While there have been cases of “born leaders”, leadership is not a typically inborn talent; it is a skill and skills can be acquired by learning. If there is some natural predisposition, work is easier, but, either way, leadership is a complex skill and the task of selecting efficient from inefficient leaders seems challenging. In the first issue of its Soft Skills edition focusing on leadership, SAFETY4SEA asked leaders across the shipping industry to answer to the following question:
If you had to choose one ‘must-have’ skill for leaders, which would it be and why?
- Diversity in leadership; a new connection is born
- Top 10 challenges for young leaders
- Why do people quit their leaders?
- Leadership at sea: What makes a great Captain
- Which is the one ‘must-have’ skill for leaders?
- 7 key body language tips for leaders
- Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint
- 8 Key focus areas for an inspirational leader
- Do’s and Don’ts leaders should keep in mind
- Supporting women leaders: A win-win case for shipping
Capt. Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention, The Standard Club
Communication would no doubt be at the forefront of all the skills a good leader should possess. In my years at sea I was exposed to people from different countries, cultures and religion. As the master on board, I needed to be able to listen, be thoughtful of their perspective on the situation and understand the bigger picture in order to properly lead the team. It is only when all these aspects come together and when everybody in the team understands their role, that a team will be effective. The same principles of communication apply to leading a team ashore.
Colin Gillespie, Director of Loss Prevention, The North of England P&I Club
The one soft skill I would choose is an openness to learning. Why? Many of us in shipping gain management positions due to technical competence. Once in post we are expected to show leadership. But leadership requires a much broader range of skills and behaviours than are needed to be technically competent at a job such as Chief Engineer or Master. So, if you have ambitions to be a successful leader you should actively seek out these new skills. Soft skills can be learned in much the same way as technical skills. So, don’t wait until you are appointed to post; look for opportunities to learn along your career path. And put your learning into practice. The more you practice the better leader you’ll become.
Erik Green, Managing Director and Partner, Green-Jakobsen AS
The answer to this question is for me very straight forward. Based on my experience from conducting leadership courses, being a leader and studying leadership implies to be clear on performance expectations, provide employee performance feedback and help them develop and perform. However, from time to time this virtue can be difficult to satisfy – especially when leaders have to address poor employee performance or are unclear on how to define performance expectations. But problems don’t always just go away. The role of the leader is therefore not just to do her/his best but to do what is necessary in an appreciating and constructive manner. For leaders to be effective they therefore also need robustness and character.
Capt. Panagiotis Nikiteas, HSQE Manager / DPA / CSO, Maran Dry Management Inc.
Three processes engulf the role of a leader; envisioning (dream the future), aligning people (influence people to share the dream) and execution (actualize the dream). Not easy really…Problem solving, building relationships, two-ways communication, trustworthiness, empathy require social and emotional intelligence, prudence, courage and interpersonal, conflict management, decision making skills. Is the task to “develop” the leaders to acquire such skills? No wonder then that true leaders are rare. Instead of looking at the mechanistic preparation of a “leader” with certain set of skills, we can look back to Socrates, whose doctrines are more valid than ever. The leader is not an amalgamation of skills, is a person with virtues; the most notable being humility. Only a humble leader is prepared to ask and listen.
Capt. Hari Subramaniam, Regional Head – Business Relations, The Shipowners’ Club
Compassion is the one quality that leaders must have in their arsenal. Whilst empathy helps one realize the emotions of others, compassion takes it to another level as it includes the desire to help and improve situations. Leaders aren’t leaders without their team, and a group of individuals will not become a successful team without a compassionate leader who practices cohesive leadership. It is imperative that a leader recognizes and appreciates team members even before they realize that they have done something noteworthy. Compassion is about standing in your colleague’s shoes, seeing with their eyes and feeling with their heart. Compassionate leaders are those who treat their team as they would treat their customers. Leadership is not about realizing weaknesses, it’s about garnishing strengths.
Tasos Kartsimadakis, Vetting & Inspections Manager, Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement
It is every manager’s responsibility to attract, develop and obtain the human potential from each individual in the organization in order to attain sustainable competitive advantage and secure lasting results. In any organization or group setting, there are charismatic personalities, with great motivation, clear and positive vision, focused on ensuring that people around them understand the vision of the organization and embrace it. Leaders empower people within organizations and inspire them towards greatness. There are numerous acquired and innate skills which are building leader’s profile. No matter the organization they serve, leading by example through being visible, involved and engaged is what distinguishes the great leaders. For exceptional leadership plots the course to excellence, consistently, reliably and sustainably.