Monday, November 18, 2013

Got skills? The essential skills for effectiveness and Success

I enjoy the Facebook group "Things they didn't teach us at seminary." Apparently, there's a LOT of things seminaries don't teach, and which, seminarians don't realize they need to learn. Certainly, that's as it must be. No formal educational program can teach everything one needs to know, in whatever field or profession. Still, it begs the question about what it is that "ought" to be taught. Or, what is most necessary to be learned? Where is the balance between theory and practice? Or, this question: What are the fundamental skills needed for effectiveness and success?

Trilling and Fadel, in 21st Century Skills, Learning for life in our times (2009)  cite a study that lists eight essential skills for the 21st century leader (1). They are: 

Oral and written communication
Critical thinking and problem solving
Professionalism and work ethic
Teamwork and collaboration
Working with diverse teams and partners
Applying technology
Leadership and project management
Emotional Intelligence.

Reflecting on my own professional experience, that list seems spot on (and I'm hard pressed to add anything to the list aside from "appreciation for the aesthetic," a quality that can be embedded in several of those skills). My assessment is based not only on reflection on those skills that have made me effective to one degree or another, but also, reflecting on what tends to get leaders "stuck" and ineffective. Upon further reflection I must confess that only two items on the list were learned during my formal educational experience. Even then, I did not achieve a level of passable competence until the post-formal educational experience in "the real world." 

The nature of these skills are multidimensional, multifaceted, integrative, and are acquired and honed over time. In other words, there are maturational and experiential dimensions to these skills which result in capacity, know-how, and competence. For example, it's doubtful one can achieve a high degree of professionalism and work ethic without a corresponding high level of emotional intelligence. With a lack of critical thinking skills, one's ability to do effective project management is limited. And we can write volumes on the outcome that is the integration of leadership, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and working with others. Emotional intelligence rarely comes without some maturation, and, good writers and public speakers emerge after countless hours at the craft--with the just the right balance of successes and failures to yield expertise. One good news is that no one needs to be an expert in any one, or even several, but effective leaders have some level of competence in the cluster. 

The notion that we don't learn everything in school, whether university or seminary, is merely a confession that learning is a lifelong necessity. One of our greatest liabilities is that along the way, despite years of being "students," we never learn how to learn. So, if I were to add one more critical skill needed for effectiveness and success, it would be: being a lifelong learner who has learned how to learn. 

(1) Citing, Conference Board, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, & Society for Human Resource Management, 2006.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean, Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary

1 comment:

  1. I think it would be great to place your list alongside of Henry Jenkins., et. al.'s list of 21st century literacies (MacArthur Foundation work):