There’s always a case for thinking feelings do not belong in the workplace – and let’s face it, many of us have worked in businesses with this idea, or even attended workshops that train how to reduce your emotional response at work.

Qualities like empathy, openness and vulnerability have long been derided as optional “soft skills”. 

But the tide is turning and now, more than ever, these nine qualities will have a positive impact on how – and why – you lead.

1. Empathy 

Empathy – feeling with others – is different to sympathy – feeling for others. 

Some business leaders may only start to take empathy seriously when something “big” happens. 

Instead, we can be tuned in to the smaller, everyday ways we can feel with others, like considering how people may (or may not) perceive our actions, and listening to understand not just to respond.

Ask yourself:

Do you have an understanding of how the people in your team listen and learn best? There are multiple ways to develop new conversational and learning styles in a more engaging way, to foster a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and strengths. 

2. Vulnerability 

There’s a broader culture of putting vulnerability last – especially for leaders who understandably may be keen to appear informed and self-assured at all times. 

But here’s the problem with a lack of vulnerability. It can also lead to a lack of innovation, because it increases the difficulty of accepting new ideas, fosters a closed approach to the unknown, and may even hinder our ability to get the most out of meetings.  

A lack of vulnerability may also, over time, slowly erode trust – because now more than ever, leaders who show their humanity empower us to be open to new perspectives.

Consider being open with your limitations and asking for help on a more regular basis. 

Embrace the power of the unknown – you never know where it might lead and I can guarantee, it won’t keep you either leading or being in the same space.

3 and 4: Patience and Curiosity

Fast-moving businesses with a lot of different projects can make it very difficult to rationalise doing something that takes time to simmer slowly, with no guarantee of a positive outcome. And that’s understandable.

However, it’s important to also take a longer-term view, stay open to new ideas and to also practice the slow art of patience. 

5. Humility 

When we’re caught up in a culture of self-promotion (overt or covert), we may be less present to recognising, rewarding and celebrating the strengths in others. 

This can not only leave us eventually feeling empty, but it also means we are fostering an environment where it’s permissible for others to do the same.

In short, great leaders seek to serve others. 

And when good things happen they openly share the credit, which paints a compelling picture for others to feel passionate about the difference they’re making, not just for themselves, but for others too.

6.  Inclusiveness 

Deliberately seek perspectives from those who may have a good reason to disagree with you. Hire, meet and work with others who see, know and do things differently. 

Allow all new ideas to be heard from people in all areas of your business, without fear of reprehension. Inclusiveness is also about… 

7. Open listening

I can often tell a good leader by the way they listen to others. 

Effective listening means paying whole-body attention to another person, making eye contact, asking open questions and responding without judgement.

Put simply, it’s listening to genuinely understand, not to respond. 

And it’s one of the most powerful things we can do to fuel effective conversations and trust.

8. Kindness

It’s less about grand gestures and more about putting the incremental time and effort into making sure you’re open and abundant with how you show up for those around you.  

But when you’re busy that is much easier said than done. That’s why it’s important to be smart with how you schedule and plan your time, and also focus on:

9. Balance 

Like a set of scales, we have to balance our time and energy so they’re in harmony, not tilting in the wrong direction.

The snowballing effect of busy-culture is that we feel exhausted, aggrieved and – in many cases – irritated. We lose the ability to be mindful of the present moment, which has the opposite effect that leaders want to achieve.

So instead, treat balance like you would any other non-negotiable item in your calendar.

Schedule it in. Every leader needs time to reflect and recharge, and to set their intention for the day ahead. 

Because in order to lead well?  

We must also be well. 

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