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Eric McNulty at Cultivate OSCON
The most important skill you need as a leader
"One of the most powerful tools you have as a leader is to be present." Eric McNulty opened up the first day of Cultivate this year, the annual pre-conference event before OSCON, with this quote.
First, he asked the audience to think about the whys.
Why are we here? Why did we we decide to spend two days at Cultivate?
For me, becoming and being a good leader is a passion of mine, and I want to learn all I can about how to lead. I want to be inspired by the ideas and stories of others.
Why do we lead?
Personally, the reason I want to lead is because of the opportunities that leadership opens up to me. It's also for the pleasure of watching people around me grow and learn and succeed.
Why do people follow you?
This one was tricky for me to answer because I I feel like the most accurate answer would have to come from those who see me as a leader. But, I have heard that the reason folks enjoy working with me on projects is because of my enthusiasm.
If you've tried to answer these questions for yourself, keep your answers in mind as we talk about the how one can be an effective leader.
Eric emphasized that the most important skill you need as a leader is to learn how to be comfortable with change. Your team needs to also learn how to be adaptive and resilient. They need to trust you to lead them in the right direction, and you need to think and take actions at the system level to that end. Many of us see that the old model of management and leadership doesn't work anymore—we don't often have traditional hierarchies in our communities. We know that we can't wait for ideas to go up the ladder because things are changing much too quickly. So, we, as leaders, need to allow more changes to be made on the front lines, and to allow for this we have to build agile teams.
A good leader:
- responds to competitors and meets customer needs immediately
- keeps an eye on things and anticipates what might go wrong (if you're always reacting after something happens, you'll never be able to keep up)
- asks questions (even more than provides answers)
- is more productive and less reactionary
- is clear about the mission and what they want from their employees
- is a catalyst (instead of managing everything your team is doing)
- has emotional intelligence
Eric labels leaders as "sense-makers and meaning-finders." He says your emotional intelligence is more important and crucial to leadership success than your IQ or "brains." You need to be attuned to the way people are responding to you.