Portrait of a Fashion Designer Sitting in Front of Three of Her Colleagues at a Desk

What is the true definition of leadership? What actually makes a leader a leader? What are the leadership skills one needs to truly be effective? These were the questions asked and discussed at the 22nd annual ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference held this week in Omaha, Nebraska. Emergenetics Internationals’ own founder Dr. Geil Browning was one of the co-founders of ICAN, the Institute for Career Advancement Needs, an organization with a simple but great mission: to develop inspired business leaders to transform the communities they serve. Every year Emergenetics employees have the opportunity to attend- and this year yours truly was one of those in attendance!

While the 2,300 conference attendees are predominately women and a main conference focus is empowering women in leadership, the true purpose of the conference was to open up the conversation on leadership as a whole, re-examine and challenge the existing definitions, and explore new leadership ideas. In her opening address, Susan Henricks, ICAN President and CEO, reminded the group that developing leaders at all levels is a critical success factor for organizations. And that as the workplace becomes increasingly diverse (women comprise 47% of the US labor force) and hyper-connected, it is imperative that we challenge past expectations of leadership.

The conference keynote presentations and breakout sessions all centered around one of four leadership traits that leaders need to meet global challenges and carry companies into the future. They called them the 4 C’s: Collaboration, Compassion, Confidence, and Creativity.

ICAN_TeamBut there was one central message throughout the entire conference that superseded the importance of any one of the critical leadership skills. It’s something that we place huge emphasis on here at Emergenetics- that of being authentic in whatever you do. Henrick’s shared with us that to her being a leader means showing up as who she is and not pretending to be someone else. In a series of video vignette’s on leadership, a leader from TD Ameritrade said that being authentic as a leader means she is more confident in her abilities and the impact that she can have on the organization and with others. Without confidence in your actions you can feel like an imposter, like you don’t have the needed skills to accomplish the job.

It matters less about being a rock star at all four of the critical leadership skills- although it is highly encouraged that you work these into your leadership toolkit– and more about being uniquely and authentically you. It’s about knowing where you strengths lie and purposefully tapping into them, and then seeking out others who can help you when needed. A self-aware leader is more likely to yield a positive and productive working culture, and when paired with the four critical skills of a modern leader, you’ll be truly set up for success.

Over the next few weeks we’ll look at each of these critical leadership skills and will share insights gleaned around each of them here on the Emergenetics Blog. As it was said at the close of the ICAN conference, we’ll be challenging you to be the best authentic leader you can be.

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