The Human Skills of Leaders
In leading a team, being an efficient and strong communicator is not the only thing that matters. Your overall behaviour plays a big role. Getting to know yourself and further developing your human skills as a leader can have a great impact on your team’s performance as well as your own.
Indeed, Assistant Vice President of Continuing Studies at York University Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly says that “While technical skills may get workers hired, it’s their human skills that will allow them to excel in the workplace”.
Self-awareness and empathy often top the list of the most in-demand human skills in the workplace - along with curiosity, communication, and decision-making, which are directly correlated.
Self-Awareness for Better Performance
How we behave as professionals is no different than how we behave as individuals. We may be able to adapt but who we are transpires in everything that we do and influences our behaviours and our relationships at work.
However, society has placed the focus on assessing performance first. Growing up, schools hand out report cards and the process continues throughout our professional career with performance reviews.
But such processes have been developed to measure our knowledge and actions and fail to analyze the root causes of our performance. They don’t take into consideration the beliefs, the emotions and the behaviours that we are made of.
The reality is that practising introspection and self-awareness gives us the opportunity to truly perform to the best of our ability. In fact, it has been demonstrated that there are significant correlations between emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness. If emotional intelligence is such an essential human skill to have in the workplace, it’s that it allows us to identify our limiting beliefs and to manage and adapt our behaviour so it doesn’t affect our performance and our relationships with others.
We rarely stop to reflect upon ourselves and on how our actions might affect others.
What makes us cringe at a colleague might be appreciated by others. What aims to express respect can sometimes be perceived as disrespect. But beyond knowing what you dislike in others and recognizing that no one is perfect, it may be worth asking yourself a few questions to assess the situation.
What are the behaviours that characterize you?
What types of behaviours can’t you stand in others?
Do you have a routine and what does it look like?
Do you go with the flow and rarely plan ahead of time?
Do you ever experience anxiety and when does it show up?
What sort of feedback have you gathered from others about yourself?
What sort of leader and communicator are you?
The answers to such questions can help you identify how you show up for others, what are the superpowers you need to leverage and which areas require improvement.
Don’t limit yourself to the workplace. Source examples from your private life as well.
The Role of Empathy
Self-awareness and empathy go hand in hand when it comes to the human skills of which the best leaders are made of.
In a recent blog post on self-awareness, I wrote that empathy is “a mindset and a comprehensive approach to being – in the workplace and in life”, and that it is “what gives us the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes so we can see and feel from their perspective”.
A high-performing team is one where resistance is at its lowest and trust is at its highest. Without trust, there is no collaborative mindset and no commitment to the team nor the company. And without empathy, there is no trust.
Empathy can be expressed by demonstrating interest, showing appreciation, practising active listening and asking questions. Empathy is about gaining context about where others are coming from, questioning our own beliefs and biases, avoiding criticism and being fully present.
When there is empathy exhibited by leaders and peers in the workplace, trust can automatically follow. This lends itself to a ‘safe to fail’ work environment that we’re all striving for.
At Intuity, we support leaders wanting to adopt trust-based leadership and improve their human skills in different ways.
We often start by working with organizations to understand their team dynamics. Showing our curiosity, we lean into questions like: What kind of leader are you and how do you show up with your team? What type of individuals are part of your team and how do they interact?
This can be done through observation, interviews, as well as our DISC, 360 Leader, Emotional Intelligence-Q, and other assessments and reports.