Lifehacker led me this week to an MSN Real Estate article listing The 15 tools every homeowner should own (by Jay MacDonald of Bankrate.com). And that, in turn, got me thinking about the 15 tools every leader should own.
I tried first to find a leadership analog to every tool on MacDonald's list. That, though, was a bit forced and led to some unfortunate visuals that I decided were best avoided. Next, I struggled with getting my list down to only 15. I solved that with a bit of creative grouping.
Just as MacDonald's readers amended the list with essential tools of their own, I'd love to hear what tools you think should be added to my list. You might also want to check out this slightly different take on key leadership skills.
15 Essential Leadership Tools
Strategic vision. Like an SLR camera with several lenses, you need to be able to think about the long-term (telephoto lens) and the short term (normal length lens). You need to be able to see the big picture (wide angle lens) and the details (macro lens). And you need some sort of strategic model, a photo album if you will, with which to organize your thoughts and create a plan.
Automatic focus. A key leadership job is making sense out of the mass of information in the world and focusing it down to the few key things the organization needs to be doing.
A heart. I believe you lead best from caring for others. A servant-leader will seek to understand those he leads, and to help them grow.
Input tools. These include a good pair of ears for listening carefully to those around you, a clear pair of eyes for observing your world, and a strong pair of legs for getting out of your chair and walking to where the action is - the "shop floor" and the customer's operations. Another useful input tool is a mental flashlight - the discipline to spot "dark corners" (issues and problems) that folks are not talking about and asking questions to shine a light on them.
A funny bone. Leadership is tough and there will be days that might push you toward tears. You need to be able to see something to smile about even in the midst of trouble, because laughter is often the grease that gets the wheels turning again.
The ability to delegate. And the ability to track performance and correct it before it's too late.
Curiosity. The burning desire to understand why things occur (using tools such as the Five Whys and the After Action Review). The determination to learn from failure. And the drive to learn more about yourself in order to develop and grow. And the ability to learn effectively and efficiently (for example, studying business books quickly).
Planning skills, including time management
Problem solving skills.
Risk management skills, especially Potential Problem Analysis.
An evidence-based approach to new ideas - healthy skepticism about the latest management fad.
Measurement skills. The ability to devise measures for most things that matter in your organization, and the ability to select a vital few measures for close attention.
The ability to know when and how to make decisions.