Leadership Skills

The most common phrase I hear when working with managers is “We have a leadership skills deficit here!”

So what are the “Top 10 Leadership Skills” that separates great leaders from average leaders?

To get started, there is a pattern to what constitutes an effective leader: First, getting things done through others; and second, mutually accomplishing goals by influencing others with integrity.

Leaders that understand and act with integrity are more likely to succeed by engaging the hearts and minds of those they lead.

This “Top 10” series is like following a recipe to make the best pie ever – you need all 10 ingredients, but we are going to add one ingredient at a time. I want to clarify – everyone is a leader. We all influence and teach other every day, so this series is for everyone!

Leadership Skill #1:  Great Leaders are Trustworthy

What makes one leader trustworthy and another not? We’ve asked people from all walks of life this question and have found five specific qualities that let you know this person will have your back and you can tell them anything.

1. Take a Look at Yourself

This may be a surprise, but the first ingredient of being trustworthy is taking a look at your own behavior before judging others. Knowing oneself, or increasing self-awareness, is a primary quality to being viewed as trustworthy.

When a leader is willing to look inwardly, they become vulnerable and uncover qualities that may impact his or her ability to lead. By looking inwardly a leader is more effective at leading outwardly.

2. Increase Your “Flex” Ability

A necessary ingredient for being trustworthy is being adaptable and flexible to change.  When leaders are not flexible they spend more time and resources avoiding change instead making the change work.

“Flex” ability allows leaders to become more adaptable to unknown situations and display a consistent reaction that people can trust. In other words, rather than flying off the handle, a trustworthy leader adapts and controls his reactions.

3. Tell It Like It Is

Trustworthy leaders know how to communicate with those they lead. Keeping team members informed is critical. Listening and really understanding what others have to say before telling, giving advice, or providing direction makes a huge difference in results.

Do you delay having tough conversations that allow people to keep doing the same thing over and over? A good rule of thumb is to have a tough conversation within 24 hours. This keeps you from procrastinating and enhances your credibility.

4. People Need Someone to Believe in Them

A trustworthy leader is a person that believes the best in people. This means the leader operates on the premise that most people want to do the right thing. They give people room to succeed rather than “being skeptical” that it just isn’t going to happen. Trustworthy leaders expect the best in others and enjoying being around people.

These leaders are approachable, accept responsibility for their actions, and are mutually supportive of everyone, not just the people that they like. This leadership quality is an essential ingredient. Without it, a leader will not be viewed as ethical or having integrity.

5. Firm and Fair

Last but not least, trustworthy leaders know how to be firm and fair. This allows them to stay true to their convictions. The reason this quality promotes trust is you know where you stand with this leader – no walking on eggshells.

No guessing what will happen next. When leaders practice this daily, they instill the expectation that each person is responsible for achieving success.

Trustworthy leaders create leaders that are better than they are. Staying true to your convictions means holding tough discussions, clarifying expectations, and letting those that choose not to contribute know they are no longer a match for the organization’s purpose and mission.

A leader can become more self-aware, be adaptable, believe in others, and communicate clearly, but without holding others accountable, the leader quickly loses trust.

Great Leader Action Plan

  • Recognize Your Dark Side

    The first step to becoming more self-aware is to be in touch and reflect on what characteristics, traits or habits exist that may not contribute to leadership success. This action requires courage, honesty, and the willingness to recognize that the dark side itself is not negative. It is only when the dark side is suppressed, ignored, and avoided that leadership tendencies may become untrustworthy.

  • Reinvent Yourself

    Encourage change. For fun, take a journey into the unknown by acting on a personal goal or dream that you feel may be unattainable. Upon taking this leap of faith, your level of confidence will ignite you to take actions you may have only imagined doing.  This level of personal change creates a new beginning which causes higher levels of thinking, motivation, inspiration, and discipline.

  • Live Your Core Values

    With continual change and leadership being closely associated, it is imperative to identify personal core values to live by. Leading with clear and firm values are not only a priority, but are critical during times of crisis and uncertainty.

  • Find a Confidant

    Find someone you can “debrief with”, a thinking partner. A confidant is an individual that will help you uncover your blind spots, be candid about areas to improve in, and propose actions for enhancing leadership ability. A confidant is not an individual that agrees with a leader’s thinking or tells the leader what she may want to hear.

  • Be You

    Your core values create a foundation for being you. Trustworthy leadership gives leaders a high sense of awareness, an understanding of self, and a platform in which to operate. It is through this level of introspection and honesty that a leader creates a blue print in which to live and lead by.

Leadership Skills – How Can a Leader Be Trustworthy?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.