Successful leadership skills are talents that can be learned and must be practiced, at least according to Brené Brown and Simon Sinek.
- Becoming a successful leader takes work and practice, something Brown and Sinek believe every leader can accomplish.
- “They’re skills that are observable, measurable, teachable—we can practice them,” Brown says in an interview on the ReThinking podcast with psychologist Adam Grant.
- According to Brown and Sinek, there are three skills that highly successful people have in common: public speaking, boundary setting, and vulnerability.
Why it’s important
While Brown and Sinek may have noticed the common traits shared in successful leaders, those leaders did not necessarily start as masters of those skills. Becoming a successful leader takes work and practice.
Public speaking is one of the more difficult skills to master, as one of the more nerve-wracking tasks for a leader. However, becoming an excellent public speaker can increase confidence and leadership skills, CNBC reports.
Even for Sinek, who has delivered multiple TED Talks and other speeches, public speaking can be anxiety-inducing. He says that the key to achieving calm while speaking has more to do with a physical reaction rather than a mental one.
“There’s a physiological connection between our hands and how fast we talk,” Sinek says. “I talk very fast, and I move my hands a lot. If I’m with other people that speak fast and move their hands, it’s all good … If I’m in a meeting with somebody who is slower, they think before they speak, what I’ve learned to do is to interlock my fingers and to hold my hands still.”
With this simple mental trick, Sinek says he has better connected with individuals or audiences who think and talk differently than he does.
Maybe just as nerve-wracking for people-pleasing leaders are learning how to set boundaries. While empathy and a willingness to help others are valuable characteristics, Brown warns against overextending mental resources.
“You can’t give what you don’t have,” Brown says. “You’ve got to set boundaries, and you’ve got to model boundaries.”
Setting boundaries is an important skill to learn to preserve mental health and prevent burnout. For some, this skill may be more challenging than others, but Brown says leaders can practice and get better at it.
Both public speaking and boundary setting are connected to a willingness to be vulnerable, something Brown says is a valuable skill for a leader. Public speaking makes the leader vulnerable, opening him up to criticism. Boundary setting may initially make a leader uncomfortable, once again exposing some vulnerability.
However, vulnerability, while potentially uncomfortable, is a valuable asset to a leader. Brown told NBC’s Today Show that vulnerability makes the leader “show up and put yourself out there to be all in when you don’t have any control over how it’s going to go.”
Being open about personal or professional issues that may affect performance with managers or colleagues may be difficult, but Brown says that sharing this information is a sign of strength rather than weakness.
“You can say, ‘I’m really struggling right now. I’ve got some stuff going on, and it’s hard, and I wanted y’all to know,’” Brown says on the TED podcast WorkLife. “‘And I want you to know what support looks like for me is that I’ll check in with you if I need something or I may take some time off.’”
These skills may not come naturally to every leader, but they are abilities each can work at and develop into a strength.