True leaders are continuous learners at business, home


July 19, 2013
Nashville Business Journal

Leadership is a lifelong journey, not a short-term destination. Our mission is continuous personal growth and, equally important, the development of people on our team.

Based on what top CEOs pinpoint as characteristics of high-potential leaders, here are 10 skills that good leaders master on their way up the ladder:

• Public speaking. Leaders have to develop and continually refine their ability to communicate at every level. If you can’t deliver a speech effectively you may have already plateaued.

• Tough issues. Leaders must be proactive and calm about handling the really tough issues, particularly performance-related challenges.

• Coaching. Good leaders are constantly in coaching mode, improving skills and developing future leaders. Your best long-term memories will be of the people you helped coach.

• Listening. Leaders who don’t listen isolate themselves from the facts and the truth, and eventually make uninformed decisions.

• Networking. Senior leaders build a network of peers outside the work environment and gain much of their knowledge from that inspiring group.

• Leading change. Top leaders are change agents who initiate and calmly lead changes that move the organization forward.

• Compassion. Respected leaders are tough on business issues, but can demonstrate compassion in equally tough times.

• Cool in crisis. Leaders earn trust by remaining composed, organized and deliberate in times of crisis, avoiding the element of panic.

• Life balance. In retirement, your most significant memories will not be about how many hours you worked. So if you don’t have good balance in your life, start creating it now.

• Self-control. The strongest leaders understand themselves and how to control their shortcomings so they can lead in a balanced way.

Leadership requires continuous improvement in the skills that make us most effective. Want to get ahead? Go back and measure yourself against these key points.

Joe Scarlett is the retired chairman and CEO of Tractor Supply Co. He can be reached at joe@joescarlett.com.

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