I recently heard Candace McGraw, CEO of the Cincinnati-Kentucky International Airport, speak at a Business Networking event. As she referenced her career growth and achievements, four competencies stood out for me as contributing to her success as a leader:

1) Think Critically

The Conference BoardMs. McGraw shared that her ability to look at an issue in several ways, otherwise called analytical thinking, has created opportunities for success at every stage of her career. The Conference Board, a non-profit, independent organization that conducts research on business and leadership issues, identifies Master Strategist as an important leadership competency in the 21st Century. Today’s business with uncharted territories, unclear expectations, fickle customer needs and increased technological advances demands greater cognitive complexity. This requires superior strategic thinking combined with an ability to make high-quality decisions in a shorter time to stay competitive.

What can you personally do daily to strengthen your skills in analysis and critical thinking?

  • Respectfully, ask your colleagues what is possible and achievable; ask people about one problem they would like to solve, ask individuals and teams to engage in “why not?” scenarios.
  • Purposefully, invite solicited and unsolicited feedback from all parts of your organization –pick a mistake and showcase learning, resiliency and potential growth from that experience.
  • Tactically, identify future trends that will shape your business and dedicate time NOW to discuss and create innovative ideas that will stop the future pain.

2) Find and Mentor “Right-Fit” Talent

In her message, Ms. McGraw applauded her team and shared stories about how leading with an exceptionally talented team has paid off for her. The Conference Board identifies Talent Identifier as another leadership prerequisite to staying ahead of the game today. The workforce today is techno-savvy, globally connected, geographically dispersed and culturally diverse. Albert Einstein once said:

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

This statement is true for people development too. Ignoring employee personal and professional development can come at a high and almost irreversible cost to a company. With training dollars and time at a premium in organizations, what questions must be asked to ensure that each employee is aggressively innovating, executing results beyond their functional areas and increasing market share?

What can you personally do daily to identify and empower your talented people?

  • How is personal and professional growth defined, understood and aligned (by you and your team) to your organizational mission and future needs?  Describe one of your talent development efforts with lowest cost and maximum impact.
  • What skills, individual or team might be invisible to your eye? Would you be able to identify why a certain project completed itself with little supervision from you?
  • What talent matrix might be useful for you to identify the current state of talent and flexibility in defining roles for maximum and sustainable business impact?

3) Embrace Change

The ability to embrace change has helped Ms. McGraw, “pick up and soldier on.” A third leadership competency, Change Manager on the Conference Board list suggests accountability, while calling for transparency in the face of uncertainty and  commanding high performance in the midst of disruption. Even the most resilient person balks in face of change because even a very small shift in routine is ALWAYS chaotic and unsettling. Ignoring the reality of how poorly prepared people can be when faced with change suggests that leadership must stay a step ahead, make this leap at a larger scale and build a culture of resiliency that permeates the very fabric of organizational cloth.

What can you personally do to build and strengthen resiliency and adaptability?

  • What structures help employees create robust and highly collaborative networks based on trust, common purpose and accountability?
  • If an outsider were to describe your employees, how would they do so?  Would they say that the majority of your employees are curious learners, have a sense of humor, are realistically optimistic, possess high self-awareness and are willing to ask and receive help easily?
  • How is risk taking, if at all, rewarded? And, how are mistakes handled?

4) Build Relationships

It wasn’t a surprise to hear Ms. McGraw talk about being a Relationship Builder, the fourth competency that completes the the Conference Board list. Clearly what use is a leader’s vision when there is no buy-in? As human beings, we crave for both, an emotional connection and a rational explanation for why we must give our best talent and commitment to a cause. That decision to lead and follow very often comes from shared conversations and countless hours of listening carefully to build trust and accountability within relationships. Unless leadership can define and gather shared aspirations, the best that can happen is business as usual, not extraordinary transformation by people unleashing in full force their collective potential.

What can you personally do to build and strengthen your relationships?

  • What have you done recently to reach out and connect in a caring, compassionate way? Why must it matter to you?
  • How does your work environment shape and reinforce everyone’s contributions in a way that each person is noticed and appreciated? What formal and informal ways are used to recognize and applaud others?
  • What behaviors show that you lead with clear and uncompromising clarity, communicate powerful expectations with defined metrics and display trustworthiness in every interaction?

Master Strategist. Talent Identifier. Change Manager. Relationship Builder. What do you think? How have you seen these traits help you make connections, between your past successes, present challenges and future opportunities?

I’d like to hear your stories!

Sunitha Narayanan is a certified career coach with a passion for connecting people and their talents to life and work opportunities. She is a co-active coach, empowering her clients to believe in their dreams, set actionable goals and actively create joy in their work lives. She is with Promark Company, a Career Partners International firm that offers executive coaching, leadership development and outplacement services. Learn about her interests by visiting her LinkedIn profile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>