Leaders aren’t found in classrooms; they’re created in workspaces. Leadership is a trait almost similar to building a sandcastle – you learn, you iterate, you re-learn, and then you grow and evolve with that experience. There is a clear distinction between a good and a bad leader – the thin line between implementing the leadership toolkit with purpose, and not. Leaders are quick learners!
Leaders are created and nurtured in workspaces where they seize opportunities to build trust, gain confidence, build camaraderie and therefore, confidence. Someone looking for a leader will discover one by digging deeply into traits and behaviours – leadership is a behaviour after all.
The benchmark for “leadership success” is promotion and effectiveness within communication – skills and talents. Most leaders don’t land up in their position by default – they grow into it. Learning, toiling and putting in the effort needed to become one. While doing so, they cause an impact to people who they, directly and indirectly, interact with.
In 2019, three traits that are in commonality among topmost leaders are: empathy, feedback, and the ability to build relationships.
Empathy, a soft and organic skill, is the ability to get into another person’s shoes, feel and experience the world as they do and assess what potential reactions may arise.
Empathetic leaders are those who listen, truly listen, and pay attention to non-verbal signals. Non-verbal signals are the hardest to understand and decipher, therefore, it takes patience to understand and adapt to.
When there’s an empathetic leader in the room, you’ll notice support, fewer words, and powerful command over your body language. Their body language is not stiff, but approachable; their words are genuine and trustworthy. They have a genuine desire to help those who are in need, and further propel those who are headed towards success.
When empathy is not present, an individual may feel judged, may get defensive or even worse – they think they are being ignored. Empathy is a skill that can prevent personal and professional confrontation and is one that can be honed over time.
The act of giving and receiving feedback is an art. This, unlike empathy, can be taught, read and learnt about. From literature, we learn that feedback is actually a communication channel, which needs caution and care since it might result in unnecessary confrontation if not received/appropriately delivered.
To empower your team, giving and receiving feedback are processes of building trust and connection, followed by setting expectations, showing support with actionable routes, and finally, modeling.
When giving feedback in an empowering manner to an individual or team, the first step would be to ensure feedback that is objective and not emotional, meaning removing yourself from the equation and using unbiased statements.
Next, ensuring the timing is right: right after an incident or a launch might be too soon as emotions are flared up at that time. Too late and the feedback may be deemed unworthy.
Proceeding with setting expectations on feedback given, this is a method to show support and strength to the receiver to display a sense of camaraderie. While receiving feedback particularly, modeling is essential as it sets an example for the team.
Lastly, showing appreciation towards feedback received must also be done tactfully: rather than being defensive, have a conversation, thank the person for the feedback and repeat phrases said. This shows that you are open to receiving feedback as much as giving it is after all a two-way street.
Humans are social beings and they crave friendships – both within the workspace and outside. Coincidentally, good relationships at work lead to an increase in productivity as well as enjoying the environment you’re in for 60 per cent of the day!
Most of us are familiar with how to build relationships the right way and how to advance them through time. However, this does not necessarily apply to introverts, who are quieter and prefer solitude; it takes a genuine leader to break that shell, include them in activities and ensure they are performing at the same level as others in the office and are developing on-pace.
So what makes a good relationship between bosses and coworkers? The answer is: Trust!
Trust is a bond that, although intangible, forms a non-verbal agreement that this person is empathetic and someone who genuinely cares about you. Trust leads to a forum of open communication where healthy relationships and/or friendships sustain.
When you put these together, we come up with a molecule called ”interpersonal skills”, which means that they understand people, have generated a rapport and are very comfortable amongst people.
Once a leader understands this molecule to build relationships, questions such as is your leader candid or scripted; s the leader comfortable delegating responsibility; and does the leader respond after thinking about the situation, or, is it a knee jerk reaction, are easily answered.
Good leaders in the workspace intentionally empower their peers by building, strengthening and growing these relationships; they appreciate their circle and value each for their true worth.
By making these choices wisely, leaders can differentiate themselves to stand out from the crowd and amongst other bosses.
Leadership begins with having a vision and an actionable plan on how to achieve it. When leaders put empathy, feedback and relationships at the core of their day-to-day, their take on traditional vs modern leadership inevitably changes.
When these three tools are used well and in tandem, leaders add value to their workspace every day, in a manner where it causes a difference to their lives and those around them.