3 Leadership qualities every first time leader must master

Depiction of two teams with leader helping winning team to success with losing teams leader not assisting.

If you have found yourself in a leadership role, congrats – this is a huge turning point in your career. You are probably feeling a mix of excitement, nervousness and fear. Those feelings are perfectly normal, and healthy. In fact, if you were going into your new role as cool as a cucumber, I would be nervous for you. I will share with you tips from my latest co-authored book “First Time Leader” on how you can override these feelings and prevent them from getting in your way so you can be an awesome leader. Why? Because leading people is a challenge. Full stop. No one can be ready for what is about to happen when you start to lead others. You can’t predict what your team will throw at you, so take the time in advance to nail down the following attributes before you step into the leadership role (if you’re already in that role, it’s OK, it won’t hurt to keep reading).

1. Values

Values define what you do and why you do it. If you are unclear on what your core values are, figure them out (this may help) and come back to this article. Once you are clear on your values, stick with them. If you do, your role as a leader will become more straightforward. From your values comes your mission and your vision. They have to be aligned, as they will provide your foundation for the future. Values are core beliefs and define your attitude, relationships and environment. Know your values, and know where you stand, this will put everything you do and say into context.

2. Self-awareness

I hear a lot of people say that the most effective leaders have excellent communication skills. True, but I would go one step further and say that most effective leaders are extremely self-aware. You can’t communicate effectively to everyone if you aren’t. Knowing that I was a big-picture thinker, who didn’t focus on small details, allowed me to recognise other people’s styles and to do the following:

  • Adopt my communication style when dealing with key stakeholders who were more detailed oriented (i.e. A big picture business pitch to someone who can’t dream without seeing the figures will fall flat every single time.)
  • Hire where my skills fell short. As I was entering my late twenties, I knew that it was too late become a more detail-oriented person, It would be a waste of my time, and a poor use of my skills. So I looked into my team and filled my skill gaps through others.

By taking the time to know yourself, you’ll have a great understanding of what you bring to the team, and what you need to build up in others. Don’t try to be great at everything, hone in on your key skills and master them. I was lucky to be introduced to a self-awareness profile (combined with regular coaching sessions).  I used the profile tool on my whole team, which was a game changer for me. If you have resources like this available to you, take advantage of them now. If you don’t, keep a look out for what’s out there so you can start immediately.

3. Good communication

In my opinion, the key to good communication is a balance of the following: 20% effectively getting your message across, and 80% being a good listener. I always encourage open lines of communication and recommend this to everyone. Remember: there is a big difference between saying this and practising it. If you are going to have an “open door” policy, you have to listen and act on what you hear. If you can’t act immediately, then communicate that back, and ensure your team understands why you can’t. The worst feeling an employee can have is one of feeling that they aren’t being heard. It automatically slams your “open door” policy shut.

Most leadership experts agree that the most important role of a leader is to effectively communicate the organisation’s mission and vision. Every member of your team should understand how his or her role plays a part in the bigger picture of the business. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to being an effective leader. It all comes down to who you are as a person, and who you have in your team. But you can be a step ahead of the game when you know your values, know yourself and know how to communicate and listen effectively. Don’t fall into the management trap. Inspire and enable your team by acting as a true leader.

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1 comment

  1. Thomas Milburn

    Great article! I know some people come across naturally as charismatic leaders, other people become leaders through formal authority, but I believe we are all leaders in different ways every single day. Your tips are essential for someone with responsibility for leading others. However, I would add that we can all benefit a little from what Gillian describes – really thinking about what we stand for (our values), having a sense of self-awareness and developing our emotional intelligence (listening is great, but understanding is even better) and ability to empathize are essential LIFE skills if you ask me 🙂

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