While the term “leader” often brings up connotations such as “alpha”, or “dominant”, what makes a great leader is deeply nuanced and often holds many traits associated more like “supportive”, “patient” and “understanding”.
Having great leadership qualities can be tremendously beneficial to yourself and those around you, making for a more positive and efficient work environment. Even if a management, or leadership role isn’t your goal, having these skills in your career toolkit can still be a huge asset in any role and work relationship.
Find out below if you have the traits of a great leader, where you can improve and how you can apply leadership skills in a management position, or any other position, as you move into the next step of your career.
1 – Patience
One of the biggest indicators I’ve seen personally in great vs. not-so-great leaders is patience. A great leader will give you time to figure things out at your own pace and never put you in a position to embarrass you, or put you on the spot in front of your team members.
A great leader can often sense when a team member is struggling and can kindly pull them aside in a one-on-one meeting to find out the issue and work towards a solution in a way that is never judgmental, but supportive.
Even if you aren’t in, or even desire to be in a leadership role, having patience and slowing down can make your work environment more enjoyable by easing stress.
2 – Understanding
Great leaders listen and are curious and eager to understand their employees and team members. They also understand that we are all different, bring various skills to the team and we all learn, think and process differently. A great leader can home in on this for each team member and adjust their behaviour and communication accordingly.
Having a curiosity about the world and an eagerness to understand is a wonderful and endearing quality. A great trick to become more curious is to rewrite the script when you’re experiencing negative, knee-jerk reactions. If you find yourself being judgmental, upset, or confused about something, try curiosity instead. That eagerness to learn more about an upsetting situation will pay off in the end, with knowledge and an increased ability to problem-solve and understand the world.
For example, let’s say you work in customer service and you answer the phone to an irate customer. Sometimes, they are just looking to be heard. Instead of taking their verbal abuse personally, get curious about what has them so worked up and then curious about a solution. You will probably get an apology and a very happy customer at the end of your call.
3 – Knowing When to Relinquish Control or Delegate
A great leader is more of a high-level thinker who can grasp the big picture. When it comes to all the smaller tasks that make up that picture though, they are able to delegate those tasks to members of the team best suited to take them on. A great leader won’t micro-manage the work of their team, but can respectfully let the team members do what they do best.
This also goes for non-leadership roles and applies more to knowing when to ask for help. We can often feel in our jobs like asking for help is a weakness, when actually knowing your limit and your capacity is a great asset. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you know that your plate is too full. Your team would likely much rather help to assist, than deal with the consequences of deadlines not being met.
4 – Confidence in Making Decisions
Great leaders are really good at making the difficult decisions most others struggle with. They don’t need to take long contemplating and when they make a decision, they don’t regret it, or wonder “what if” they had made the other choice. Great leaders often have strategic minds and view the bigger picture in a way others cannot, making them particularly skilled at decision making.
This can be one of the easiest learned traits from great leaders that you can put into action yourself. Even if you just apply it to your personal life, it is a great skill to practice. The next time you find yourself faced with a decision, step up and make a choice and don’t look back! We are faced with decisions – big and small – everyday. Being a confident decision maker is empowering and personally rewarding.
5 – Supportive
Having the support of our boss can completely change how we perform in our job. In my experience, having a strong, supportive leader can make an otherwise stressful situation seem manageable. While in contrast, a boss who is unsupportive can cause stress in our jobs almost daily. It’s like night and day.
Going the extra mile in any position is sure to get you recognition in your workplace. Look for ways to help make things easier for your boss. If you recognize a teammate struggling, or know they have a particularly large and looming deadline, ask what you can take on, or how you can help. Not only will this get you into the good graces of your co-workers, but you’re likely to find that support will come back at a time when you need it most as well.
While many leaders may have alpha traits such as a natural confidence, the ability to command attention and enjoy taking control. It’s important not to disregard other, more subtle traits in great leaders like supportive, patient and understanding. And don’t forget, even if being a boss, or a manager isn’t your goal, leadership can and should happen at any rung on the ladder.
Are you interested in the perks of being a great leader – higher pay grade, more freedom in your role and a fancy title, but not sure if you have the right qualities? Book a Virtual Career Meeting with Style Nine to Five Founder Christie Lohr! She can help answer your questions and guide you towards being the great leader you want to be!
Sheila O’Neill is a creative, innovative and inspiring storyteller with a background in fashion.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock