Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


6 Abilities Leaders MUST Possess by 2018

Volume: March 2016

One of the traits of terrific leaders is that they are life-long learners. They desire to reach higher, go faster, and stretch farther than their average leadership peers. In addition, terrific leaders challenge and enable the people they lead to grow faster, learn better, and achieve seemingly unattainable results. In a fast-paced world, the thirst to learn is a gift. The ability to implement what is learned is also vital. If this sounds a lot like you - bravo! In order to remain at the top of your game, there are a variety of skills that you need to master in the very near future. How do you measure up to the following?

  1. The Ability to Lead Virtual Teams. Mark Zuckerberg recently stated that he envisions a fast-paced future that is a broadly connected and virtual place. His remarks highlight how important it is for leaders to connect with team members who work remotely. Trends clearly show that our team members will be increasingly dispersed geographically. This is problematic considering that only 25% of team members can effectively work remotely. Therefore, it is mission critical that leaders understand how to lead virtual teams. And when I say leaders, I am including all leaders from supervisors to CEOs. The ability to lead virtual teams is essential with regard to maintaining and increasing productivity, as well as keeping team members engaged.
  1. The Ability to Work with Diverse Cultures and Viewpoints. Recently, I was coaching a leader who was born in India. While he has lived in the United States for 20 years, his viewpoints and vocabulary were formed in a different culture. During one of our meetings, I used the phrase “the big elephant in the room.” He politely nodded as I continued. Several sentences later I stopped.

    “With all due respect,” I said, “Do you know what I am talking about when I say the big elephant in the room?”

    Smiling and nodding he said, “I have no idea.”

    Then I asked: “Have you been in meetings when your boss has referenced a big elephant in the room?”

    “Many times,” he replied, adding: “I have often wondered what an elephant has to do with our team’s challenges.”

    “Ah,” I said, “the big elephant refers to THE big problem….something worthy of your attention.”

    “Oh no,” he said.


    While we ended up having a laugh, we also did a deep dive on American slang, as well as business communication techniques that can ensure mutual understanding.

    Fifteen percent of the people in the United States aged 20-34 were born in a foreign land (U.S. Census). We are truly a melting pot of cultures, and our workplace continues to become more diverse. In addition, whether it seems like it or not, we are all working in a global marketplace. This calls for leaders to be excellent communicators, and adept at social intelligence that bridges cultural differences so that collaboration is maximized.

  1. The Ability of Critical Thinking & Problem Solving. In a country whose educational system seems smitten with standardized testing, it is increasingly difficult to find leaders who possess critical thinking skills. Critical thinking refers to a leader’s skill at asking great questions and their ability to write meaningful narratives. This ability is the cornerstone that enables leaders to effectively solve workplace problems. You know, a fair amount of a leader’s workday is consumed with solving problems. A lack of critical thinking skills puts a leader at a severe disadvantage. At a minimum, consider developing or embracing a process for problem solving. It may very well lead to your team developing a process for winning.
  1. The Ability to Mine Data. Many leaders used to have the luxury of having someone else analyze data and recommend appropriate strategies. As technology advances, however, so does our ability to measure everything – in real time. In a laser-fast work world, there will not be time for others to perform analysis and communicate their thoughts. The leaders of the future must become very comfortable with computational thinking and understanding vast amounts of data pertaining to their area of responsibility. In addition, leaders will need to leverage critical thinking skills (see above) in order to make lightning fast decisions that are consistent with their organization’s culture and direction.
  1. The Ability of Social Media Literacy. In a changing social-cyber world that considers Facebook old school, it is easy to be confused regarding social media strategy. Yet, savvy future leaders need to not only understand social media trends (not fads), but also how to leverage them in the workplace. This includes targeted internal social media, and it is no easy task by any measure. For example, should your organization leverage Tumblr or Instagram? “Aren’t they the same thing?” “NO!” Should your organization use any social media? “Yes!” What about Snapchat (which the Tampa Bay Lightning leveraged to garner 50,000 new prospects) or Periscope (which has led to over 1 million followers for previously unknown businesses)? Just to add to the confusion, the monster social media outlet for 2018 has probably not even been created. What to do? Well, you better figure it out fast. The alternative is to miss out on a communication medium that can grow your business, help your people feel connected, and retain team members who will otherwise leave.
  1. The Ability to Collaborate Across the Organization. We work in a matrix world (do not think Neo or the musings of Hollywood). As such, terrific leaders possess the ability to reach across cross-functional lines and get something accomplished. This not only calls for mastery of collaboration tools, but also the ability to negotiate. Many leaders believe that effective negotiation and collaboration stems from our ability to convince others we are right. Rather, positive results typically stem from a leader’s ability to influence others so that they come to realize that working together is the only way to move forward. This, my friends, is an art that must be continually honed.

Bottom Line: Our work world is getting smaller and rotating faster. The terrific leader in 2018 will be able to navigate the fray via their ability to drive effective collaboration and results across geographic and time zone divides. In addition, they will possess communication skills that bridge cultural differences and amplify team results in the process. Finally, they will be able to assess analytics on the fly and leverage social media space to keep people connected and engaged. What an exciting future. What amazing things we will accomplish. What growth lies ahead on our leadership journey.

Until next time, be well.

Doug Van Dyke is a Tampa Bay based executive coach, leadership development expert, and strategic planner. To learn more about leadership development programs, coaching, strategic planning, or to have Doug speak at your next event, visit www.leadershipsimplified.com or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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