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Transitioning to Leadership

The 17 Skills Leaders Need to Stand OutWhether you’re a brand-new manager or an experienced professional, there’s always room to learn new skills and hone existing ones. The Harvard Business Review, in its’ new book Manager’s Handbook: The 17 Skills Leaders Need to Stand Out, the editors present practical advice that helps existing leaders and those transitioning to leadership to improve their organizations and transform their employees.

The 17 skills are presented in five sections:

  • How to develop a leader mindset
  • Managing yourself
  • Managing individuals
  • Managing teams
  • Managing the business

What sets the handbook apart from other such titles is in the range of skills presented. A number of common skills are highlighted, including:

  • Delegation
  • Effective communication
  • Hiring and retaining employees
  • The basics of financial performance

The book also delves into some less-common areas of management and leadership, including:

  • Building trust and credibility
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Becoming a person of influence
  • Self-development
  • Fostering creativity

It’s in the balance between the practical and conceptual that the HBR handbook differentiates itself:

To become an effective manager and a strong leader, you need to solve practical problems every day. You need to vet processes, draft budgets, and delegate tasks. The work is also deeply personal. Whether you’re coaching an employee or negotiating with your boss, the role calls upon your empathy, resilience, and a sense of purpose. To succeed, you must complement the development of your practical skills with inward reflection and an investment in your personal growth.

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of examples of the handbook’s approach to management and leadership.

Personal Influence Versus Positional Authority

Many new managers assume that their new business cards or bigger office automatically beget results. Certainly, managers have some positional authority in that they can mandate that tasks are completed and demand compliance with various duties. However, the handbook aptly points out that having a position of power does not mean your employees will fully commit or deliver ideal work in such situations.

Personal influence, or persuasion, is needed to get employee buy-in. It is your conviction, competence, words and actions that will inspire people to believe in you, work hard for you, and work more effectively. Getting there, the handbook notes, means meeting employees where they are, understanding their motivations and concerns, and creating a “deep wall of trust.”

Emotional Steadiness and Self-Control

Incivility takes on many forms in the workplace, the authors submit. It can manifest itself in a bullying boss who belittles, berates, insults, and blames his or her subordinates. Or it can be found in a new boss who forces employees to defend prior business decisions made by a former leader. It can also be seemingly minor, such as a manager who texts and checks emails during your presentation, or a boss who always takes credit for others’ work.

Recognizing one’s one incivility and calling out others when it occurs are essential. The costs are significant, including demotivation, a lack of employee engagement, and poor, fearful, and hesitant performance.

New Approaches to Solving Problems

The handbook is a powerful tool for managers and those who aspire to be managers. It has applications in both large companies and small startups. It’s an essential resource that should have a prominent spot on any leader’s bookshelf.

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