Leaders possess the ability to make or break an organization – the way leaders show up impacts company culture, employee engagement, and the success of the team as a whole. While there are many qualities that contribute to great leadership, we frequently hear the same ones over and over again: communication, delegation, confidence, and integrity, to name just a few.
While all of the common leadership qualities we hear about are certainly important, it’s critical to name some of the less obvious ways that great leaders motivate, inspire, and engage their teams. These characteristics might fly under the radar, but they have the ability to distinguish a good leader from an amazing one.
In an effort to shed light on these less popular, but equally important qualities, we’ve compiled a list of five undervalued leadership traits:
1. Assume positive intent
We’re all human. This means that we’re all going to make mistakes from time to time. When we slip-up, we’re quick to attribute the mistake to external factors (“I didn’t have the right resources”), but when someone else makes a mistake, we typically judge them based on their character (“She is lazy”). This phenomenon is known as the fundamental attribution error, and even the best of us are guilty of making it from time to time. To unlearn this tendency, start being deliberate about giving people the benefit of the doubt. Assuming that people have positive intentions will make it easier to have honest and effective conversations with your team.
2. Be approachable
Your employees should feel like they can talk to you about anything (…okay, well almost anything). If you show that you’re easily approachable, you will foster trust, engagement, and loyalty among your team. Be willing to make personal connections and share your own stories. Listen actively when someone is talking to you and really hear them out. Include your team in decision-making conversations and leave space for questions before landing on a firm answer.
3. Cultivate curiosity
Great leaders are great learners. We know curiosity leads to personal learning and development, yet it can also be the catalyst for immense company-wide growth. If your team sees that you have the desire to learn new skills and expand your base of knowledge, they’ll most likely want to do the same. You can develop your curiosity by asking questions – lots of questions – to unlock limitless creative and innovative potential.
4. Engender trust
Great leaders prioritize building trust on teams. You can engender trust in a few different ways. Be sure that your actions and words line up. If you commit to something, follow through with it. Express some vulnerability – be your authentic self and encourage your team to show up the same way. Be sure to show your team you care about them! They are the backbone of your company, so take time to recognize them and their accomplishments as well as showing an interest in their lives beyond the office.
5. Show compassion
Compassion begins with listening. Show you care about your people as human beings by taking the time to really listen to them. When we truly listen to people they feel not only heard, but they also feel valued, appreciated, and included. Get to know your people as human beings first, employees second. Ask them questions about their life, passions, monumental and formative moments. Showing that you actually care about your team as people will help bring you closer together and foster a sense of community.
Spend some time strengthening these qualities. Your team will surely be grateful that you did!