What are some characteristics effective leaders share? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Mark Gould, COO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, on Quora:

The easiest way to approach this is to think about the best bosses you've had in your career and to ask yourself what made them particularly great leaders. I've had the opportunity to work for a wide range of people in my career, and some of the best demonstrated some mixture of the following attributes:

  • Self-awareness: Having self-awareness is vital for any leader so that you can build out your team with people who balance your own strengths and weaknesses. If you're not aware of your own developmental needs, you may be more confident than you should be, and you may not realize the need for a particularly critical skill on your team. Do an anonymous 360 review with your team, and listen carefully to what it says.
  • Humility: Have you ever worked for a boss who thought he or she was right all the time, even when they weren't? When you become a leader, people just automatically look to you for answers and direction. Resist the urge to always just offer direction, especially if you're not entirely sure what the best answer is. Ask your team for their thoughts and demonstrate your willingness to take their advice, and you might be surprised how the culture in your group changes.
  • Curiosity: I try to surround myself with people who are curious about a wide range of issues. Leaders who immerse themselves purely in their business silo can miss emerging issues or opportunities, as well as connections with other industries. And, it's way more fun to have a team with diverse interests.
  • Authenticity: I value leaders who don't try to be one thing in the office and another thing elsewhere. Inevitably, the real person comes out, particularly in times of stress. And, if your team senses that you're not authentic in your words and actions, they'll question whether you'll have their back when issues surface, and it's a safe assumption that they'll start looking to move to another job.
  • Humor: Let's face it: Work is hard, and we spend a lot of time in the office. However, just because work is serious doesn't mean that we need to take ourselves too seriously. Particularly when the going gets tough, a little humor can go a long way to keep the team motivated. Don't get carried away in thinking you need to be a comedian; just be yourself. A team who laughs together will have lower turnover and higher productivity.

Overall, just keep in mind that being selected for a leadership position doesn't automatically make you a great leader. Commit to building these skills, and don't despair if you stub your toe now and then. Just admit your mistakes to the team, try to avoid falling into the same trap again, and work together on building a great work environment.

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Published on: Oct 9, 2017