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Leadership skills: The softer skills that make a leader great.

December 4, 2017

Management

We’ve all had great managers, great leaders. People who motivate and energise us. People who know how to engage us in our work, and push us forward. They possess real skills and its a pleasure to work for them. They don’t just manage. They understand how to lead. A good manager leads us towards our goals and drives us forward. They inspire us to be better.

We’ve all had bad managers. Managers who set themselves apart, distancing themselves from their team. They don’t understand the challenges the team face, and even if they did they wouldn’t necessarily care. They sap our energy; drag us down. Bad managers don’t understand the soft skills needed to be a good leader. They don’t inspire much, but they do expect a lot.

Then there are those managers who just defy the odds. Nobody knows how they got their job or why, but they did. They are an enigma; one of life’s true mysteries. They’re usually kept in their role purely by the hard work of everyone around them. I’m thinking of one of them right now, and a shudder went down my spine when that person’s name came to my mind!! Its been some time, but the memories are still all too clear!

As with everything, good leadership skills need practice.

Good leaders see the big picture, and aren’t afraid to learn. They understand the importance of development, both professionally and personally. But the skills needed are not just technical.

Good leaders are well disciplined. Through this, they inspire disciplined work practices in the people around them. They manage their personal and professional time well, understanding the importance of routine to any organisation. Building and managing a team is a skill in itself; recognising the best assets of team members as well as areas for development is essential. Managers should see themselves as part of the team, as well as being able to inspire and motivate others to collaborate.

Great leaders are great listeners. They make themselves available for team members, offering advice or guidance. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to help someone through. Its not just listening, though. It’s hearing. Colleagues need to feel empowered and confident enough to ask for help from a sympathetic ear when things aren’t going to plan. These team communication skills are central to great leadership. Welcoming input from colleagues, giving feedback, praising great work, and offering assistance in challenging times, all help keep the channels open, and serve to make the team stronger.

There can be no greater inspiration to an employee than to see their manager out on the frontline, at their side, working with them and getting their hands dirty. Committing to the team, letting them see that their leader ‘has their back’ is all too essential. Respect is earned, and when it comes from the team, it delivers back tenfold. This is the simplest of all leader skills, where seeing enables doing. Engagement and productivity increase, which in turn strengthens the team even more.

Empowering your team, truly engaging them in their role, means leading from the front. Leading by example, and using a wide variety of skills. A true leader recognises the strengths and weaknesses in their team and importantly, in themselves, but knows how to turn things round, and how to get the very best out of people. Its about having the skills to motivate others into doing more, to be more, and to achieve more. Its about knowing how others see you, what they look for in their leader versus what they find. Their perception of their leader is all important. Which brings us back to where we began; good leaders, bad leaders, and those unmentionable ‘leaders’ who only time will let us forget.

This article is part of our larger guide all about Team Management

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