Recently I was asked what I thought the three most important skills of leadership were. Typically, such responses are things like “vision” or maybe something like “listening”. But thinking about it, I came up with three more abstract, yet critical, skills that I think are the top three for leadership:

The first and foremost skill of leadership is facilitation

As a leader you are facilitating the relationship between the present and the future. This will be the present reality of those you are leading, and the preferred future that you want to arrive at. And facilitation is the word, because so much of leadership is about balancing, negotiating and unlocking intangibles within and between people. It would be no exaggeration to say that leadership is an art.

The second skill, then, is perception

You need to perceive what people’s own perceptions of reality are. When you lead, you aren’t dealing with absolute reality – you are dealing with perceived reality. The craft of a leader, you see, is knowing where people think they are.

And finally, the third skill is inspiration

This is the ability to vividly paint the future that people are moving towards in such a way that it resonates with and motivates all shapes and kinds. This is what creates movement.

So facilitation, perception, inspiration. The three skills of a leader – or at the least, the type of leader I’ve found has led me the best.