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Leadership: What are the key attributes for success.

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Executive Summary

Leadership is one of the many fundamental components of a successful business. Understanding and appreciating what makes up leadership can ultimately drive success. No matter what the business size, sector or turnover, a successful business requires great leadership.
To be a great leader requires a particular skill set; not everyone is naturally a leader. However, research has shown that successful leadership is a process and can be learned; there are definable skills that you need to possess to succeed.
What are the key skills that a successful leader needs to possess? Do leaders draw more on soft or hard skills? As generations change in character will the leaders of tomorrow need to draw on an alternative skill set? These are the key questions that have been researched in the following study.
Two approaches were used to investigate these questions. A literature review was completed looking at three studies with a focus on leadership skills. In addition a survey and six in person interviews were conducted with a group of agricultural leaders in the Marlborough region.
From the literature, survey and interviews key skills were highlighted that were critical to being a successful leader. Communication and listening ranked highly and when used effectively these skills build trust and inspire loyalty. Once trust is established a culture of safety develops allowing an environment where people are free to innovate. Kouzes and Posner (2012) stated that people who are perceived as trusting are more sought out as friends, more frequently listened to, and subsequently more influential. The most effective leadership situations are those in which each member of the team trusts the others.
The key recommendations that have come from this report for leaders are;
– Good Communication and effective skills are is essential. If done effectively and genuinely it allows people to feel closer to their leader building trust, teamwork, engagement and ultimately results.
– Support and develop others. In showing commitment to growth, people are motivated to reciprocate by often going the extra mile. Leaders need to recognise that great things cannot be achieved all by themselves.
– Relationships. To be an effective leader you must first understand the people you are leading; building a relationship takes effort. By adopting a relationship-driven approach leaders
  • can earn the trust and confidence of an increasingly diverse workforce and improve long-term retention.
    – Integrity. Getting this right is fundamental for success. Integrity is consistently rated as one of the most important character traits of a respected leader. After all, if you cannot count on a leader to consistently operate with high ethical standards, and with honesty, how can you trust them.
    – Leadership style. If you try to simply adopt a company’s style or try to copy someone else’s style your lack of authenticity will show through. It is about being self-aware, knowing what you stand for and what is important.
    – Soft skills are now becoming increasingly important for the future workforce, as a leader being aware that you need skills such as listening, creativity, agility, and problem solving are becoming as important as expertise and technical competency.
    The following study presents the findings and discussions that have resulted in the above key recommendations.