Think of a leader you hold in high regard. What are their admirable traits that you value the most?
Chances are that the person who comes to mind isn’t hard-driving or cutthroat. In fact, when a Robert Half survey asked workers what they believe are the most important attributes for a corporate leader, the very last response was competitiveness.
Whether you’re looking for your next workplace or aspire to join the senior management team someday, you should be aware of which types of leadership skills inspire most people’s confidence and loyalty. Even if you have zero desire to manage others, possessing sought-after traits will make you a more valuable colleague and employee.
Here are some of the leadership qualities survey participants were asked to rate. These might be some you want to cultivate:
Good leaders are authentic, trustworthy and reliable. They have strong moral principles that don’t waver, even when they might close a deal or make more money by exaggerating or lying. Strengthen this leadership skill by doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult or unpopular. Be honest and trustworthy. And if you’re unable to keep your word due to circumstances outside your control, you should explain the situation and strive to make things right.
2. Fairness. It’s human nature to prefer certain people over others
However, good leaders don’t show favoritism because they know to do so leads to bad employee morale. Empathy is the key to treating everyone fairly. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “How would I like it if someone did this to me?” This question applies when divvying up the workload, issuing social invitations and deciding whether to take all the glory or share the credit.
Employees become suspicious when leaders espouse one viewpoint today and the opposite tomorrow. The person in charge should know their own mind and stick to their convictions. Take time before deciding on an issue. But once you’ve made up your mind, stick with it. For example, if you accept a new job, then your current boss makes a counteroffer, it’s best to honor your commitment to your future employer.
4. Strategic thinking
Effective leaders play the long game. While not forgoing immediate gains, they also consider repercussions down the line and actively plan for their company’s future. Strategic thinking requires you to look at the bigger picture. As you climb the corporate ladder, consider the long-term good of your team, department, and company.
This leadership skill is closely tied to trust and accountability. Respected executives share information with their staff and shareholders as soon as it can be divulged. Transparency hangs on a person’s ability to communicate. Whether you’re an intern or a manager, you should explain your rationale for decisions and speak up when you need help.
This leadership quality has two components: Can others reach you, and are you approachable? Leaders are busy people, but they shouldn’t be so sequestered that employees have to jump through multiple hoops to speak with them. How friendly and welcoming are you? If it appears that coworkers, vendors or even clients find your attitude to be intimidating, work on softening your demeanor. This also means not appearing so busy that people are afraid to approach you for help, advice or to give you a hand.
The best leaders work with and get advice from colleagues in other departments. To hone this type of leadership skill, ramp up your in-house networking. Get to know someone outside your work bubble. Volunteer for projects that put you in contact with a range of employees.
The bottom line: These seven traits are important not just for current and aspiring executives, but for every professional who wants to upgrade their skill set and advance in their career.