The evolution of leadership has come a long way in recent years, and although it is easily understood in many aspects, it is also one of themes dynamic and complex topics. Looking at the surface level of leadership, it is easy to pinpoint what it would take for a person to be successful at the role, but as we dig deeper into the ins and outs of leadership, topics branch off, and things become more complex and this week, we are able to dive into the Skills approach of leadership.
Abilities and knowledge seem to be the highlighted topics in this section. Taking these two traits and breaking them down further gives us more insight into what has been researched and etched out in the past decades, and at the same time has given us a base to build off of when exploring the skills approach with leadership. The book does a great job at explaining the skills approach on page 57 by saying “The skills approach works by providing a map for how to reach effective leadership in an organization: Leaders need to have problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge” (Northouse 2016, p. 57). With that said, looking at this approach is similar to looking at a map and what the correct directions are and what we need to do in order to successfully get to where we want to go. The skills approach is the same idea, but the directions look more like abilities and knowledge of leaders in order to be successful in their jobs, and even in life.
Sifting through the pages in this chapter, you will find many skills highlighted and all of those are very important, however, from the different studies completed, the top two I believe are essential to a good leader would be career attributes and experiences. This goes hand in hand with the knowledge and abilities being much needed from successful leaders. These two traits highlight not only the importance of all experiences a leader has been through(whether they succeeded or failed), but also attributes which covers a broad range of abilities when looking at skills.
According to Northouse, “Problem solving is the keystone in the skills approach” (Northouse 2016, p. 53). With that information, we are able to look into companies big or small, and investigate not only how much training they put into leaders in order to help them better their problem solving skills to become better leaders, but also at what point in the leaders career is this type of training introduced? When do companies typically invest in their employees in order to allow them to advance in this aspect of their job in order to become more successful and productive? Diving deeper into when companies actually do decide to invest in their employees in the skills department, I found some interesting statements and information while reading an article written about Human Resource Management Review. This article stated that “Organizational leaders must frequently decide whether to “make or buy” human capital (Barney, 1991) when evaluating whether to recruit external candidates who already possess the requisite skills or to provide internal training for skills that employees lack (Cappelli, 2008)”. Diving deeper into this issue would yield some very interesting numbers and statistics. Renting or Buying is not a term that I have ever thought about combining with leadership positions, but it is accurate in many ways.
This Skills Approach to leadership has many facets and ideals, many people have tried to define and highlight their versions of which traits are most needed, but I do believe that should be fluid and flexible depending on the role of the leader. When looking to hire internally versus externally, it is interesting to see how companies decide and evaluate the pros and cons to investing in current employees in their skill sets, or try to hire from the outside and try to bring new skills and information in to build their diversity in terms of leaders and their skills. This topic seemed very flexible when I began researching, but it seems as though it mostly can be narrowed down to several broad skills- problem solving, abilities and knowledge.
- Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17, 99–120.
- Cappelli, P. (2008). Talent management for the twenty-first century. Harvard Business Review, 86(3), 74.
- Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. 7th Edition. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.