If you ask more than one person what leadership is, you will receive multiple different definitions. Regardless of your own definition of leadership, you should know that being a true, likable, and successful leader comprises certain skills and qualities, all of which I will discuss below.
A great leader comes with a long-term vision, knows how to motivate and inspire others, and does his or her best to transform those ideas into reality. There are four big categories of leadership skills but you will find more about each of them in the following sections.
A. Develop Inner Resources
1. Stress Tolerance
How Does Stress Impact Leadership?
High levels of stress can truly affect your leadership potential. Even charming extroverts can be negatively impacted by stress. This happens because, under stress, cortisol is released into the organism. Further on, this substance curbs testosterone. All these factors combined lead to a higher level of competitiveness and aggression. So, simply put, lowering stress unleashes one’s leadership potential.
How Can Leaders Handle Stress?
There are several things you can apply to manage stress:
- Start noticing the response your body sends under stress – how do you react when stress kicks in?
- Start saying no more often – it’s ok to refuse to do something if you’re engaged in another important task;
- Exercise – maintaining an active lifestyle can seriously help you tackle the effects of stress;
- Recreate a more effective work process – streamline and carefully organize all the daily tasks because planning and prioritization are effective stress managers;
- Confront your stress sources – determine the element or person that has created your emotional reaction and, instead of procrastinating, try to deal with that issue immediately;
- Delegate in order to lower your workload – lead by example. Accept the fact that you cannot do it all and trust your employees.
How to Build Stress Tolerance
- Look at every challenge as an opportunity – letting yourself be overwhelmed by stress will eventually make you single-minded. Therefore, you won’t see the positives in a stressful situation. While that behavior works for high-stake or time-sensitive situations, the majority of stressors are less immediate. Focus on solutions instead of problems and improve communication within the company. Simply put, you must find the silver lining;
- Always keep in mind the bigger picture – at times, you might face multiple stressors at a time or one after the other. All these issues can make you forget the greater purpose. Remember the things and values you care about. Focusing on your core values when it comes to work might prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by stress;
- Build some recovery time – human organisms can tolerate stress when it comes in short bursts: you use a lot of energy to tackle the problem but then this brief moment is followed by a longer period of relaxation. Well, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time. Still, you need breaks between stressors in order to recover. Most people try to fight stress with unhealthy habits such as smoking, overeating, drinking, etc.
Flexibility is a valuable asset that every leader should have. Moreover, if you lead by example, your subordinates will also become more flexible and open to change and useful suggestions. Flexibility is also known as adaptability and it is an important trait in leadership. This particular skill is meant to help the leader create, maintain, and develop relationships with co-workers, employees, collaborators, stakeholders, and other managers.
To see whether or not you’re flexible enough, ask yourself these following questions:
- Do you have bad behavioral patterns that you want to break free from?
- Do you depend too much on someone’s personal behavior?
- Have you thought about trying alternative strategies or approaches when it comes to fixing problems?
- Are you open enough to receive and apply suggestions and ideas that others provide?
- Are you aware when you need to make some behavioral changes?
- Do you encourage and support your employees to develop a flexible mentality?
Here’s what you must do to increase your flexibility:
- Seek advice from others and listen to them;
- Actively look for situations that require you to become more flexible;
- Keep track of your personal progress.
Although a true leader should never be vain, he or she should definitely cultivate a positive self-image and high self-esteem. Otherwise, how could leaders expect others to trust them if they don’t trust themselves? Self-regard is an essential characteristic because those feelings and emotions that you feel inside will transform into beliefs and ideas which will further guide how you perform at the workplace.
Having self-esteem isn’t about being the boss. It’s about accepting feedback from your team, being open to others’ ideas, and supporting your employees. So, a healthy amount of self-regard is always welcome while vanity and a bossy attitude can ruin everything. Bosses, unlike leaders, have low self-esteem. That’s why they micromanage every action, are arrogant and tend to bully their staff members.
4. Emotional Self-Awareness
Self-awareness in leadership appears when a manager is aware of his or her weaknesses, strengths, personality, personal preferences, needs, style, and more. When you’re aware of your own individuality, it’s called you have a high level of self-awareness. According to experts, this trait is a huge part of a person’s emotional intelligence. Someone with a strong sense of self-awareness can easily handle his or her own emotions but also influence the emotions of other people.
It is about what I like to call “being in tune with oneself.” Self-aware leaders are strong and confident yet humble and fair. They are constantly doing their best to become better at what they do. Striving for more and being forgiving are also essential features of a self-aware leader.
5. Emotional Expression
Nowadays, a true leader should lead through emotion. Effective managers allow their emotions to show while also handling them effectively. As long as you’re well-developed in terms of emotional expression, you will always ask yourself the way you feel about a certain strategy or direction. Leaders with high emotional intelligence also know how to listen to their intuition and find out what their gut is telling them about making a certain decision.
Besides thinking about his or her own feelings, a good leader also knows how to discover and reveal the emotions of the company’s employees in order to deal with them properly. Those who know how to effectively express their emotions also use body language a lot. To see if your attitude is the correct one, pay attention to how others react when you express one of your feelings.
Most people believe that being a manager or a leader comes with a lot of freedom and independence. Well, that’s not entirely true because there’s a special kind of freedom that a leader can enjoy. In fact, a true leader must achieve the perfect combination of independence and interdependence. Most individuals tend to perceive the world through their personal beliefs and only a few of them are willing to shift that perception from “I” to “we.”
Being at the top of your career ladder can get lonely at times. There is when independence comes in handy. As long as you’re independent, you won’t feel bad about the level of isolation that comes with your role. You’ll be able to establish boundaries and make somewhat objective decisions. As a leader, though, you must also lean towards relying on others, foster healthy and fruitful relationships while also empowering your employees.
Self-actualization is another important piece of the puzzle in the leadership world. It is another stepping stone towards conscious leadership. You may recall, from the Maslow’s pyramid of needs, that self-actualization represents the highest type of motivation. Once you reach that position, you become able to achieve your highest potential. However, self-actualization cannot be met until you have achieved all the other needs, starting from the most basic ones, going through safety, security, and belonging.
Here are the core competencies that a self-actualized leader has:
- The ability to recognize this particular trait in other people;
- A leader must follow his or her own words. If you say you’re on your way to self-actualization, then you must also show that you’re doing everything you can to accomplish that;
- The ability to engage and develop a certain vision;
- A true leader prefers to collaborate instead of monopolizing;
- A self-actualized leader is oriented towards action.
Research has shown that optimistic individuals are better leaders. First of all, optimists are focused on finding solutions rather than on the problem. Moreover, these people aren’t afraid to fail. In their opinion, failure is nothing else than a lesson. They are more resilient; hence, they bounce back quicker after life’s setbacks. To continue with, optimists are amazing communicators because they lift the spirit of their employees.
An optimist leader focuses on the future and uses the remarkable language of motivation. We all like being around an optimistic person because the vibe we’re getting is simply infectious. Finally, optimistic leaders truly value communication and collaboration.
B. Connecting with Others
Substantial research has proven that humility leads to effective leadership. It’s true, however, that this specific trait is quite underrated, especially when it comes to the characteristics a leader should have. Leaders who practice humility can avoid making status differences. They will know how to solicit input, listen to employees, admit their mistakes, and have the willingness to change their initial plan when things don’t seem to work.
Leading a humble life means you’re ready for self-improvement. To achieve inner well-being, we all need to include humility in our lifestyle. Humility makes us accept losses or life issues without becoming irritated or frustrated. Simply put, it helps us become better human beings.
Vitality is another element that should be one of the priorities of a good leader. According to specialists, one should master energy instead of managing time. This is the key to high performance. There are four types of energy:
- Quantity represented by physical energy – you need enough sleep; you must consume nutritious and well-balanced meals; regular exercise is also recommended; HIIT workouts can also help;
- Quality represented by emotional energy – practice breathing exercises; give and receive positive feedback; spend quality time with friends and family members; avoid negative or toxic people and environments;
- Focus represented by mental energy – try to reduce the number of distractions and interruptions; be optimistic but in a realistic kind of way; prioritize workload;
- Force represented by spiritual energy – define your work and life purpose; practice self-care; have the courage to stand by your personal values.
11. Active Listening
Effective listening will definitely make you a better manager and a true leader. This kind of responsibility cannot be found in your job description. Nevertheless, a leader who pays attention to his or her subordinates is perceived as compassionate and empathetic. This can truly change the entire organizational culture. Here’s how you can practice listening:
- Show that you really care about your staff members;
- Become engaged in aspects that are very important to the people you work with. Embrace the style of each of your employees;
- Cultivate empathy in the workplace. Don’t avoid all emotional interactions and become aware of what makes your employees stressed out;
- Don’t judge other people. If you’re too busy making harsh criticism, you won’t have time and energy to listen to your subordinates and learn from what they have to say;
- Be mindful. Become aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to both verbal communication and body language. Be present and be there for your employees;
- Let your staff members speak without interrupting. Focus on what they have to say and try to solve their problems. Help them figure out solutions. Finally, respect them and see them as equals.
You may be the boss but that doesn’t mean you don’t have room for improvement. As a manager, but more importantly, as a human being, you should constantly work on improving your abilities, confidence, and skills. This will boost your company’s overall achievements and productivity. You can develop your leadership skills through the following methods:
- Engage and increase your motivation for development;
- Asses your developmental needs in terms of strengths and weaknesses;
- Develop your social and cognitive abilities as well as your emotional skills;