Assertiveness, the skill that all leaders need.

Complemented by other qualities, decisiveness can magnify your strengths. Without it, it is impossible to lead change or foster collaboration.

If I had to pick one skill that most of the leaders I work with need to improve, it would be assertiveness. Not because being assertive is a wonderful characteristic in itself, but rather because of its power to magnify so many other leadership strengths.

Firmness gets a bad reputation when people equate it with being pushy and annoying. But that shouldn’t stop you from learning to apply it productively-that is, in service to your strengths. More damage is done when people are not assertive enough than when they are too assertive.

Here are some ways that assertiveness can complement a range of critical leadership skills you may already have:

Creating a culture of innovation: A couple of years ago I conducted a study to determine the characteristics of the most innovative leaders in one of the world’s largest companies. One of the strongest characteristics of these leaders, I was told by their peers and direct subordinates, is their ability to buck the company hierarchy. Coupling decisiveness with their ability to foster innovation allowed them to take on tough issues.

Focusing on the customer: The most successful sales professionals, as Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson point out in their 2011 book ”The Challenger Sale,” are not the ones who form relationships. They are the ones who push, challenging their customers to see problems they hadn’t anticipated.

Fostering teamwork and collaboration: Teams thrive when their members are assertive enough to express unpopular points of view. And leaders who are firm enough to create a safe environment for less popular opinions will make their teams stronger by elevating participation.

Leading change: It’s almost impossible to lead change without some measure of assertiveness. That’s because even when change is viewed positively, you will likely need to face some resistance.

Acting with integrity: Firmness is not the same as honesty, and vice versa. But when the two operate together they give people courage not only to know what is right but also to stand up for it.

The firmness with which an executive often expresses himself or herself lends conviction to a message and allows a leader’s voice to be heard. Leaders with the ability to be assertive also tend to communicate more frequently as their passion drives them to capitalize on every possible opportunity to convey a message to the team in their charge.

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