Your ability to fulfill the role of a capable, compassionate, and authoritative leader is central to attaining success in your career. No matter your specific job in the workplace, there will come a time at which you will be expected to take the lead on something. Whether that “something” is a simple business presentation, a critical experiment for a laboratory, or anything in between, you will need to be equipped with fundamental leadership skills to do your job thoroughly and exceedingly well.
When thinking about the necessity of this skillset, many often fall short of recognizing how crucial soft skills are compared to industry knowledge or the expected hard skills. Not only must you be confident in your work, but your ability to relate to, and support, your colleagues as well. To get started in sharpening your leadership skills, and improve your work performance, follow the guide below.
Your Importance as A Leader in the Workplace
Your ability to engage with and relate to your team is critical to your success in your career, as well as the overall health of the workplace. Think about it: Can you remember when you did not have positive relationships with co-workers? How did that affect your feelings of that workplace? Did it have an impact on your productivity?
A study conducted in 2018 demonstrated the relationship between positive workplace relationships and job performance. After completing a questionnaire with over 300 hospital nurses, the researchers discovered a strong, positive correlation between a healthy workplace, job satisfaction, and employee performance. Specifically, a positive workplace resulted in the following:
- Nurses showed higher levels of commitment to their work. There was a widespread sentiment that expressed low-stress levels in the workplace.
- The nurses felt that their work had a substantial impact on their society.
One key factor in this study was shown to contribute significantly to this work environment: the relationships between the nurses and their leaders. As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a work environment that welcomes and encourages your staff. This requires attentiveness, empathy, sternness, discernment, and the ability to engage your workforce genuinely. So, how do you do that?
Developing Your Soft Skills as A Leader
All the attributes listed below are known as “soft skills.” These are non-technical skills that are not tangible or visible in nature, but observable, based on your behavior, primarily in how you engage with others. Those with fully developed soft skills are proficient in communications, including conflict mitigation and authoritative guidance. Some of the critical areas you must focus on in growing this portion of your skillset includes:
#1 Know when (and how) to take the initiative
Whether you are currently in a leadership position or are working your way toward one, there is always room for improvement concerning your inclination to take the initiative. Most employees will wait for superiors to assign them work tasks, completing only the bare minimum in the meantime.
Instead of succumbing to this behavior, ask your manager for additional responsibilities when you have the time. When you do so, step out of your comfort zone. Does the additional task require you to learn new software? That’s great! Learn to get comfortable with seeking out opportunities that exceed your contractual job duties and broaden your perspective on your work environment.
#2 Learn to delegate
Although taking the initiative is great, you must also know when you’ve got too much on your plate. You do not have to put your productivity in jeopardy to prove that you are capable of multitasking. It is often more respectable to recognize when you’re overwhelmed than to allow pride to lead you to accumulate one too many tasks.
Communicate with other members on your team and learn their strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve got someone working with you whose strengths and expertise outweigh yours on a particular subject matter? Assign the task to them. Not only does this show that you are self-aware, but it also demonstrates that you appreciate your staff for their professionalism and trust them to fulfill their roles. Building a foundation of trust in this way has been shown to lead to:
- Improved financial performance of the company
- Enhanced productivity levels
- Higher quality service and/or product development
#3 Get comfortable with exercising empathy
Empathy is a critical skill that you must master straight away when you take your role as a leader. Why? It is an essential, foundational component of many different employee and colleague relations - conflict de-escalation, listening to staff grievances, and even disciplinary action.
Do not simply imagine yourself in your “employee’s shoes.” Genuinely and actively listen to their perspectives and learn who they are. What attributes about them, specifically, can you support? Learn the individual communication styles of your colleagues and employees, and you will be able to navigate conversations with each of them with ease. (Statistics show that 96% of employees feel that genuine empathy is the most reliable method of achieving staff retention.)
Growing Your Leadership Skills Indefinitely
As you continue to enhance your leadership skill set, recognize that this is not merely a one-and-done commitment. Throughout your career, you will encounter people of all backgrounds and communication styles, all of whom will differ in their work ethics, belief structures, and more. Your ability to perform as a strong leader depends not solely on you but also on how you relate to and engage those surrounding you.
Your work will never be “complete” concerning the development and strengthening of your ability to lead. Whenever you encounter a new individual in the workplace, are promoted to a new role, or experience a career change, you are being handed the opportunity to attain new insights into your leadership position.
Understand that this is not meant to make you feel like your growth as a leader is an endless toil. Instead, it is an encouragement, highlighting that your professional life is rich with opportunities to advance your career. This timeless task, eternally present, will provide you with the necessary tools to form positive relationships with others and improve your company’s health for as long as you are willing to put forth the effort.