Most high performance up and coming leaders do not appear to truly understanding the difference between role specific skills and life skills. This is an important conversation as it relates to your long term career goals. So, let’s break this down.
Two skills buckets
You should evaluate and categorize your skills into two buckets. Technical or role specific skills and life skills. Most people seem to be driven to develop role specific skills with the hope that they will lead to advancement. Role specific skills do not make great leaders. They make good managers. Department managers need to have good technical or work specific, or process specific skills. Good managers are wonderful. However, if you want to be a true business leader you need to think in terms of life skills.
Life skills are skills that are transferable to any type of role – they are not role specific, they are ubiquitous. They are the skills that you must acquire in order to be a formidable leader. This includes things like peer management, upward / downward management, financial understanding, understanding and valuing process, return on investment calculations, cost / value analysis, personal brand, root cause analysis, and the list goes on and on. Life skills are a set of business concepts that individually equip you to manage specific situations or challenges. A full set of life skills will give you a depth of business acumen that will clearly separate you from the pack.
What to look for
Each of us is presented with numerous life skill learning opportunities every day. It’s a matter of understanding what to look for and how to take advantage of the learning opportunities. Once you start to think in terms of life skill learning you will be surprised at how you will look at your daily business activity in a different way. This new perspective is the beginning of seeing with the eyes of a true leader.
I was working for a company that was failing and everyone was jumping ship. As I considered my career choices it struck me that I could learn a lot by riding the business to the bottom. Against the advice of my peers, and conventional wisdom, I decided to stay and see what happens. It was a great decision. I learned a whole set of lesson from that experience. I learned how not to run a business, how to manage stress and tension, how to manage terminations, how to manage vendors in crisis, how to communicate bad news, and so on. My learning curve was unique and valuable as compared to everyone who bailed early. I learned a set of life skills that shaped and influenced my thinking for the better.
It’s about choices
This experience has driven me to make career choices that enhance life skills learning. The end result has been a depth of business acumen and relevance that is distinctive. This is part of what makes good leaders.
What do you think? What life skills are you learning? If you are not learning them, what could you do differently to get into the game?