By Elizabeth Rittiman - March 12th, 2015
This is the third and final article in a series on how to make yourself indispensable at work by strengthening your soft skills. Soft skills are attributes that allow you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people and add value to your role and responsibilities. You don’t often see them listed on a job description, but they’re the skills that separate leaders and help an organization grow.
Management Does Not Equal Leadership
Despite what many people say, leadership is not a skill that you have to be born with. For some, it may come naturally, but it is also a trait that can be developed over time. On that same note, just because someone is in a management position does not necessarily mean they have the traits of a leader. On the flip side, you can be a leader without being in a management position.
A good leader needs to possess more than the power of their title. They need to be someone that people want to follow. Good leaders are creative and influential. They learn about their employees and what makes them respond well to their requests.
Here are 8 Traits to Develop if You Want to be a Great Leader
- Critical Thinking– Most great leaders are critical thinkers. If there’s a problem, you need to be able to analyze all options and decide on a solution. When you are the person your colleagues are coming to for help, that’s a good sign that you’re a leader.
- Creativity- Be innovative, and think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Explore and be curious about your industry, your role, and your audience. Regardless of if your organization is new or has been around for decades, creativity is vital to staying fresh.
- Honesty – You should always be honest. If you are not, no one will respect or trust you. Generally, people want to work with others they feel have integrity and will lead them on the right path.
- Cooperation – You need to get to along with others and be able to handle disagreements professionally, and not just within your department, but across the organization. It’s okay to disagree with others, but how you handle those disagreements will really show whether or not you have what it takes to lead.
- Focus on the Big Picture – With any project you are working on, it’s good to be able to tell others not just what the project will accomplish, but how it will help the organization move forward in the long run with its goals and mission. Ultimately, a good leader is always thinking ahead and moving forward.
- Motivation – Not only is a good leader someone who is motivated, but a really good leader is someone who is able to motivate others. A leader will take the time to listen, help colleagues work through roadblocks and keep everything positive. A positive environment in turn keeps teams motivated and working towards a goal.
- Communication –A great leader needs to know how to effectively communicate with everyone, whether it’s those above or below. Too often in an organization, critical information is not communicated. This only hinders efforts. Not only should you tell others what you need from them, but explain why. When employees understand the end goal, they’re more likely to deliver what is needed from them the first time around.
- Self Awareness – A great leader knows their strengths and their weaknesses. They often hire people who have strengths in the areas they are weak and are more open to hearing ideas from other members of their team.
Careers for Leaders
Careers that are ideal for those with great leadership skills include anything in Management, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, and Project Management. With any of these careers, you have got to be able to lead, make decisions, and effectively manage projects in a fast-paced, goal oriented enterprise.
Consider all the bosses you’ve ever had. What made them good at their job? Work on implementing those traits into your daily work habits. Were they good at communicating their needs and expectations? Did they encourage you to grow in your career and seek professional development opportunities? Did they make you feel valued? Whatever it is that you feel made them good leaders, try implementing yourself. Just keep in mind to stay within the boundaries of your position in relation to your colleagues.
If you think you know how to be a great leader at work, you can assess your skills on the mind tools website. They’ll tell you where you are already effective and where you can find more advice on developing your leadership skills.
Elizabeth Rittiman spent the first seven years of her career working in television news. When she moved to Denver with her husband in 2011 she used the opportunity to switch gears in her career to find a role where she could be more of an advocate for the things she was passionate about, education being one of them. When she’s not working, she enjoys skiing and snowshoeing in the Rocky Mountains.