Developing Skills as a Leader - Vani Kola

I often see many examples of brilliant leaders who have grown from seemingly inconspicuous beginnings to achieving global recognition. How do they do that? My perspective is that they are more likely than not to have tools for self-development and a habit of learning and Developing Skills from their setbacks.

We all know very well that learning is a lifelong process and a continuous journey. But not all of us make a consistent and structured investment into learning new skills throughout life. New Skills can be in anything, because every skill, say cooking during the lockdown and fixing a gourmet meal, or learning about quantum computing, all learning forms the basis of our sense of self-perception. And more than anything this is the bedrock of what makes our patterns of choices and decisions subconsciously. Let me give you an example from my life. On generic skills, being a good speaker or orator, for example, comes with thoughtful practice and preparation. It is a key leadership trait. And one can be more conscious about being a better public speaker. So, several years ago, I had a speech coach who immensely helped me understand and realize my communication blind spots. And to this day decades later it has a deep impact. 

Another example, being an engineer, financial planning was something that I didn’t have exposure to. When I started out as an entrepreneur, I had never used Excel or built AOP(annual operating plan). So these are specific skills I knew I had to learn, so I set aside structured time to learn and be good at it.

Learning is a lifelong process and some of us embrace this notion better than others. Great leaders are also great students who are consistently Developing Skills and keep learning all their life, from everyone they meet.

The Dominant Skill = Your winning formula

While it takes a lot of skills to be a well-rounded professional and a leader, everyone has a dominant skill set that helps them succeed in the world. This could come naturally or as a honed craft and defines your personal winning formula. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to dominant skills as different people have different winning formulas.

Out of curiosity, I conducted a poll and invited responses on ‘What has been the most useful skill that has contributed to your success?’. 

Here are some comments and reflections from the comments and poll results.

Agility to Adapt – Everyone’s world has changed, and it’s not going back to the old normal. There is a normal; however, that is different from before. The capacity to pivot and to cannibalize something you have built, along with agility and flexibility to move to different areas is vital for survival.

Quick learner and Analytical skills – A problem well-stated is a problem well solved. Many swear by the idea of understanding the problem well with analytical skills, learning, and reacting accordingly and the rest will follow.

Consistency and Discipline – “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” – Anthony Robbins. For some of us, success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals across tasks and skills to produce outstanding results. It is considered a strong foundation to achieve anything meaningful in life.

We generally focus on Developing Skills around our weaknesses. However, we often neglect to hone our dominant skills, our winning formula which already helps us succeed. Various studies have shown we grow faster when we work more on our strengths, in addition to improving on our weaknesses.  

And it takes a growth mindset to be able to do so. People who believe they can improve and be better put more effort into improving, which, in turn, helps them improve. To sum up, “Leaders are Learners”.