I was addressing a group of business leaders in an open forum when one of the engaged, senior businesspersons asked a challenging question, “What are some of the skills that the older generation can teach the next generation early in their careers to make them more effective leaders?” Wow! One could write a thesis or dissertation on this subject.
First, communication skills are vital. In today's world of technology, engaged listening is an overlooked skill. There is an old saying that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Often, headsets, being engrossed with technology and technology interruptions can quickly break down communication. Good leaders understand the role of listening along with nonverbal communication, which can be up to 50% of communication exchange. Occasionally, enrollment in a listening course or reading a nonverbal communication book cannot only be fun, but also expand one's horizon on how important these elements are in communication. Effective leaders realize that communication methods are different in various cultures and areas. Thus, being adaptable and knowing the landscape is critical.
Future leaders are technically competent in their field of endeavor. Being engaged in education and personal development are important parts of the equation. Some leaders use the metric of two to six hours of education per week to stay well informed in the information age.
Effective leaders are often humble, never forget where they came from, and give appreciation for the individuals or circumstances that contributed to their leadership role. Today, a simple “thank you,” when given in a sincere manner, is often one of the most underused phrases.
Aspiring leaders often enjoy contributing to other people's professional and personal growth. This is why role players or people behind the scenes are often the silent leaders.
In summary, leadership can occur at any place, at any time, and in any given situation. One of the best skill exercises for potential leaders is to complete a personality profile analysis. Understanding oneself and being able to identify other personality styles can be a big advantage in team building and overall leadership.
Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA, and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension, and other popular publications.