The Making of a Leader: The Power Skills We Need to Lead

February 28, 2022 | Activate Learning | 7min read

If you've ever watched a B-movie about space aliens, you may have heard this famous phrase:

Take me to your leader.

Now, it makes sense for the aliens of our past to demand to see the human in charge — who, presumably, ruled with an iron fist from behind the walls of a well-protected fortress. After all, that phrase was coined in a time when the vast corner office was basically a citadel. It was simply assumed that leaders possessed some mysterious, innate "superpower" that propelled them to success — inspiring slavish devotion (and sometimes, abject terror) in their subjects.

But we’ve come to realize, long before the pandemic and our digital first world, that the way we think about leadership has evolved. As Morra Aarons-Mele, founder of Women Online, says, "Leadership in the future will be the polar opposite of the old command and control model." Today, successful leaders view the empowerment of people as more important than their own positions of power. And they demonstrate these five key behaviors:

  • They lead by example and inspiration, not by force.
  • They treat others with dignity, care, and respect.
  • They trust employees to do the job they've been assigned.
  • They challenge workers to learn new skills and grow professionally.
  • They listen to others' opinions and acknowledge their contributions.

Nature vs Nurture: The Superpower of Learning

You don’t have to go to the movies to hear the phrase, “She’s a natural-born leader.” It’s a part of everyday business vernacular. But, it may be time we retired it.

While "natural-born" leaders do exist, many more are thoughtfully "made." In other words, leadership can be learned. The new leadership paradigm is based on skills like resilience, agility, empathy, communication, and a growth mindset. Today, competencies traditionally viewed as "soft skills" have gained a new name befitting their importance: "power skills.” And, in our annual Skillsoft 2021 Lean Into Learning Report, we found that nearly half of the year’s top-ten course list comprised power skills such as building trust, fostering communication, and understanding unconscious bias.

When I look back at an eBook we released last year on the Future of Leadership Development, I'm reminded of some astute insights shared by one of Skillsoft’s leaders, Elisa Vincent, VP of Global Talent Enablement:

Leadership today is about leading ecosystems of interconnected functional and cultural networks that require equal attention, focus, and nourishment to survive. Amidst rapid organizational disruption, leadership development has become a study and a practice of both the head and the heart in new ways.

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Leading From the Heart is a Strength

Now, if "leading from the heart" makes you feel, well, a tad uncertain, you're not alone: only 41% of organizations believe their leadership development programs build leaders in a way that actually benefits business. Why? Many programs fail because they haven't embraced leadership transformation as well as technology transformation. More successful programs have adapted to include content that offers a balance of power skills and hard skills training: the human interaction elements of leadership, strategic thinking to improve productivity and business outcomes, and digital fluency to stay competitive into the future.

Of course, leading from the heart doesn't mean being best friends with everyone. (What could go wrong?) What it does mean is empowering everyone to bring their best to the table — by creating a healthy work environment that fosters growth, belonging, productivity, and innovation. To combat the fallout of “The Great Resignation,” it's important to recognize and nurture the leadership potential that already exists within your organization, by making learning accessible to all.

The Skillsoft Leadership Development Program: In a Class of its Own

Grounded in the firm belief that the best leaders are made, not born, Skillsoft’s Leadership Development Program (SLDP), powered by MIT Sloan Management Review, addresses the changing ways in which leaders must develop to ensure continued growth for themselves, their employees, and their organizations. With over thirty modern leadership channels, this program will help expand your knowledge about what it takes to be a leader "from head to heart.” The Skillsoft Leadership Development Program brings a powerful combination of leading-edge learning resources, world-renowned thought leadership, proven instructional design, and an engaging learner experience in a single online platform.

To quote another industry leader, Cushing Anderson, Program Vice President, Business Consulting and IT Education at IDC:

The most successful organizations today are transitioning from hierarchical leadership practices to collective leadership … organizations need to reinvent how they train their leaders and their workforces. Skillsoft’s Leadership Development Program’s unique scenario-based approach to leadership training achieves this by putting the learning in context

Where else can you turn to make better leaders? Skillsoft's Aspire Journeys for Leadership and Power Skills connect learning to development with pre-curated, role-based, and skill-based learning paths that prepare your people with the modern leadership skills and mindsets needed to be successful, no matter where they are in their career. For an exhausted workforce seeking purpose, growth, and relevance, this is vital. In fact, our Lean Into Learning Report found that more than 50% of job seekers cite opportunities for growth as the main driver for changing employers. But our research shows that 32% of an organization’s employee turnover can be avoided through better leadership.

The good news? Getting started is easy. This free guide that can help you identify seven telltale signs that your leadership plan could use a reboot.

Remember: A leader's true "superpower" comes not from an iron fist, but from an open hand — and an open mind.