SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
“The Function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers” - Ralph Nader
While many iGens entering the workforce are expressing interest in entrepreneurship, many millennials and younger professionals are moving into managerial roles. This is why leadership skills are important to not just embody but also to understand. There are only a few leaders and millions of followers, which is why it is important to really understand what makes a leader great so you can become one of the few.
Great leadership is comprised of traits that can be learned, and therefore, can come from anyone. However, many leaders have failed in their roles and when that happens, it doesn’t’ just affect them, but everyone else as well. Leadership is not just a position, but a role that people play in life and in business. The more you can integrate these traits and behaviors into your daily actions, the better leader you are going to be. Here, I have comprised a list of traits that the best leaders all seem to have in common, and while there could be other things added or subtracted to the list, these set the foundation of what a leader is.
“Integrity is doing the right thing..even when know one is watching” C.S. Lewis
Set the ultimate example by doing right by your employees, customers, investors and everyone else in your life. This is among the most important of traits to embody, not just as a leader but as a human being going through daily life. In business, or in school, your integrity will be tested and the decisions you make say a lot about you, even if you don’t think they do. Whether you decide to use a cheat sheet passed along to you by your classmates, or if you, as a captain of a cruise ship, crash into a coral reef and jump ship leaving your passengers to fend for themselves, your actions will say a lot about who you are as a person.
Be Self Aware
To be self-aware means understanding your limitations as well as your strengths as a leader. Knowing when you are able to handle situations and when to ask for help can be telling of your delegation skills as well. Leaders that are not self-aware can get themselves into mounds of trouble. If you know you don’t really have skills in accounting, for example, and you know someone else does but you refuse to ask for their help, you can end up jeopardizing the success of the task or project instead of having everyone work to their perspective strengths. Remember that in professional sports, the teams that actively pass and share possession are the ones that usually end up winning the championship.
Do It Yourself
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “ it is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.”
Often, from an employee’s point of view, the greatest sign of a leader is someone who will do the grunt work alongside you. If it’s a CEO, it’s important to see that he or she will work alongside the C-level team and complete the tasks they are asked to complete. Don’t just assign the work to be done without putting in 200 percent yourself. A manager doesn’t always have to be the first one in and the last one out, but it is important to remember that you are leading by example, and if your employees or peers see you are not working very hard, they do not have the motivation to work any harder than you.
Mediate Any Situation
Problem solving gets tossed around a lot. Solving problems goes beyond those of the SATs, and are valued in real life situations. The ability to neutralize any tense situation is a huge sign of leadership and strength. When things get heated, people forget how to stay civil and rational. As not only a neutral third party, but a leader, it is imperative to be the person that handles those situations in the best way possible. Listen to both sides, validate concerns, and always play fair. This skill is important not just for leaders in business, but for anyone in any situation. Having the understanding that people can get irate when problems arise, and remaining calm is a huge advantage in any relationship, professional or otherwise. Your peers will trust you to handle difficult situations and that’s a sign of respect.
It is incredibly important to remain available to your team members. As a leader, people will be coming up to you for reminders on what is asked of them, how to solve an issue, or how to propel the team forward and it is your main duty to be available for any of those situations. Communication skills are truly defined by your availability as a leader. Keeping everyone on the same page can really propel a team or company forward, consequently a team with poor communication between the leader and his/her team will likely fail.
As a leader, remind people of the times and dates you are available to go over things as often as necessary. Some professors in college had office hours posted in the beginning of the semester, but failed to remind students throughout the duration of the class that they were willing to go over things with them as the class progressed ( i.e midterms, quizzes, new topics, etc). Being accessible will not only let your team know you care about succeeding, but that you are easy to talk to, which will also make them feel comfortable with speaking up and voicing concerns should they have any.
Yes or No? While many things are in the grey, there are times when you have to make a decision, one way or another. You know that feeling when you are trying to buy tickets to a show and you have a certain allotted time to make up your mind, but you select the refresh button to see if you will get better tickets instead? More often than not, you become disappointed in the results and wish you could go back to the previous selection. That’s a terrible feeling, and while many situations in life aren’t quite as time sensitive or risky, displaying a strength on making a decision is a very admirable trait to have. Appearing authoritative suggests you are a fearless leader and unafraid of adversity. If it’s not a decision you can make on your own, get the right people involved and be prompt. Everyone has to answer to somebody and learning to get people answers when they ask for them is incredibly telling of you as a business professional.
It is incredibly important that everyone knows where you stand and that you will stay consistent. One of the worst things for people to know is that you say you will do something, but don’t. It’s also bad to not have a standard method of communication among your team members. If you have 13 managers that all answer to you, they should all know everything about you and your plans. The last thing you want is for ten managers to know something, but three are left without a clue as to what is happening. Additionally, if you are a group leader and you routinely check every 3 days on the progress of a project, your team will expect that of you. So, if you start checking progress outside of that routine, and do not let your team know, chaos will ensue. Always try to put yourself in their situation and be consistent with your actions.
Be a Teacher
When you are running a project in school, don’t just do the work for everyone, teach them what they can be doing better. There is an old Chinese Proverb that says, “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish, you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” This is a very powerful example of how much better it is to teach people to do things for themselves. Your team will only get stronger and more self-sufficient, requiring less and less daily managing. The best leaders are always in a teaching mindset as they usually want to see everyone on their teams succeed.
Reward Good Behavior
It is important to not just reward good behavior but improving behavior as well. Sometimes people can feel discouraged when the same people are winning time and time again, but the ones that are improving little by little get lost in the successes of others. A lot of times, that’s the fastest way to get people to give up and lose hope. It is just as important to acknowledge the person who took a great step in a positive direction, especially if it was challenging for them to do. Great leaders make time to reward all accomplishments no matter how big or small.
Exude Positive Energy
If you’re happy, your team will be happy and likewise if you’re not then your team will not be either. The energy you have as a leader will be mirrored by your team. It is easy to positive when things are going really well. How about when things are not going well. The way you conduct yourself in times of distress will be more telling of you as a leader. Will you stay encouraging to your team and suggest that as a team everyone should pull in their efforts. Will you be motivating and helpful in the process, answering concerns anyone may have or will you lose hope and maybe let your emotions get the best of you? Your actions in times of hardship are when you are judged most as leader.
Above all else, a great leader stays composed around his/her team and inspires such strength in others as well. We all know that respect is earned, usually by showing it first to others in order to receive it back. These traits will not only earn you the respect of a great leader, but you will be a better person as well.
To learn about how you can lead a team of your own and complete projects for companies that are looking to hire, fill out your free candidate profile today!