"People are promoted not because they know how to lead, but because they know how to do," notes Nan O'Connor, a Master Certified life coach and our guest on this week's episode of In Process. But the common misconception that one is simply born a leader (or not!) is growing more and more outdated. With the right processes and tools, leaders can be created. A successful business owner herself with over 18 years of experience coaching executives, O'Connor's most popular program lately revolves round leadership training, afield she says was widely under-serving its clientele. Her take on leadership training found its roots in the needs of a client who—sick of what felt like "B.S." from other executive training—felt confident about his recently promoted executives' ability in the technicalities, but was unsure of how to teach them to manage a team.
O'Connor set out to fill in this gap in training by first analyzing what skills great leaders seemed to have that were teachable. She found that great leaders had three main skills.
1. Great leaders know how to leverage their time.
Nobody has enough time. The people who are accomplishing big goals don't have any more hours in their day--they're simply doing a good job at managing the time they do have. This sometimes means establishing processes and using tools--Nan herself has a spreadsheet she gives budding leaders to help determine the ROI of time spent on a project. Now that's efficient.
2. Great leaders know how to delegate.
A business is a reflection of its leader, and oftentimes that means understanding what makes a strong team. A great leader wears different hats depending on who they're dealing with, and they know when to play to the strengths of their team.
3. Great leaders don't shy away from conflict.
Great leaders know how to disagree in a productive way. One of the points that O'Connor continues coming back to during this episode is the fact that people will be accountable if you make it safe to do so. It has to be okay for people to make mistakes--people should feel encouraged to come forward when something goes wrong because the best companies learn from their failures.
While these overarching themes are present in most of O'Connor's leadership training, she stresses that the "toxic" culture at many corporations can be stifling, limiting its leaders and inhibiting any training whatsoever. O'Connor herself won't work with a company she doesn't deem relatively "sane"--she equates toxicity with an environment that doesn't leave room for life, and implores that growing companies keep a level head. Fast growth can exacerbate natural tensions and render leaders out-of-touch quickly. The push-pull between a manager and the employees performing the work is a critical relationship to maintain.
Listen to the podcast in the player below and gain more of O'Connor's expert insight into leadership development and accountability. For more conversations about business and entrepreneurship in the modern age, subscribe to In Process on iTunes.