In the media, business leaders are often portrayed as gruff taskmasters with little patience for those around them. In the tough-as-nails world of “Mad Men” and “The Apprentice,” for example, bosses are typically presented as people that most employees would want to avoid as much as possible. These bosses make for compelling television, but they’re not people who would inspire most of us to do our best work.
In fact, being a great leader isn’t about issuing stern demands and yelling at employees who aren’t in lockstep with a company’s vision for the future. Here are just a few underrated qualities of true leaders, and why embodying these qualities can take your career to new heights.
1. Leading by Example
As leaders, we have to hold ourselves to a high standard of accountability if we are to inspire the people we work with to reach their full potential. True leaders don’t have to boss people around to get things done; when these leaders work hard, treat others with fairness, and demonstrate a positive attitude, their employees will want to emulate those qualities.
2. Providing Opportunities
When employees see no future or stability in their career, it should come as no surprise that they will lack the motivation to do truly stellar work. As leaders, we must show employees that good work will be rewarded with career advancement. Most people want to succeed, and we must show them that their efforts will be worth the hard work.
3. Owning Up to Faults
On any given day, viewers of cable news stations will be inundated with stories about politicians from both sides of the aisle who fail to admit fault when their policies go wrong. Everyone gets frustrated with leaders who will not take the blame when they make a mistake; when we own up to our own actions and faults, however, people will respect our honesty and forthrightness. They will also trust us to make the right decision in the future.
4. Listening to What Others Have to Say
If you’ve ever had a boss that wouldn’t listen to your ideas or concerns, you already know how frustrating it can be when higher-ups dismiss your attempts to contribute to your workplace culture. To be a great leader, we need to listen to what the people around us are saying. In many cases, we may even find that other people have a clearer view of important situations than we do. Indeed, how many companies have faced unnecessary crises because they wouldn’t listen to employee concerns when problems were still solvable?
5. Making Everyone Feel Welcome in the Workplace
For new employees, it is sometimes difficult to feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie in the workplace. As leaders, we can help new employees transition into their new roles by creating a welcoming and respectful environment for everyone. For example, introducing employees from different departments to one another and creating fun social exercises can be a great way to show employees that they are valued members of the team.
For these reasons, developing great leadership qualities can be an extremely rewarding process for everyone involved. Building new skills takes time, of course, but time spent learning to be a better listener, learning to take greater responsibility with regard to decisions, and learning to lead by example is undoubtedly time well-spent. Truly, that is leadership at its best!