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10 brand new 'soft' skills to make a great leader today that no one talks about

Binjal Shah
3rd May 2018
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As a startup, or even otherwise, you are most likely working with a team of millennials with sky-high standards in who they are working with and under. So, in the words of 'World's Best Boss' Michael Scott, here's how to make your team "afraid of how much they love you!"

Addressing the crowd at the World Economic Forum 2018 at Davos, ecommerce mogul Jack Ma had declared that his employees striking the golden balance between ‘EQ’- emotional quotient, ‘LQ’ - love quotient, and ‘IQ’ - intelligence quotient, was the secret behind the success of Alibaba, adding that this was the reason women made better leaders in his organisation.

“Balance-wise, women - they’re the best. If you want your company to be successful, if you want your company to operate with wisdom, with care, then women are the best,” he had said.

Moreover, various studies have confirmed that the testosterone-charged qualities we have been associating with leadership – which also happen to be the ones we typically assume men have, like stoic aggression, goal-orientedness, ruthless pursuit of targets – are a tired old stereotype. Now, the archetypical image we have of a leader is giving way to a more divergent, diverse image - it compels the leader to showcase just as much emotional intelligence, so that they can have a truly wholesome impact on the lives of those they lead.

“The rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other,” behavioural sciences expert Daniel Goleman had said.

In that regard, a study released by the Korn Ferry Institute, The power of EI: The “soft” skills the sharpest leaders use, describes these 'soft' skills that a modern-day leader absolutely must hone and incorporate into their leadership, to be successful and loved.

Image courtesy: World Economic Forum

Everything to do with yourself

 

  1. Having complete emotional self-awareness: This not only tops their list, but is also the starting point of the journey you need to embark upon to be an effective leader. Simply put, it is the art of getting in touch with your innermost self, and having a true-to-life picture of who you really are and what you’re made of - your emotions, drives, strengths, weaknesses and desires.

 

  1. Developing “emotional self-control”: The report describes this as “managing our emotions and behaviour with focus and restraint.” This competency is “the ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintain our effectiveness under stressful or hostile conditions.” A self-aware individual is grounded rather than delusional. Thus, by being fully aware of what your are made of and how you respond to various situations, you will be able to exercise emotional self-control effectively by keeping your impulses in check. This way, you can capitalise on the positive impulses and mitigate the negative impulses.

 

  1. Having a positive outlook: The study describes it as “the ability to see the positive in people, situations and events and our persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks”. This needs no further explanation – in order to bring out the best in your team, you must help them believe that they have it in them to be their best versions. Furthermore, to help your team excel, you must lead them to believe that success is attainable even in the darkest of times. Your pessimism is contagious - but fortunately, so is optimism. And the first step towards doing something is believing that it can be done. Therefore, it is up to to set the tone and control the vibe in your team.

 

  1. Be adaptable: According to Korn Ferry, it is the “flexibility in handling change, juggling multiple demands and adapting our ideas or approaches.” Gone are the days when, as leaders, you lay down the law, rule with an iron fist and turn your subordinates into stooges. Especially since we live in a time when diversity is the top-most item on every company’s agenda, it must go hand-in-hand with inclusivity and adaptability - you must learn to truly embrace different backgrounds, conditioning, ideas, and adapt your own approach to incorporate perspectives that may be different from your own, to be able to make the most of that diversity and create products and services that are truly nuanced.

 

Everything to do with your team:

 

  1. Feel empathy: The study describes this as “the ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives, taking an active interest in their concerns and picking up cues to what is being felt and thought.” This is a trait typically associated to millennials – the demographic that constitutes the largest section of the workforce - that they refuse to settle. As more individuals look for stimulation rather than promotions, as more people prioritise their mental well-being above the mindless pursuit of professional success, as a boss and a leader – you must showcase empathy to their feelings, listen when they raise legitimate concerns, and actively work towards ensuring that they feel valued, happy and fulfilled through their work.

 

  1. Cultivate organisational awareness: It is “the ability to read a group’s emotional currents and power relationships, identifying influencers, networks and dynamics,” states the report. To get the best out of your team, invest time in decoding their dynamics, and establish which members lead, which one's prefer to follow, who takes the initiative, who puts in the work, who works well with whom, and observe them intently enough to ensure that you play on everyone’s specific strengths and reorganise your figurative roster to derive the best results in a way that everyone not only do what they are good at, but are given an opportunity to experiment, take on challenges, and grow.

 

Your relationship with your team:

 

  1. Influence, coach and mentor: Being an influence, coaching and mentoring are defined by the study as “the ability to have a positive impact on others, persuading or convincing in order to gain their support, to foster the long-term learning or development of others by giving feedback and support,” by the study. As a present-day leader, one cannot simply be an alpha - they must lead the pack by ensuring that they bring everyone up along with them by constantly giving back – imparting learnings, and using their expertise to provide guidance and support when required. Knowledge only multiplies when shared.

 

  1. Inculcate effective conflict management: “The ability to help others through emotional or tense situations, tactfully bringing disagreements into the open and finding solutions all can endorse,” is conflict management, according to the report. In sticky situations of conflict, firstly, never take sides, especially not at the onset, before hearing out a matter. Your role as the boss is to be a fair and unbiased mediator. And your goal as a boss, is to not only to resolve the conflict, but also restore peace and camaraderie within your team and ensure the warring parties emerge wiser and learn something. No party should feel alienated or cornered, and each must feel assured that their interests were safeguarded.

 

  1. Be a team player: It is “the ability to work with others toward a shared goal, participating actively, sharing responsibility and rewards, and contributing to the capability of the team,” according to the report. As hierarchy becomes an archaic concept and gives way to more flat organisational structures, it is essential that your leadership is more covert than overt, and that, by-and-large, you function as a team player. It’s all in the nuances – you deliberate rather than dictate, you enable performance rather than orchestrate it, you delegate rather than do. Your calibre as a leader is now judged by the pedigree of the stallions you create, rather than the races you yourself run.

 

  1. Inspirational leadership: Don’t just be a boss, be a leader. And don’t stop there – be a role model. Be ahead of the curve to make your team-mates aspire to a better standard. Most importantly, have sound ideals, an acceptable worldview, and inspire others to be better professionals and human beings – that should be your legacy.
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