Ask any group of leaders about the most important leadership skills, and much of the discussion will focus on capabilities like strategic planning and budgeting. In my work as a coach to leaders around the world, I see the importance of these areas—but I also see that a leader’s humanity is the source of their most essential skills. With that in mind, ask yourself how you rate in these specific areas:
Vulnerability. Great leadership requires that you be confident in your vulnerability. That means being able to express your emotions and connect with others on a human level. When leaders are comfortable with showing what they’re feeling, they exhibit true strength—and they encourage others to be open as well.
Empathy. To be a great leader, you need the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes by suspending judgment and concentrating on their perspective. Empathy lets you think through decisions from multiple perspectives, but its main power is in establishing trust and building relationships.
Patience. People often associate strong leadership with fast, decisive action. And certainly there’s a place for that, but patience—with oneself, with others, and with situations that are outside your control—will keep you calm and protect you from decisions made in haste.
Listening. Many people aren’t even aware of the difference between hearing and listening. But knowing how to listen with focus and without interrupting, and how to think before you reply, is the secret weapon of the best communicators. It takes attention and practice, but it’s a skill anyone can learn.
Trust. The best leaders work consistently on trust: earning it, keeping it, and according it to others. Trust is by necessity a two-way street. It means getting to know people, understanding them and showing them the same respect that you would like to receive. Being known as someone who values trust will strengthen your leadership in countless ways.
Honesty. Speaking the truth is often difficult, but it’s the foundation of any form of personal integrity. People may not like what you’re telling them, but they’ll appreciate your truthfulness. Honesty is how leaders maintain a positive reputation even in challenging times.
Supportiveness. Support can take many forms: Sometimes it’s an encouraging word. At other times it means seeing that someone is moving off track and helping them make the adjustments they need. You can also express support by applauding a strong effort that didn’t work out, making sure people have everything they need to do great work, or providing assistance to help people reach their goals. Supportiveness goes beyond praise to show you genuinely value those you lead.
Lots of skills contribute to great leadership, but it’s a leader’s human factors that build great connection, foster trust and respect, and at the end of the day get things done.
Lead from within: The humanity of your leadership, and how it makes people feel, will largely determine their loyalty and contribution.