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Top 10 Underrated Leadership Traits

Every boss has room for improvement. Get started by analyzing which of these traits you might lack.
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"Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership."
--Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of Visa

Just because you're a manager, doesn't mean you're a leader. Management skills are something you you develop out of necessity; leadership skills are entirely different.

One way to learn about the way you lead--and where you need to improve--is to look at your team. Is there a general sense of trust for each other? Do they regularly recognize each other's accomplishments? In all likelihood, what your team lacks is likely what you lack. Here are a few key traits you might be missing:

1. Empathy. This is one emotional skill that doesn't come naturally to everyone. But if you're unable to connect with others, you're probably not going to accomplish much as a leader. You need empathy to gain trust, fuel relationships, and understand reactions. If this is something you lack, try listening more to your employees (individually and in teams), tuning in to nonverbal communication, and taking a genuine interest in your colleagues.

2. Recognition. Praise pays off when it comes to boosting productivity and engagement. You may feel like you're too busy to give your employees a pat on the back for every little accomplishment, but recognition serves a function: It will make employees want to continue impressing you. Consider creating a reward system that's specific to your company and using it to recognize a variety of both small and large accomplishments.

3. Trust. All leader-employee relationships require trust, but it takes two to make it happen. You've got to take a few risks as a leader and your employees need to show you they can be trusted. Focus on developing this trait by regularly delegating with a no-questions-asked policy. Allow your employees to take care of the majority of the decision-making without your immediate approval.

4. Sense of humor. Laughter isn't just the best medicine, it's also the secret ingredient to better leadership. Humor eases the intimidation factor that comes with managing others. It also can make bad news easier to swallow, and it's great for team building.

5. Commitment. If you're struggling to motivate a team that's disengaged, it's time to take a look in the mirror. Lead by example and find new ways to prove your commitment. Instead of ducking out early to play a round of golf on your slower days, spend some time with your team and lend a helping hand when and where it's necessary.

6. Intuition. Uncertainty and leadership often go hand in hand. When was the last time you trusted your natural intuition when making a tough decision? Instead of relying solely on others to help you make a decision, learn to find the answers within yourself. Try trusting your gut and gathering insight from past experiences.

7. Positivity. Simply put, negativity is contagious. So if your goal is to boost employees' energy and keep them motivated, start with your own attitude.

8. Decisiveness. Contrary to popular belief, confidently making a decision isn't a sign of dictatorship. Wavering in situations that need immediate action will lead your employees to doubt you. It's your job to know when the input of your employees is necessary and when it's your job to be the lead decision-maker.

9. Communication. Not everyone communicates the same way, that's why it's important to have adaptable communication skills. You need to be able to describe what you want to accomplish in a way that's understood across a variety of media and by all of your employees.

10. Respect. Do you genuinely respect your employees? If not, you may lose them. Improve the way you show it by carefully listening to their requests and needs and making the necessary sacrifices to help them, empowering them to make decisions, and treating them like humans rather than robots.

Your one-of-a-kind leadership style may be missing something. Don't let your staff and company suffer because of what you lack.

What do you think is the most underrated leadership trait?

IMAGE: Gary Forrest / Flickr.com
Last updated: Aug 6, 2013




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