leaders, though, make these decisions with less-than-sharp critical thinking skills, resulting in outcomes that aren’t in their team’s best interest. Critical thinking is a superpower. It helps leaders see issues that others don’t while empowering them to solve problems faster and more effectively. An additional competitive advantage is being able to recognize patterns and anticipate future challenges. Unfortunately, many organizations may fall into the groupthink trap, where everyone agrees without challenging solutions or trying different points of view in solving an issue. Critical thinkers can challenge ideas more efficiently and tend to be flexible and adaptable. These are the kinds of employees you want on your team (as well as leading it!).

Leadership development is not a one-time event

Another way to improve leadership skills is to practice, practice, practice. Take advantage of opportunities to mentor others, coach team members and give feedback to colleagues. Doing so builds trust and improves relationships, both within your organization and outside of it. Don’t forget to set aside some time each week to reflect on your experiences and think about how you might apply what you’ve learned. This process allows you to identify strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies for improvement.

Leaders must constantly seek ways to improve themselves

Leaders constantly seeking knowledge and improvement can see the bigger picture and understand how everything fits together. By continually asking, “What am I missing?” and “Where could I improve my skill set?” you’ll always be ready to adapt to changing circumstances and keep moving forward. The most effective leaders are humble. But unfortunately, humility is a trait often overlooked in today’s world. It takes courage to admit mistakes. Admitting mistakes is one of the hardest things to do as a leader. You may not have made a mistake intentionally, but if you haven’t learned anything from past experiences, you’ll likely repeat those same mistakes. However, leaders who can admit mistakes and own up to them can move past them and focus on the next thing. They know that recognizing errors doesn’t mean they’ve failed or are weak. Instead, it means they’re human and still have plenty to learn. To be a good leader, you must facilitate leadership development opportunities in others. But more importantly, you need to spend time investing in yourself. Fortunately, there are many ways to develop these skills, such as reading books and articles, attending workshops, taking courses, and practicing certain behaviors. By trying different approaches and seeing what works best, you’ll gain valuable experience that will help you lead others effectively.

Finally, leaders must keep up with current trends and issues. To ensure everyone understands what’s happening around them, leaders should read industry news and blogs, stay abreast of changes in technology and regulations and keep up with the latest research on job-related topics. Whether you want to improve your communication skills, build your confidence or develop new habits, start today!

About the author

Sannah Vinding is an engineer, B2B marketing strategist and innovative leader who delivers practical customer-centric goto-marketing strategies for the electronics manufacturing industry. As digital marketing director at Micro Commercial Components, she has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing, as well as product and process innovation expertise in consumer electronics and the humanmachine interface industry. Her passion for helping leaders develop the skills to succeed led her to create the “Mind the Innovation” leadership podcast, which contains more than 30 hours of podcast and video content covering everything from company culture and winning innovation to people-centered leadership development. Listeners can develop the skills necessary to thrive as leaders within their organizations and lives.