The Bookbyte Blog
The 10 Essential Soft Skills List: 10 – Leadership
The one soft skill to rule them all. Everyone has their own take on leadership and there’s a lifetime’s worth of leadership books covering each. The most important themes we see throughout all are selflessness, empathy, vulnerability, vision, drive, and resolution. In this blog, we're going to look at some common leadership qualities, skills, and styles to get you thinking about how you can build up your own leadership chops.
What are the qualities of a leader?
While the following qualities are not all-inclusive, these often bubble up to the top and can be found in any great leader.
Empathetic leaders build meaningful relationships with greater trust and rapport that raise employee engagement, build strong relationships, and increases their communication effectiveness.
Just like with empathy, compassionate leaders have a genuine concern about the general well-being of their team. They foster greater loyalty, trust, and connection which leads to overall increases in collaboration and productivity.
We all inherently have a personal drive but it hinges on our passion. A leader is passionate about their work and that passion heightens the drive in themselves and their team.
A leader with vision looks beyond the day-to-day and focuses on the big picture. They continually set goals for themselves—and their team—and they align all their efforts with the vision in mind.
We all make mistakes and leaders aren’t infallible; they need to admit when they make mistakes. This way they can also share what they learned as a result and how they plan to prevent it from happening again.
A leader should strive to be the change they wish to see and sometimes that change requires strong people to let their guard down. It’s okay to have a weakness. How and what you do with that weakness can be where you really shine as a leader.
Being emotionally intelligent or having a high EQ (or emotional quotient) means you essentially have firm control of your emotions. You don’t react in the heat of the moment and you can step back from a situation and look at it objectively. Leaders remain unruffled and work to gain control of stressful situations.
What are Leadership skills?
Leaders rely heavily on their communication skills. They strive to ensure all messages convey information clearly and concisely without any ambiguity. They understand their body language is just as important. They view communication as a skill that is never mastered but worthy of a lifelong pursuit.
Problems arise, repeatedly and it’s a leader’s responsibility to be ready to form well-thought-out solutions that not only remedy the problem, but also future proof against it happening again. They don’t always go it alone, either. They have a team’s worth of brainpower to leverage if need be.
Adaptability is a general willingness, openness, and ability to gracefully transition to change, in any form. An adaptable leader has an optimistic outlook and a can-do attitude that inspires their team.
Just like with communication, a big part of working on a team, or managing one, requires active listening—which entails a lot more than just hearing. Nonverbal communication, body language, and your feedback play a huge part.
Leaders understand the value of working together and combining strengths to achieve goals. They value feedback from the whole team and will drive collaboration and contribution.
Through planning & prioritization, organization, and—believe it or not—taking breaks, leaders effectively manage their time to maximize the company dime and reach company goals all the while taking care of themselves and their team.
Interpersonal skills are our ‘people skills’ and they include mainly communication, active listening, empathy, and teamwork. Leaders rely on these skills to build meaningful relationships that create trust and loyalty and drive positive change within an organization.
Learning your team’s individual strengths, efficacies, and weaknesses help a leader essentially know what tools they have in their tool belt. When various projects come along, they can leverage their team and efficiently allocate tasks to the appropriate member.
Another important part of being a leader—that is often overlooked—is being able to intervene and mediate workplace conflicts between employees. It’s important to fully discuss the conflict and let the people involved both have a turn at sharing their side. As the mediator, you cannot show any partiality but should instead try and find common ground or a good compromise they can both accept.
How you can improve your leadership skills.
How each person operates is as unique as their fingerprint but, when it comes to leadership, there are overarching characteristics we find in distinct types of people that make for 10 common styles of leadership we are innately geared towards. The best thing you can do is first identify your own, innate leadership style, and hone your strengths. But also, be aware of your weaknesses as you may have to enact another style to achieve results. Below, we’ve summed up each leadership style, but we recommend you also try taking this Leadership Style Quiz, by MindTools, to get a second opinion. Lastly, for an even more in-depth look at each of the leadership styles, check out Indeed’s breakdown.
A coach leadership style involves a lot of 1:1 time with individual team members and can be a near-impossible leadership style for those managing larger teams. They are often more empathetic and offer guidance and support instead of driving work or giving commands.
A visionary leadership style is great for driving change and innovation within a company. This type of leader inspires team members to take calculated risks and encourages them to break the status quo. They are optimistic and excited about the future challenges.
A servant leadership style is based more on compassion but leverages empathy to understand and motivate their team through excellent communication and collaboration. A servant leader takes more responsibility for the team personally and professionally.
Those with an autocratic leadership style are the ‘by the book’ type of people who believe structure and supervision are important and needed in the workplace. They aren’t always as fun, but they are consistent, dependable, and they provide a great deal of stability to the team.
Laissez-faire (hands off)
The Laissez-faire leadership style is a more empowering type of leadership, where this leader effectively gives the employee the resources and tools to tackle anything on their own. They can step in if needed and they are experts in constructive criticism.
A transactional leadership style is one that relies heavily on structure and is very ‘by the book’ and they tend to make decisions on the fly without always gathering input from their team. They can also be like backseat drivers and micromanage their subordinates. They value goal-setting and long-term planning.
The democratic leadership style is one of flexibility and group-minded thinking. Decisions are often made with the group or after discussing (gathering feedback) with the team. Democratic leaders often reach consensus before moving ahead with a direction and they are experts with mediation between team members.
A transformational leadership style does share some of the same qualities as the coach, servant, and democratic leadership styles, as they inspire and motivate their team members, but the transformational leader focuses more on the company’s goals and delegates more tasks with greater autonomy afforded to the team.
The pacesetter leadership style is one you’ll find in many start-ups and fast-moving companies. A pacesetting leader is always pushing the needle and optimizing output. They drive employee performance and achieve results quickly. This style of leadership is great for teams that are highly competent and thrive in high-pressure environments. But for some employees, this leadership style can cause burnout and bad mental health.
A bureaucratic leadership style is yet another ‘by the book’ way of leading. Bureaucratic leaders are hard workers who prefer more structure and believe their team members should all have clear goals & responsibilities. Bureaucratic leaders are detail-oriented and committed to their company’s way of doing things—meaning they won’t necessarily bring a lot of innovation or creativity to the table.
Now, you hopefully have a better idea of what type of leadership you have naturally and can begin to understand how to capitalize on strengths and mitigate your weaknesses by adopting other leadership styles when the need arises.
While this blog focuses more on the qualities, skills, and styles of leadership, it’s worth mentioning that leadership should be looked at as more of a responsibility than an achievement, status, or talent. Yes, it can be all four but the latter three are more self-seeking. Leadership is a responsibility and a form of higher service for your team and your organization.
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