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The 10 Leadership Fundamentals Every Leader Needs to Know  

Being a leader takes a set of skills that need to be developed over time. Strong foundations are necessary for effective leadership, yet many leaders in the world today are unclear about the core leadership fundamentals.

Without these fundamental skills, it is inherently much more difficult for leaders to create inspiring visions and motivate their people to perform to the best of their abilities. Additionally, they may be less equipped to handle adversity or see opportunity in change.

While there are many qualities that leaders must learn and possess in order to be successful, the following list of ten leadership fundamentals has proven to be integral for successful leadership in the long-term.

1. Communication

Without a reliable method of internal communication, leaders would struggle to accomplish anything useful. The Harvard Business School claims that communication aids in building team trust and coordinating roles around shared business objectives. However, in order to promote a sense of accountability, leaders must also explain a just system of rewards and sanctions.

Without clear communication, dissatisfaction with the leadership can start to grow, leading to conflicts, apathy, and a decline in employee engagement. A culture of secrecy and distrust can develop as a result of a lack of communication, and this can have major repercussions for the company as a whole. In fact, communication is what is the origin of most leadership fundamentals.

2. Vision

Effective leaders are able to lay out a vision for their companies that motivates workers and focuses their efforts on the same objectives. The best leaders inspire and unite current workers around a common set of values and goals. This kind of vision can also help recruit and keep new talent.

This is not a skill that can typically be taught, but sometimes it can be developed. Vision is usually a trait that is present at birth. The world’s greatest leaders had vision. John Paul Getty possessed it. Henry Ford had it. Steve Jobs possessed it. They all envisioned a future possibility that did not yet exist in the world in which they lived.

3. Analytical and Strategic Thinking

Leaders must also have the analytical mental ability to develop strategies to steer the organization. The overall goals of the business and the particular goals of each team member would be integrated into a strong strategy.

Employees will then feel directly invested in the success of the company as a whole. This all plays into the ability to motivate a team, which is a fundamental job of a leader.

4. Empowerment

Effective leaders avoid micromanagement and delegate from the bottom up. Instead, they give team members the resources, know-how, and abilities necessary for them to succeed independently. The success of a great leader ultimately depends on the contribution of each team member. Great leaders are aware of how important it is to make sure the team can carry out its daily tasks without constant supervision.

Employee empowerment goes beyond merely giving team members the power to move toward goals independently. Done well, empowerment nurtures creative thought and innovation and improves the team’s capacity for problem-solving creativity.

5. Adaptability

Because of the constant changes in all aspects of life, including the marketplace, technology and even customer expectations, leaders must be able to pivot enough to change course quickly and keep on top of emerging trends.

Leaders should not have rigid thinking regarding any one method of operating, whether it be in the utilization of technology, identifying revenue streams, or entering a totally new industry. They must be adaptable and flexible. There must be a willingness and ability to consider and/or embrace change as an opportunity and transform the organization into one that is nimbler, more efficient, and better equipped to serve the needs of the company, its interests and its employees.

6. Self-knowledge

Without a good dosage of self-knowledge, leadership teams don’t get very far. Leaders can improve their leadership skills by identifying their areas of weakness and areas of strength through regular reflection, feedback sessions and peer reviews.

Leaders can examine prior errors and failures with openness and honesty when they are self-aware, which enables them to clearly identify what went wrong in the past and to successfully make changes that help to ensure that past mistakes aren’t repeated.

7. Discipline

True visionary leaders are disciplined. They demonstrate discipline in their work lives and should expect their team members to demonstrate the same level of personal discipline, in the spirit of leadership by example. Discipline and self-control go hand in hand because one cannot exist without the other.

Discipline includes the ability to resist distractions that would otherwise derail efforts to achieve team goals. It also includes the ability to refrain from emotional outbursts that serve only to vent personal frustrations.

8. Focus

Effective leaders are intent on achieving their objectives. The greatest error that most people make is changing their objectives before achieving success. Too often, employees lose sight of their objectives, especially after an extended period of time has passed.

World-changing leaders never lose their focus and they have the ability to bring back into focus the team objectives to help team members get back on track. Great leaders are able to be singularly focused on the one objective they have set out to accomplish, and nothing can deter them from the path to achieving it.

The other aspect of this characteristic is that leaders with vision choose to focus on one thing at a time. They understand that in order to succeed, they must devote all of their energy to a single endeavor. Every additional factor only serves to dilute that energy, decreasing the likelihood that a person will achieve any objective.

9. Drive

Drive is one of the leadership fundamentals that every leader needs to know. Leaders who lead their teams to success are aware that working on something for the long-term requires drive and zeal.

They know that success is not achieved overnight. It requires prolonged, focused effort, sometimes spanning years. Passion and drive are what gets team members through the tedious, less exciting times of a drawn-out project.

10. Support

The most successful leaders in history had the assistance of others. Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” It is nearly impossible for an individual to accomplish something great on their own, especially in a business setting.

Success requires the assistance and support of others who believe in the goal. Support should come in the form of emotional support, and a willingness to follow instructions.

However, support in business is also essential because of the different skillsets that are required to meet objectives. There is no better example of collaborative effort than those of a good, strong leader and their team.

The Importance of Leveraging Leadership Fundamentals

Consider the fundamentals of leadership as a structure’s foundation. A strong, sturdy foundation provides builders with the confidence and freedom to build something large, functional and impressive. Perhaps more significantly, a solid foundation helps to guarantee that the building will be able to survive calamities such as strong winds and storms.

The same principles apply to leadership. Without a firm grasp of the fundamentals, leaders may be unable to effectively inspire their people and guide them toward a larger vision. A leader of this type may appear effective, but ultimately, they are only going through the motions, which will ultimately negatively affect the organization’s success.

Even more importantly, leaders need to be able to manage crises, guide their teams and departments through challenging periods, and motivate employees when things are difficult, which they often will be. Without a compendium of the leadership fundamentals listed above, leaders may falter in the face of unexpected challenges.

How to Improve Fundamental Leadership Skills

Success in management depends upon having a firm grasp of these ten fundamental leadership skills. When leaders have the fundamental leadership skills necessary to thrive, the organization then has a stable basis on which to build and achieve both small and large goals.

However, many leaders lack the innate ability to use their talents. Although leaders can practice the fundamentals of leadership on their own, investing in developing leadership skills is often not only helpful but essential.

Leaders can strengthen and develop their fundamental leadership skills by:

  • working on self-improvement and learning to identify personal and professional strengths and weaknesses
  • enrolling in leadership skills courses
  • finding a mentor who is also in a leadership role
  • enlisting the help of colleagues for regular peer reviews
  • using metrics and data-driven key performance indicators to measure performance
  • accepting limitations and be willing to focus on improving in those areas

The short-term and long-term success of any organization depends on its leaders. One need only scrutinize any public company to see that the finest C-suite executives also serve at the most successful companies. It is incumbent upon every leader to make a point of excelling in all the facets of leadership fundamentals, for the betterment of themselves, their careers and for the benefit of their team members.

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