I ran into a tweet the other day that said most leaders are generally great at one of three things: vision, operations, or coaching. Few leaders are great at two, and you can rarely find one that is good at all three.
Thinking about it, this has been true throughout my personal experience interacting with and learning from leaders across the industry. Most leaders are great at one, good at the other, and either don't have the time or the ability for the third.
As a leader, your ability to execute well depends on your ability to understand your strengths. You need to know what you're great at so you can capitalize on it. You need to understand what you're good at so you can do it long enough before you delegate it to those who can do it better. You also need to admit what you're not good at to ensure someone else on the team can do it or make it your top priority to hire that person.
There is generally a feeling that one of these three is superior to the others. Most people you ask are looking for a visionary. However, the most important skill in an organization is the one that’s missing. Understanding your skills and those available in your organization is key to understand the gap. For example, being an operations-focused leader is extremely important to an organization as long as someone else is there to set the vision.
Generally, there are concrete reasons behind why you’re great at one but not the others. Sometimes, you’re born with it. Other times, it is your environment and life story that directed you to one or the other. Most, however, have been molded into one vs. the other. Leaders, just like anybody else, get better at things the more they practice them. Having had the chance to spend the “10,000” hours on one more than the other might just be the determining factor. This solidifies the more time passes in your career. The more you’re good at something, you naturally end up gravitating towards it.
I've met leaders that are very capable or articulating a clear vision to their teams, rally the team around it, and think of the strategy around its edges. Visions serve like a north star to teams.
However, not all leaders are visionaries. In fact, most that I’ve met are not. The other angle to keep in mind is that there is generally a limited space for how many visionaries you can have on your team as leaders before you start having too many visions and none is a north star.
Vision isn’t just a statement. It is the ability to understand the market, the business, and the direction continually to align the direction of a company. Most companies have an aspirational mission statement but their vision continues to evolve.
This is key. Vision without execution is just that, a vision. Well-planned and productive execution is a skill that very few leaders truly excel at. Most leaders are good enough at execution to translate their vision but not necessarily good enough to carry execution forward. If you look around you, most visionary leaders that are successful have excellent operating officers, operations teams, or operations staff that cover for them.
I personally find this one to be the hardest to do and the hardest to find in leaders. This is a probably a result of multiple factors. Leaders are busy aligning vision or executing, sometimes even if they’re not good at it, because that’s generally the focus of the business. Coaching takes time, effort, and planning. It also takes a lot of thinking. Coaching is also a long term investment. That said, coaching is probably one of the most important pieces of a company’s ability to articulate a good vision and execute well on it. The ability to educate, improve, and continue to push your team forward is one of the most important things you can do long term.
If you’re already a leader in your organization, which is your greatest skill?
If you’re an aspiring leader, it’s worth it to sit down and think about the skill you’re great at. It’s also worth it to find a leader who’s great at coaching to help you get there!