Leadership Skills for Success

Ram Charan explains the skills leaders should perfect from his new book <I>Know-How</I>.
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"Know-how is what separates leaders who perform -- who deliver results -- from those who don't," starts off Ram Charan's new book Know-How , in which he pinpoints and describes the eight skills that distinguish successful leaders.

"What I do is to try and help leaders become better," says Charan, who has coached and advised a number of CEOs and other business leaders in various industries. "I find out what their need is, follow through and learn what makes them more successful or what prevents them from becoming so."

What Charan has found is that in many cases, leaders are selected based on their presentation and communication skills, but then end up failing. "Most leaders are imbued with passion, vision, resilience and courage," the author explains. "And while these are important traits, they are not enough."

Charan believes the know-hows mentioned in his book are essential for a leader of any capacity to learn and practice to obtain success.

Although a total of eight skills are highlighted, he says no one person will be able to perfect all of them, as each are very demanding. "People have to choose which ones they have the aptitude for,

then practice them and excel," Charan says.

Among the eight, one of the most important skills for a manager or chief executive is the ability to judge people and thus, spot future leaders for their business, Charan adds.

"Every leader works with people and when you work with people you have to judge them --judge their talent, judge their skills, their passion to utilize their skills and passion to extend their skills," he says. "This one makes the difference and is absolutely minimal."

"A leader is not going to succeed without getting work completed through others," Charan stresses, and "if you're going to get things done through others, you have to know who the 'others' are and what their ... gifts of talent are." Once a leader figures this out, he or she must learn to best utilize their workers' skills, hone them and be able to expand them.

Once you have effectively built a small team of people who directly report to you, the next important skill for a leader to learn and perfect involves motivating that team to work together, each contributing their unique abilities to drive the company forward in the best way possible.

Building a team involves an enormous amount of effort and is "very energy consuming," Charan notes. But motivating the team and deploying it the right way is even more of a challenge.

The third most crucial point is learning how to choose the right goals.

Often, business owners choose the wrong goals. For example, if a target is too ambitious given the time constraint or economy, a leader will fail at meeting his or her goal and end up disappointed. In this case, people are likely to start questioning your judgment, Charan says.

Next, once a leader has set goals, he or she can get on with the next know-how, which involves "always re-evaluating how the business makes money and then setting the right priority," Charan says.

"Priorities are the pathway for accomplishing goals," he writes. "They provide the road map that organizes and directs the business toward its goals."

It's also imperative that a leader learn how to efficiently manage the social system of his or her company. As Charan says, even the "smallest two-person shop" has a social system. As people work together and interact, their influences on each other will be noticeable.

Therefore, as a leader, it is important to analyze this interaction so that the work output will lead to results.

The sixth skill Charan talks about in his book is the ability to pinpoint important external shifts in an ever-changing world.

"Your job as a leader is to deal with that change, to get ahead of the curve, ensuring that your business is positioned to make money now and in the future," he says. "It is this know-how of pinpointing external change that allows you to make a sound judgment about where the world is going and put your business on the offensive."

Also, because change is constant, another skill essential for successful leaders is the art of repositioning a business.

Finally, it is vital for leaders to understand that "companies today are in the code of public opinion," Charan emphasizes. "External stakeholders, communities, employees, environmental are all important factors."

"The business of business is more than business; it is in the context of societal forces," Charan says. "People need to learn the skill to work in the social context."

Charan's eight know-hows -- what managers need to perfect to gain a leadership edge -- are very practical. Although they may seem a little obvious, he doesn't see a problem with that.

People know these skills, Charan points out, but they are bombarded with so many things, that the skills don't take precedence. His book simply helps distill them.

Of course, just reading the book isn't going to give you the edge. It's always going to entail a tremendous amount of patience and work.

As Charan tells me, what's his basic formula for success? Practice.