Learning About Leadership

By: Stephanie Todorovski, Operations Intern, Ontario Brain Institute 

Team leads, senior management personnel, and executive positions are just some of the potential job opportunities that exist in the business world. To be successful within these roles, it goes without saying that all three require one key component: strong leadership skills. Working towards the development of this type of person requires one to be well equipped with the tools for leadership. In addressing this topic, the Ontario Brain Institute organized an educational session for recent graduates working within the three training and education opportunities available at OBI this past year, including the OBI entrepreneurs program, management fellowships program and internships program. The workshop focused on one of the fundamental elements for successful leadership: communication.

I was very enthusiastic about attending the IVEY Tangerine Leadership Centre workshop hosted by Lucy Keating, founder of a consulting firm that provides expertise in the area of environmental sciences.  She spoke about her personal experience with running a company and provided us with a solid understanding of the tools for leadership. She articulated upon critical aspects of interpersonal communication and listening skills that set leaders apart from others in the workplace and highlighted their importance as starting points for pursuing team leadership, senior management, and executive-level positions.

My goal in attending this workshop was to gain valuable insight on these leadership tools, and the ways that they foster and facilitate professional development.

Communication
Communication is a fundamental component of strong leadership skills, particularly for the purpose of sharing results within an organization. It allows employees to stay informed about where a company is going, how the company will meet their objectives, and why each individual role is a significant contributor to helping drive the organization to its vision and goals. When carrying out a team leadership role, Lucy outlined three major channels of communication that should align when conveying a message: verbal, vocal, and non-verbal, with the latter bearing the most powerful impact on others. She also mentioned the importance of remaining mindful about the degree of clarity while communicating, such as eliminating the use of clutter and avoiding behaviours that may lead conversations to an end.

Listening
In addition to being a great communicator, Lucy also highlighted the importance of displaying superior listening skills as a leader and being actively engaged at this end of an interpersonal conversation as well. Listening skills are not solely limited to orienting behaviours and simple gestures such as nodding and providing eye contact. Being a good listener means being in tune with what the other person is saying, requiring focus and energy. It is productive and active. The speaker is immediately able to discriminate the degree of a listener’s engagement based on the scope of questioning and reflective statements directed at them afterwards. Through questioning, the listener demonstrates their efforts of probing for both facts and context within a conversation; through reflective statements, the listener is showing that they are addressing the intended feelings and words of the speaker.

People and Personality Styles
Successful leaders are not only able to communicate effectively; they are able to do so across diverse groups of people. They have a comprehensive understanding of the many personality types that inevitably exist in the workplace. This heterogeneity within a team is a characteristic that is also admirable to leaders, as it generates more innovative teams. Therefore, being able to communicate a consistent message to each and every individual is crucial to building and managing a successful team. After all, an organization’s only competitive advantage is the people that it is comprised of. Gaining a firm understanding of the different personality styles allows leaders to communicate with each individual staff member in a clear way, and facilitates efficient work teams. Leaders are also able to provide constructive feedback in effective ways, allowing for a cohesive work environment.

Business Networking
Lastly, Lucy Keating discussed the value of business networking. What I drew from this last discussion was simple: business networking is a win-win situation. It is a source of opportunity ranging a broad spectrum; from gaining access to new information or ideas, expanding one’s career knowledge, generating new business or connecting with individuals as a way of prospecting for future opportunities.

Communication and well planned self-presentations were mentioned as being key skills in effective business networking. At the conclusion of the workshop, all attendees were given the opportunity to directly apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills at a networking reception held at the same venue.

My overall experience at the IVEY Tangerine Leadership Centre with Lucy Keating was fantastic. I am very pleased to have been provided the opportunity to attend this leadership development workshop. It was an extremely informative session intended to groom the business leaders of tomorrow and encourage people at various stages in their careers to continually upgrade their leadership skill sets. It is great to be part of an organization such as OBI that provides valuable training opportunities for recent graduates and insightful workshops geared towards our professional development.

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