Great leadership demands developing necessary skills. In 2020 alone, companies invested $163.5B in leadership training in the US.
When we think of leaders, skills that often come into our mind are:
Decisiveness. Creativity. Strong communication skills. Strategic thinking. Strong charisma.
These are traits that people may admire you for; however, there are other great leadership skills that are equally important but often overlooked. They are usually soft skills that can help not only during your day-to-day operations, but also at times when you’re leading through change and uncertainty.
Here are 4 human leadership traits that your people will love you for:
1. High Emotional Intelligence
A leader with high emotional intelligence (EI) can recognize, understand, show and manage not only their own emotions, but other people’s emotions as well. Research conducted by the Institute for Health and Human Potential that included over 10,000 global leaders revealed that leaders with high EI have a solid level of self-awareness about their relationships among their behavior, how it makes others feel and, more importantly, how it makes their people perform.
Emotionally intelligent leaders can relate better with people and are better at recognizing stress and driving change. They are empathetic leaders. When leaders show empathy and compassion, they are rewarded by their people with loyalty. According to Professor Shimul Melvani from the University of North Carolina’s Fliegler School of Business, compassionate leaders have increased levels of engagement and have more employees willing to follow them.
Developing empathy is like developing muscle: you have to use it for it to become stronger. To cultivate empathy in the workplace, leaders must know how to listen intently, leave judgment at the door, show true interest in the aspirations and needs of their people and be authentic and transparent.
Leaders must not be afraid to admit mistakes and show vulnerability when necessary too. This trait of human leadership encourages honest communication among employees. They won’t be afraid to open up if they feel overwhelmed with their workload or have other concerns.
Mentoring is one of the most important skills for a leader to possess because it brings the best out of people. When I was at Toyota, I had a “Senpai”, which are senior leaders that look after you. They typically provide you opportunities, make sure you get the recognition you deserve, etc. In the U.S, we sometimes say “Champion” but “Senpai” are more like Mother/Father figures. I would not be where I am today if not for my Senpaid at Toyott.
Leadership mentoring doesn’t only benefit employees: It also helps achieve business goals such as improving retention rates and job satisfaction. According to Gallup, opportunities to learn and grow is one of the top three factors in retaining Millennials. They are less likely to leave their companies when their needs for formal development through mentoring, coaching and training are met.
Moreover, the most effective leaders use mentoring as an opportunity to learn and grow. It sharpens their listening skills and is a chance to interact with lots of different people. The variation in perspectives they get from others allows them to see the culture and functions of their organization with fresh eyes and spot patterns they may not have noticed before.
3. Desire to Continue Learning
A great leader continues to work diligently to improve and learn new skills. They continue to study business trends and strive to be at the forefront of their industry. These leaders will not only be promoted to a higher position, but will also be able to inspire people and lead their teams more effectively.
This trait also demonstrates that no matter how high up in a company this leader is, their ego is not affected by their title. Striving to learn more and showing others that it’s okay to not know everything is vulnerable, but continuing to work on oneself to improve your knowledge is admirable and valuable, especially in a work setting.
Equally as important as knowing how to instill hope and having long-term goals, a great leader also knows how to balance these skills with a practical approach to work. This helps turn big ideas into real action.
Pragmatism helps leaders focus on the practical side of any task or goal. Once a great idea is proposed, they will ask: “How do we get this done?” and come up with a plan to accomplish it. With this skill, leaders are able to determine what their company is capable of achieving and then create an action plan detailing how it can actually be achieved.
Leaders who create an environment where their people are comfortable, confident and happy are where people want to stay. Companies that foster opportunities to grow and develop not only in their careers, but as people too, are the ones that win. As a leader, you have the power to set the tone and establish expectations for what your company culture is like. If you choose human leadership, I encourage you to share your experience with the world so we can work towards making business—and our world—a little more human each and every day.
In love and respect,