Growing up, I had a misconception for many years that “leaders” were the loudest person and most popular in the room. And wow, how quickly I learned this was entirely wrong. It wasn’t until I had a really amazing teacher who emphasized leadership in the classroom and recognized the silent leaders, is when I had a wake-up call. This teacher expressed why leadership is way more than having a loud, vocalized, and popular opinion, and ultimately wanted others to see that some of the best leaders are the complete opposite of the misconceived thoughts we had.
As I have grown up, I have encountered many leaders inside and outside the workforce, and through watching them and others, I have come to recognize some of the most admirable and notable qualities I believe leaders have, and how those can show up in the workforce.
There can be many attributes that good leaders have and commonly share with one another, and leadership can appear in many different ways within the workforce, I don’t believe leaders are all the exact same makeup. However, there are some specific qualities that we can acknowledge are characteristics you can embody and practice on a daily that others recognize in an amazing way, and simple acts that you can practice if you are trying to show up as a leader in your own life.
Do you know how many people I have met that hold leadership or management positions that lack this skill? Too many to count. So many leaders are promoted within companies based on performance, and although performance is a good metric, having empathy can’t really be measured.
Why I call empathy a skill is because not everyone is empathetic, and many people only see things through their own perspective or lens. Great leaders, in my experience, all possess a high level of empathetic discussion and viewpoints. These individuals are great at understanding and seeing another side of situations, expressing concerns, and wanting what is best for their team and workplace. Being empathetic does not mean you need to befriend every person and create excuses for others for bad behavior. It does mean that you share common ground with every human, can be open-minded, and genuinely show up as someone who is humble, and recognize you are simply a person, just like everyone else.
Handling Failure and Admitting It
We are all human, and sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes, despite how awful it is, we can fail! Good leaders can recognize their mistakes and failure, and rather than blaming others, can take accountability themselves on the matter. Personally, for myself, I have always held a lot of respect for individuals who can say, “I messed up”, and “I’m sorry” especially in the workplace. So often, people want to find blame in others for their own mistakes, but when you can own where you fell flat, or share in a team setting your own contribution when it comes to taking blame, this comes off really loud, and loud in a good way. It shows your team and your workplace, you’re self-aware and take accountability. Something that is very rarely found now in and outside of the workplace.
Life is constantly changing, and so are the skills and knowledge we have about topics and our own industries. Good leaders want to learn more and do better. If there is something they can be better at, they want to know what that is and how. Good leaders also recognize that maybe they don’t know as much about a certain space or topic as they should, and they are proactive in taking the steps to learn more about it. Lifelong learning also would include getting more certifications in a desired field, earning a Master’s degree, or taking additional college classes online or in person.
The best work models and businesses have had to adapt and mold with the times. This requires change. There are times in the workforce when an “old way” is the better and can stay consistent for years, most times, change is required though to move forward, become more innovative, and stay relevant. Change can be big or small, and leaders who advocate and embrace change are usually people who can see the big picture and dramatically improve a workplace. Change is something that scares a lot of people, and rightfully so, as change is associated with the unknown, but to be a good leader, there has to be a mindset of being fearless and taking risks.
The list could go on for the many ways you can start becoming a leader in your workplace. Just because we didn’t name something here, doesn’t mean it doesn’t constitute as being a vital skill in being a great leader. Because our list could keep expanding, keep your eyes out for another newsletter in the near future featuring other skills and characteristics of being a great leader. For now, take what resonates and start practicing the above skills on showing up as a good leader in your workplace.