What it means to be a leader can be an influenced and predisposed perception. It can vary depending on what types of qualities are important to each individual and how they demonstrate those qualities.
Leadership early on was usually a top-down approach. CEOs and other executives reigned as the people with the most power and the most-valued opinions. Leadership entailed giving direction in a noncollaborative system. Leadership was about power.
Opinions about what makes a leader, however, have changed considerably. Being a leader in the 21st century is about possessing the skills that will yield respect from your employees. Being a leader also means that you don’t need the words “manager” and “director” in your title to lead. There are five skills that any successful leader will need to earn the trust and respect of the people they work with.
Many companies are encouraging employee participation across all employment levels. A leader who reaches out to their employees for ideas and creative thinking are saying that they value them. Learning to listen, and being genuine about it, is a key skill. If you take the time to hear what someone has to say without demanding an answer right away or providing them with advice, you instill confidence in them. Listening like this is also known as active listening. You can learn to look beyond the words. Search for other cues like body language and use eye contact to show that you are fully engaged in the conversation.
A leader who listens is one that will be respected. Everyone wants to be heard. Whether they have a brilliant idea or a serious concern, you want them to feel like they can come to you. If you listen well and make them feel heard, you are one step closer to being a valued leader.
Being a leader can have its challenges, even for people who have a natural skill for it. Self-compassion is geared toward you. While being compassionate toward your employees is imperative, it’s also important to be compassionate toward yourself. This means you must be comfortable admitting that you don’t always have the answer and be okay with the strange and unfamiliar. Practicing self-compassion and being equipped with the skills to take on feedback can make you a more humble leader. Leaders who think they know everything miss out on criticism and ultimately, improvements. A self-compassionate leader supports the growth mindset needed to be successful.
Self-compassion makes you more vulnerable and will help your employees feel more comfortable coming to you with their ideas and issues. Because of this, you can help support their professional development.
It may seem like a straightforward skill, but empathy is not something everyone has naturally. Empathy needs to be practiced and developed to have it come naturally to you. Empathy on top of the previous skills of self-compassion and active listening will allow you to be the best version of yourself. Empathy is the act of putting yourself in another person’s shoes in order to understand what they’re going through. When you can understand what someone is experiencing, you can act in a way that you would want to be treated. This will make your employees respect and value you as a leader. Being understanding and empathetic is the best way to evaluate each unique situation. If you put yourself in their place, it will help you make the best and most respectable decision every time.
Being vulnerable can be one of the most difficult skills to acquire. Vulnerability is scary because, in a way, you are making yourself weak in the eyes of others. But showing off your vulnerability doesn’t actually make you weak, even if it may feel that way. It makes you a stronger leader. Being vulnerable is the best way to build strong relationships. As a leader, if you are vulnerable and open up to others first, they will feel more motivated to open up to you. This creates a stronger sense of trust.
You don’t need to open up about your deepest feelings and fears to be vulnerable. To keep it work-related, you can try to be honest about your concerns for an upcoming project. Being open about your concern will let your employees know that you are on their team. It becomes you all versus the project. It also encourages your employees to express their concerns that you may not have thought of. It can improve your strength as a team and ultimately improve your final result.
Honesty is closely tied to listening, self-compassion, empathy, and vulnerability. Being a good listener means you are being honest about caring about what someone has to say. Self-compassion helps you be honest with yourself to both accept your flaws and improve them. Empathy helps you see the honesty in other people. When they struggle and are open with you, it encourages honesty back. Vulnerability means you are being honest because you are sharing your true feelings with people. Honesty is a builder of trust. It gives everyone confidence in a leader. When a leader is honest rather than deceitful, you can do nothing but respect them.
Practicing these skills takes time and commitment, but if you master them, your employees will love working for you. Seeking out advice from others who you perceive to be effective leaders can help ensure you are on the right path. You can even turn to your coworkers and employees to get direct advice from the ones who work with you daily. No matter what you do, if you follow these skills, you will be an effective, reputable leader in no time.
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