Many people dream about becoming leaders, but once they find themselves in such a role, they realize that it’s so much harder than it seems (and it already seems hard). With great power comes great responsibility, and not everyone can live up to what’s expected of them.
A staggering 57% of people who quit do so because of their boss or manager. As a person in this position, you affect everyone down the line and may seriously endanger your business if you don’t possess the soft skills necessary to lead.
Here are the five most important traits of thoughtful leaders.
They Genuinely Care About People
A thoughtful leader shows empathy for their team. They treat their employees as their equals and care about their well-being. Your teammates are the ones who keep the wheels of your business turning, and if they feel understood and valued, your organization will thrive.
There’s often this idea that empathy is something you either have or don’t have. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Although some people can share in the feelings and struggles of others intuitively, empathy is a skill, which you can also work on intellectually.
The key to mastering this skill is listening and paying attention. Furthermore, never assume. Instead of assuming you understand someone, make an effort to truly get them. Ask them how they feel. Try to put yourself in their position.
Once you start practicing this thoughtfulness, it won’t take long before it becomes second nature to you. Your subordinates will truly respect you for that and feel much more motivated to work wholeheartedly on the common goal.
They Are Attentive
Great leaders are also attentive and perceptive. They pay attention to every little detail around them, especially in social situations.
We all know a boss who demands things get done, and then goes to the office and doesn’t leave there all day. Just because you’re the boss, doesn’t mean you can remove yourself from the life of the organization. On the contrary — you need to participate more than anyone else and be aware of everything.
Observe and mingle. Pay attention to people’s body language and changes in behavior. Feel the tension and explore its root causes. However, don’t get too caught up in it and feel like some kind of detective who’s removed from the situation. You’re part of any office drama as much as everyone else is, and you can only resolve it if you don’t act like you’re above it.
The point is, approach any situation from a human standpoint. This way, you’ll notice if someone’s having a hard time or struggling for whatever reason. You’ll be able to recognize dissatisfaction and figure out how you can reverse it.
They Are Constant Learners
A good leader doesn’t just assume they know everything. Just because you’re at the top, doesn’t mean you’re smarter than everybody else. Even if you have years of experience in your field, there’s always something new to learn or another skill to adopt.
It doesn’t even have to be something completely new — the point is simply to stay curious and keep your mind open for learning. Whether it’s learning a new program from scratch or just following the news in your industry religiously, you should strive to keep your brain active. You might even want to hire a leadership coach who can help you hone your soft skills.
Not only will you keep your mind sharp and help it perform to the best of its abilities, but you will also widen your horizons and always have an influx of fresh ideas.
The worst thing a leader can experience is getting stuck in the “good old ways.” There’s nothing more damaging for any business than the “that’s how it’s always been done” mentality. A thoughtful leader explores other options and paths and is constantly looking for new ideas.
They Are Self-Aware
Being self-aware means seeing yourself for who you are and being able to tune into your thoughts and emotions. This trait is incredibly important since if you want to be able to lead others, you first need to learn how to lead yourself.
Having a clear picture of your strengths and challenges, without being harsh on yourself because of them, is essential for seeing any situation objectively and not being run by your ego. For example, leaders who are not self-aware often tend to get paranoid about everybody criticizing them or nobody liking them. Because they don’t know themselves, they build this ego defense, which does more harm than good.
What’s more, some insecure bosses and managers are afraid of admitting they don’t know how to do something and asking for help. A self-aware leader is aware of their abilities, as well as of the fact that they don’t have to know everything. That’s why they’re much more comfortable working with people.
This self-awareness gives you the confidence and humility you need in order to see things clearly and not have them clouded by emotion.
They Encourage Open Communication
If you want a healthy flow of ideas, you need to keep the valves open. No one knows your business like your employees and yourself, and you alone can’t make all the decisions, so you need to make your team feel comfortable sharing their ideas. This means you need to foster a culture that makes open communication possible and desirable.
Your team members should not hesitate to tell you anything, even if it’s bad — or especially if it’s bad. If they don’t think something is working, they should feel free to bring it up with you without the fear of being shut down, dismissed, or even punished.
For example, you’ve implemented a new piece of software your employees should use, and you believe it’s great. However, you’re not the one actually using it, and you can’t know for sure if it’s really that good. But you can ask your team.
If they can speak freely to you, you can fix any problems as soon as they occur. However, if they need to comply with your decision in silence, the issue can go on for a long time and create serious bottlenecks in your processes.
So encourage their genuine feedback and advice and never take any criticism personally, but try to see it from their standpoint.