Back to Blog

The Big 4 of Leadership

Feb 03, 2023

We expect a lot from our leaders.  When I ask people what makes an effective leader, I am always struck by the number of qualities we think are required.  Leadership done well is demanding and complex, and more important than ever.   According to the Center for Creative Leadership, (CCL) and based on their extensive research, there are four traits and skills that are most fundamental to success and credibility of leaders.

These four are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Learning agility
  • Influence
  • Communication

Leaders who possess self-awareness have an accurate picture of themselves.  They know their strengths and weaknesses and can make behavioral adjustments as necessary. Self-aware leaders can read their own emotions and know intuitively how their moods affect others, which is an element of emotional intelligence.

Another element of self-awareness is seeking feedback to improve. The best leaders are learners and are committed to self-improvement; they have a plan for growth and development as leaders. And they ask for and welcome feedback from others about their progress, as well as any areas where they are falling short.

Learning agility is the ability to absorb new information, adapt and adjust quickly. This skill is more important than ever, given today’s complex and volatile environment. With learning agility, a leader can face ambiguity with the confidence that she will find the answers. I refer to this as “figure-it-out smarts,” and it is most helpful when faced with change, transition, and uncertainty.

The leader who is an agile learner seeks out new experiences that will allow her to stretch and grow. She is open to different perspectives, new approaches and willing to change her beliefs.

Communication as a fundamental skill is multi-faceted. It includes the ability to express oneself clearly, check for understanding and adjust messages to get one’s intent across effectively. It also includes effective listening skills, which means providing one’s full attention while avoiding distractions.

Great communicators can tailor their message to the needs, motivations, and priorities of others. They know how to reach people at different levels of understanding or different levels of the organization. They are also proactive, providing critical information to prevent surprises, and are willing to raise important issues, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

Influence is the ability to understand and persuade others and gain cooperation to get things done. This requires preparation, the capacity to present ideas clearly, the willingness to appropriately - and respectfully - challenge beliefs and perspectives.

Like communication, effective influence involves gaining a clear understanding of how others may view a particular situation. Finding common ground, and gaining support and cooperation, the ability to inspire or motivate are all important elements of influence.

Gaining influence in an organization means building solid relationships and credibility.

One of the reasons these four rise to the top of the leadership development agenda is the nature of these skills. Each requires on-going learning and improvement; there is always another level of mastery. 

Think about your own organization and how well your leadership performs in each of these areas.  How does your organization support the development of these skills for its leaders?

If you want to improve as a leader, you need to invest in your personal and professional development. Developing in these four areas is a great place to start.

Look at each of the descriptions and give yourself a score on a scale of one to ten, and determine where you need some improvement.  Then, seek some feedback from others about how you are perceived in these areas and compare that to your own assessment.

If you want to know more about how to improve your leadership, let’s talk. I can help you, just as I’ve helped countless other leaders grow and improve.

Either click the button to schedule time with me or simply reply to this email.



Schedule a Discovery Session with Cheryl

Click to book your call