7 Skills You Should Develop to Be an Effective Leader

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Skill development is a never-ending process. Not only do the great ones in any field recognize this, but they have a borderline obsession to develop and improve their skills daily.

Merriam Webster defines a skill as “the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance.” Skills are often divided into domain-general and domain-specific. For example, golf is a general skill; driving, putting, and chipping are specific skills that make someone an effective golfer.  

Leadership is a general skill; whereas, many domain-specific skills like coaching and empathy make a leader effective in performance. As a leader, you learn new skills every day. However, simply mastering a few skills isn’t enough to be a highly effective leader in today’s environment.

Just mastering a few skills isn’t enough to be a highly effective leader in today’s environment. 

As a ten-year veteran in the leadership coaching and speaking industry, I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat to many great leaders across various industries. If that wasn’t enough, the SkillsLoft Leadership Assessment has provided unbiased research of thousands of leaders. I want to share the seven leadership skills that are the most essential to your success.  

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Demonstrate Empathy

While many skills are essential in this new leadership era, empathy stands above the rest. Before you shake empathy off as a weak skill, let’s get clear on what it is, in the context of leadership. I have come to define it as how well you identify with others to understand their feelings and perceptions in order to guide your actions. I often describe it to coaching clients as “your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and act differently because of it.”  

The one thing that every professional wants is to be understood, especially by their boss. 

Empathy is a critical leadership skill because people want to be understood, especially by their boss.

Feelings aren’t always directly communicated, so understanding them can be difficult to do and it’s an art that requires practice. If you want to improve your empathy skills, take a few lessons from an earlier column

Be a Great Communicator  

Effective communication is at the heart of effective leadership. James Humes famously said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Leaders of high-performing teams leverage the proper amount of communication and are clear, concise, and conclusive. 

Consistent communication is tough, even for good orators. So often, quality communication is a skill that leaders believe they possess; in actuality, it is one of their most significant weaknesses. 

When leaders don’t communicate effectively, team members fill the silence with their own story.

Developing your communication skills around storytelling, writing, and listening is a lifelong journey. 

Act Like a Coach

A leader separates themselves from a manager in today’s modern business environment by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, trains and instructs. The late great John Whitmore took the formal definition even further, saying:

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential and helping them learn rather than teaching them.”

Leaders who coach their team members have never been more critical than they are today. If coaching is a skill, you want to improve, check out the new Coaching for Excellence Program here

Model Servant Leadership

It might seem odd to read that modeling something is a skill, but it’s not. We have all heard the saying, “talk is cheap”; it’s never been more true than in leadership. The best way to create more leaders is to model outstanding leadership in one’s actions and behaviors.  

“The best way to create more leaders is to model servant leadership in your actions and behaviors.”

How you exemplify the standards and behaviors you expect from your team is connected to how committed you are to living out your character and values. This is easy to write, but to do it well takes immense wisdom and self-discipline daily.

Have Great Focus

If there is one thing this Pandemic has taught us, it is how easily distracted we are. Staying focused and prioritizing is not only a skill, but it’s essential for leaders today. If you are anything like me, you suffer from “shiny penny syndrome,” and you act like a squirrel moving quickly from one thing to the next. 

Suzanne Anschutz, Regional VP and Director of Leadership Development at Cora Physical Therapy, said it well, “The leaders of today need to be able to be fully present. There is such a strong sense of urgency and moving quickly in today’s world, but we should not underestimate the power of taking the time to be present in the moment. Understanding what is happening “right now” will allow you to strategize for a better future.”

Unite People and Create Belonging

Making people feel like they belong and uniting team members is a leadership superpower. Look no further than the hit show Ted Lasso on Apple TV. The show portrays an American coaching a European Soccer club. Coach Lasso knows the team can’t and won’t succeed without the team members feeling like they belong, and are a part of something bigger than themselves.  

While Lasso does his coaching in person, most managers don’t have this luxury today when leading a remote team. For those teams that plan on staying 100% WFH, leaders must think about one or two in-person events a year, with its primary mission to create teamwork and belonging. 

Make Accountability an Obligation

Last but certainly not least is accountability. Accountability is one of these words that has been hijacked. I define it in Building the Best as; the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. 

It is the obligation of leaders to account for their actions and the actions of their people.  

Leaders are obligated to care for all their people equally and to serve their hearts, not their talents. 

 If you want to model how the best modern leaders leverage accountability, get comfortable with having difficult dialogues, which I wrote about here or join an upcoming Leverage Accountability Workshop.

Closing

There are many other key leadership skills that just missed the list like; decision-making, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and vision. Which of the 7 key skills do you believe are most important? Which skills are missing that deserve to be on the list? Tell me in the comments.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lead With Courage

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Leaders must develop many attributes or skills if they want to have a meaningful impact in the workplace. Having a positive attitude will change your life, empathy improves your ability to connect with team members, while a focus on goal setting and accountability ensures that your team members meet their professional potential.  

But among all these essential elements of leadership, the value of courage is consistently overlooked. Part of this is because when we first think of courage, we tend to think of heroic acts like landing a plane on the Hudson or running into a burning building to save someone. Right behind a heroic act, courage is often thought of as an attribute that only a few extraordinary leaders possess. One’s that walk around with a big S on the chest like the comic Superman.

While these are widely popular views of courage, it is a far cry from how it’s used by great leaders on a daily basis and the word’s actual meaning. I defined it in my book Building the Best as the “ability to do something that frightens you.”

C.S. Lewis famously said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Lewis got it right because each and every virtue a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at some time. If that wasn’t enough the great William Wallace said it well in Braveheart; “people don’t follow titles; they follow courage.”

People don’t follow titles; they follow courage.  

In other words, a courageous leader is precisely the kind of leader required in today’s hyper-changing marketplace. 

What Happens When You’re Courageous

When you haven’t made many courageous decisions in your life or career, it’s tempting to believe you are just not a fearless leader. Reject this negative thinking with all your might. Courage can be exercised at any time with situations big and small by anyone willing to embrace it. 

While neuroscience research suggests that some people innately possess a thrill-seeking or “Type T” personality, courage is still required to act whether you are wired with higher risk tolerance levels or not.  

In working with leaders from all different backgrounds and industries, two significant outcomes happen when leaders are courageous. 

  1. Clarity in the Future
  2. Increased Opportunities

Clarity in the Future

One of the things many professionals are struggling with right now is clarity in their journey. There is so much uncertainty and doubt surrounding us right now; it has many questioning their purpose and pathway. What is ironic is when you are frightened and decide to do something anyway, it creates clarity, not confusion. It shows us that we are on the right or wrong path whereas if we did not act, we would remain stuck in the same place filled with uncertainty. 

Leaders Who Act Courageously Create Clarity, Not Confusion

While we aspire to have clarity as quickly as possible, it is also true that the clarity we want may not find us at our own timeline, but at at later time. However, it should provide confidence to know that when you are choosing courage, you are on the path towards clarity. 

Increase in Opportunities

Something funny happens when you act courageously as a leader, opportunity finds you. With an increase in opportunities comes the ability to make a significant impact on others and drive additional revenue. 

Entrepreneur John Wiesehan told me, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor. When you act courageously, these new opportunities have a funny way of finding you. Which then allows you to make calculated decisions about which opportunities to pursue.” 

Courageous leaders can examine new opportunities quickly, as Wiesehan suggests, to reject recklessness. If they feel they lack information or the bandwidth to pursue something, it allows them to choose the right time to act courageously in the future.

How to Be More Courageous

Since courage is essential in leadership and provides significant upside, we must work hard to exercise it. Here are a few of the strategies I have seen be effective:

  1. Write Down the Worst Possible Outcome. Our brains are fascinating because we have an almond-shaped mass in them called an Amygdala. This part of our brain has become best known for its role in fear processing. This means that this area in our brain controls fear and our responses to it. You are naturally wired to run from or avoid things that can be harmful.  Getting in the habit of writing down the worst possible outcome from acting on something that frightens you often provides insight that the worst scenario isn’t actually all that bad.  
  2. Quantify the Best Possible Outcome. Since our brains constantly evaluate either the pain or gain in every situation, highlighting the benefits of courageous leadership is a powerful method to encourage action. Regardless if the end outcome meets or even exceeds our expectations, the practice of allowing your brain to visualize the possible benefits in a situation is a decisive step in the process of being more courageous. 
  3. Lean Into the Emotions. Acting as if emotions such as doubt or fear do not exist is a false path to courage. Being open and honest about your emotions is not a weakness; it is a strength. In a recent episode of Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead Podcast, Dr. Susan David was speaking about the dangers of Toxic Positivity and said, “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” The wisdom in Dr. David’s words can’t be overstated. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that would cause you not to act courageously and then decide to move forward despite them when it makes sense. 

“Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” Dr. Susan David

Closing

The better you get at acting as a courageous leader, the easier it will be to set your fear aside and lead people, teams, and organizations to a better place than they are today. To quote the great Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why the Best Modern Leaders Rely on Empathy

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There is a growing belief that the leadership needed today is different from previous generations. The reasons are numerous, but a few to highlight include the stress of the Covid-Pandemic, WFH culture, and the shift from the task economy to the problem-solving economy.  

That means one of two things must happen; existing managers trained in traditional management approaches from the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s need to develop a different leadership skill set. Or organizations must begin looking for professionals who already look at leadership differently to be in management positions.

While many skills are essential in this new leadership era, empathy is one standing above the rest. Now before you shake empathy off as a weak skill, let’s get clear on what it is in the context of leadership. I have come to define it as, “How well you identify with others to understand their feelings and perceptions in order to guide your actions.” I often describe it to coaching clients as your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and act differently because of it.  

While the definition provides clarity, the reason it’s such a critical leadership skill is that the one thing that every professional wants is to be understood, especially by their boss. 

Empathy is a critical leadership skill because people want to be understood, especially by their boss.

Understanding the feelings of a team member can be difficult because feelings aren’t always directly communicated. Understanding how someone else is feeling or could be feeling is an art that requires practice. 

Why the Best Leaders Have Great Empathy

Most people struggle with empathy. To master it, you have to begin by giving empathy to yourself. Consider the times you’ve been too hard on yourself, perpetuated negative self-talk, or beat yourself up for making a mistake. We’ve all done it. 

The best leaders allow themselves and others grace. Their empathy skills have been carefully developed over years of experience and countless learning moments where their empathy failed them. They use what I call their “empathy expertise” in interactions with others because they know its impact on engagement and performance.

Great leaders know empathy impacts employee engagement and performance.

Research backs this up as multiples studies have shown that higher empathy skills lead to an increase in leadership effectiveness and higher organizational performance.    

Don’t Confuse Empathy and Sympathy

When coaching leaders about their empathy score in the SkillsLoft Assessment, they often confuse empathy with sympathy. While there are some similarities, one helps you as a leader, and the other is neutral or negative. 

Sympathy is having or feeling pity for someone without understanding what it’s like to be in their situation. This doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but without working to understand a team member’s situation and acting accordingly, you run the risk of holding someone back through your pity rather than elevating them. A mentor once told me, “Sympathy is feeling for someone; empathy involves feeling with them.”

As I wrote in Building the Best, “Empathy is only sympathy until you have humility.” Having the humility not to think less of yourself but think of yourself less will help you understand someone else’s situation so you can act accordingly.

How to Lead with Empathy

There should be little doubt now about why empathy is so important in leadership today. It continually is one of the biggest differentiators in leaders who elevate others. Since empathy is a skill that can be developed and refined like many others, here are a few strategies to get better.

1. Listen Like Your Life Depends On It

Being in the same room with someone and observing them has always been a powerful way to recognize when someone is struggling. However, with the current work from home environment, it makes observing problems 10x harder. This means leaders must listen as their life depends on it.

A few simple strategies include:

  • Being where your feet are
  • Saying, “tell me more” in coaching conversations.

2. Fulfill Each Team Members Most Basic Work Needs

One of the most popular strategies of highly empathetic leaders might surprise you. They get out ahead of someone’s negative feelings. While this sounds counterintuitive, it actually demonstrates incredible empathy. By using creative methods to fulfill each team member’s most basic work needs, it sets a precedent that “I understand you.”  

In the workplace, the most basic professional needs include but aren’t limited to:

  • Financial compensation for providing the essentials
  • Having enough work to stay busy and engaged
  • Creating a sense of belonging and community
  • Showing appreciation for work ethic and effort

3. Demonstrate An Ability to Help (Especially When It’s Not Convenient)

Most good people are willing to help someone else when it comes from their excess. While this is great and certainly better than the alternative, helping a team member when it’s not convenient demonstrates great empathy.  

Instead of talking about helping, you will be acting on it. This is the second part of the definition of empathy, […] acting differently because of it. I like to ask leaders, “When was the last time you did something for a team member that pleasantly surprised them?”

Just like any great Christmas present demonstrates your understanding of the other person, doing something that surprises a team member in a good way shows you “get” them.  

Closing

As leadership continues to evolve, skills like empathy will only grow in importance. The question becomes, will you put in the work?

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 65k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades and now on Clubhouse.

5 Leadership Predictions You Need to Know for 2021

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While Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the workplace in 2020, it fast-tracked changes that would have taken five years and crammed them into five months. Leaders were tested in ways they never imagined possible. They showed flexibility and adaptability to not only survive the brutal year. Now the calendar change has turned their attention to what’s ahead.

It’s finally 2021, which means a new round of leadership predictions. Last year’s predictions aged reasonably well, such as managers having to learn to lead remote teams. Others not so much, such as large organizations looking like universities (it’s getting closer, but not there yet.) This time around, I look at some current trends continuing because of Covid protocol and some contrarian perspectives to help you lead your best in 2021. 

1. The Coaching Rage Infiltrates Managers

The boom in professional coaching is real. Organizations and individual contributors sought professional coaches to help boost performance in 2020. Thanks to companies like BetterUp and Soar, the cost of professional coaching is no longer out of bounds for leaders below the C-Suite. This trend doesn’t slow down in 2021 thanks to technology, the gig economy, and HR Executives looking to develop leadership skills earlier in employees’ careers.

However, it doesn’t stop there. More managers will start acting and behaving like professional coaches to their team members. The signup rate from the first two Coaching for Excellence virtual workshops shows me managers are putting on their coaching hat much more often than they used to. 

Key Takeaway: Expect managers to look for professional coaching certifications and companies to offer internal coaching programs. 

2. Character Counts Again

You might think this is a result of the 2020 US Presidential elections, but you would be wrong. The character test in both political parties is at an all-time low. I defined character in Building the Best as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” The time is now for leaders to do what is right and measure themselves against right and wrong.   

Scott Olster highlighted Adam Grant in his Linkedin 2021 predictions, “As we strive to overcome a global pandemic and an economic recession, the character of leaders, will matter as much as their competence. In 2021, servant leadership will be a competitive advantage.”

While being a servant leader doesn’t guarantee results, it does guarantee an edge in recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent.   

This blend of high character and servant leadership will continue to be a competitive advantage in the marketplace. While being a servant leader doesn’t guarantee results, it does guarantee an edge in recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent.   

Key Takeaway: Low character leaders won’t last, and servant-minded professionals will get their opportunities to lead. 

3. The Same Person at Work and Home

It’s almost crazy to think we used to be one person at home and another person at work. Not only has this been going away, but it’s also finally getting fast-tracked. People want to talk about their hobbies, kids, families, and side projects. 

However, it doesn’t stop there. With the Pandemic having a severe impact on our mental and physical health, leaders will have no choice but to embrace the whole person at work.  

This means leaders must get to know their people personally to uncover irregularities in behavior. Expect companies to invest in gym memberships, in-house therapists, and embrace faith beliefs in the workplace. 

Key Takeaway: Empathy will win over judgment in 2021

4. Less Tolerance for Average

It might seem strange for me to follow up on the last prediction with this one. However, the reduction of the workforce and organizations trimming duplicate roles in the last year proves the future isn’t going to tolerate average. 

The only way for a team to thrive is to have each team member choose excellence.

The only way for a team to thrive moving forward will be to have a team full of people choosing to be excellent. Too many professionals are living out their careers by accident instead of excellence. Unfortunately for professionals making this kind of decision, the leaders and companies that desire excellence won’t tolerate them in their organization. 

Key Takeaway: Don’t go through your career by accident; choose excellence. 

5. In-Person Events are back by Q3 or Q4 and Bigger Than Ever. 

How good of an ending would this Pandemic have if we returned to a semblance of normal human interaction? One of the ways this will happen is by going to industry conferences and having an entire company in one room together to celebrate achievements.  

While anyone who says they can predict this Pandemic’s future would be lying, expect the hospitality industry and live events to come back raging when people feel safe again.  

By no means is our new virtual workforce going away. There is too much financial incentive for companies, and most employees love remote work flexibility. However, when companies and teams do get together, they will go all out.  

Key Takeaway: Patience is a virtue. We will be human again. 

Which predictions do you agree or disagree with? 

Coaching for Excellence Workshop: The development of your coaching skills and relying on a coaching framework will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join John on January 20th for the next live Coaching for Excellence Workshop from 12-1 PM EST. Sign up today and get the 2021 Leadership Plan for free today!

7 Best Practices for Developing Leaders In Your Organization Download the free whitepaper here.

The Leadership Development Day – John is speaking at this one of a kind virtual personal development event on February 4th, 2021. Use the code LDDLearnLoft, and save 20% of your registration. https://cvent.me/1PRR7a

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why the Pandemic is Creating Much Better Leaders

People Bumping Elbows at Post Pandemic Office

Every adverse event has negative and harmful consequences. Covid-19 is no different; it has brought sickness and death along with drastically changing our way of life. But in darkness, there is always light. Even though the light might be challenging to see at times, it reveals itself over time. 

At my first live keynote since March, I told the group,

“Only leaders who are tested become great.”

This pandemic has tested us, and because of that, better leaders are being created.  

Take Jerome, a CEO at a medium-sized technology firm, as an example. Pre-covid, everything was going along fine with his company. Overall performance was at an above-average level, management was on the same page, and he felt his company had solidified itself as a market leader. Then Covid sent a wrecking ball through his industry and company. Overnight the business lost 30% of its revenue, team members transitioned to remote work, and uncertainty punctured everyone’s mind. 

It was a test Jerome wasn’t prepared to handle. He was slow to come up with a strategic pivot for the company. He began micromanaging and tracking every move the team made, and worst of all, he under communicated the economic effect on the business. What followed was a round of layoffs and a company culture that popped faster than a bag of popcorn.  

Jerome realized he couldn’t keep leading the way he had been or the results would get much worse. To his credit, he didn’t give up and decided to make some changes. He embraced technology, called on his employees to find new and innovative ways to solve customer’s problems, and worked hard on his communication skills. Slowly but surely, the company started to turn it around. They stabilized customer retention, created new revenue streams, and rebuilt their culture.  

While every leader’s story doesn’t go the exact same way, there is no doubt every leader has been tested in ways they never imagined. Here are some tests people are going through right now that are making them better leaders:  

Forced Empathy 

Empathy is one of the essential skills in modern leadership. I define it in Building the Bestas “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and acting differently because of it.” In many ways, the pandemic has caused leaders to do things they never thought they would do and understand people at levels they never thought they would.  

Empathy is one of the essential skills in modern leadership.

There is a famous story of Bill Gates walking the parking lots of Microsoft to see which employee’s cars were there the earliest and latest each day. Most CEOs and leaders come from a world that rewarded the time you were in the office over the quality or impact of the work completed. For years employees spoke about the desire for more flexible work and control over their schedules while being ignored. While working harder than anyone else and dedicating time to your craft is essential for success, for most professions, where the work is done doesn’t matter.  

Now, their hand has been forced to accept remote work as the norm. While there are always exceptions like manufacturing, many leaders now empathize with team members’ flexible work requests because they are beginning to like it themselves.    

No Longer Taking Things for Granted

Everyone is guilty of taking things for granted. Often this comes in the form of our health, relationships, and results. Like the song goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” 

We surveyed many leaders about the things they took for granted before the pandemic. Here are some of the popular things we heard. 

“I just miss going to the office.” 

“I miss being around my team members.” 

“I miss having lunch with someone other than my spouse and kids.” 

“I miss walking around without a mask.”  

While these seem trivial, they’ve changed us. Moving forward, many of the things we do will shift from “have to-do” to “want to-do.” I can’t wait for a team offsite meeting to be something people are genuinely excited to attend. I can’t wait to see executive team members make time to teach a culture class to new hires. I can’t wait to see managers praise and recognize employees for their effort and commitment to producing positive results.  

Confidence in Themselves and Others 

Confidence is the belief in one’s self and one’s ability to succeed, or what I call the “Belief of Success”. It’s built through consistent planned repetitions. When you show up and lead daily in a challenging environment, and not only survive but thrive, it builds confidence. Not just in yourself as a leader, but in team members who show up daily and put in the work.  

Leaders can’t lead without a belief in oneself and the team’s ability to be successful. 

Since only leaders who are tested become great, when you pass a test like this pandemic, it fuels confidence that will last a long time. Team members will be more courageous, solve more significant problems, and innovate like never before.  

Making Mental Health a Priority

Last and certainly not least is the awareness of mental health. In June, the CDC found that 40% of U.S. based adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse. While the number almost certainly has ticked up since then, it’s difficult for anyone who hasn’t struggled with mental health to empathize and properly support people who do. While not every leader has experienced this, the pandemic has brought awareness to real struggles professionals face daily.  

There will be an increase in mental health programs and support within organizations in the future. Most importantly, the bandaid will be ripped off of the negative stigma that previously came with those battling depression, loneliness, substance abuse, or anxiety. This is the first step for people who fear judgment or ridicule to step forward and seek the help they need. 

Closing

There is always light in the darkness; often, it just requires you to look hard to find it. Regardless of whether the pandemic has crushed a business or elevated it, much better leaders will emerge. For that, I am grateful. 

What are the ways this Pandemic has helped you become a better leader? Please share it in the comments section.

Download the Mastering the Mighty Skills Toolkit. Want to know the most important leadership skills for any professional to master? Check out the Mighty Skills Toolkit for free Here.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How Great Leaders Connect With People They Don’t Like

With some people, connections come easy. Maybe you have a similar background, shared hobbies or a mutual friend. With others, however, you may not have much in common, which can make it harder to connect. If leaders aren’t careful, this can also make these individuals harder to lead.

However, research by Max Nathan and Neil Lee showed that diverse teams help companies be more successful. More often than not, this means that you will end up hiring employees with whom you share little in common but fill an important skill deficient area. 

One of the proven leadership principles from my research for Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is:

Without Strong Relationships, You Can’t Lead

Since having strong relationships is a key to successful leadership, it’s important you cultivate great relationships with these individuals that aren’t exactly like you. It may not seem like you have much in common at first, but with a little effort, you can strengthen your relationship and get better results from these essential team members.

Find common ground through achievement.

Despite your differences, you always have one thing in common with your employees: a shared goal for achieving the best possible outcomes for your company.

In many ways, this is similar to how successful sports teams operate. You bring together players with different backgrounds, who all play different roles on the team. Yet, they have the same end goal: winning. As coaches and teammates work together toward these common goals and celebrate their achievements, they build trust and unity.

In a business setting, you have the responsibility of helping to set and communicate goals with your people. When you mutually agree on a common goal it creates a commonality to help you work better together. This helps everyone become more fully invested in the team, regardless of how much they share in common.

Spend double the amount of one-on-one time with these employees.

One-on-one time with your employees is crucial for building a successful team and building stronger bonds. Too often leaders gravitate towards spending time with people they like or have the most in common with instead of spending time with people they should spend time with.

As Jeff Butler, a keynote speaker and workforce consultant for the likes of household brands like TEDx, Google, Amazon and Wells Fargo, writes, “When I survey crowds across various industries, usually 30 percent of attendees have consistent one-on-one meetings … One-on-one meetings are an unequivocal way to foster employee engagement and increase employee retention.”

In fact, research from Gallup indicates that employees who have regular meetings with their managers are “three times as likely to be engaged” as those who don’t have this face-to-face time.

These meetings aren’t just a chance to evaluate performance or go over an employee’s goals. They also provide a valuable opportunity to get to know an employee better. This one-on-one time helps an employee feel valued and allows you to gain new insights into their personality and interests. Who knows, you just might find that you share something in common after all.

Practice empathy.

Empathy is a crucial leadership trait that allows you to better understand the unique feelings and perspectives of those you lead. When practiced properly, empathy allows you to connect with employees of all stripes and earn their respect, which in turn will improve workplace satisfaction, foster collaboration and even increase productivity.

I define empathy for our students as, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and acting differently because of it. The only way for you to practice this on an ongoing basis is by being a phenomenal listener.  

If listening isn’t your strong suit, try anchoring yourself in every conversation by eliminating distractions and being fully present. As you get better at anchoring yourself, it will allow you to show the other person you are listening by changing your behavior based on what they say. 

The best leaders understand the value of building strong relationships with everyone in their company — even those with whom they have little in common. While strengthening these bonds may require some additional effort, it will make all the difference in creating a work environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to give their best effort.

Free Webinar: Do you help develop employees into leaders or are you interested in some ways too it? Now is your opportunity to learn “How to Build Great Leaders: 5 Ways to Develop Leaders and Measure its Effectiveness”, Join John Eades live on Thursday, September 12th at 12PM EST by signing up here. Limited Spots are available.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

7 Wise Moves That Make the Relationships With Your Team Stronger

No one wants to go to work every day dreading the amount of time they are going to spend with his or her boss. At the same time, I don’t know any sane leader who looks forward to having bad relationships with team members. So the question then becomes, why are so many relationships between team members and their leader a major part of the reason people are unhappy at work?

The answer: Most leaders have the equation wrong.

The majority of leaders believe team members are responsible for the relationship with their leader. This belief puts the ownership of worthiness, trust, ability, respect, and work ethic on the shoulders of others.

The correct equation is:

Leaders are responsible for the relationship with each individual their team member.

In this drastically different approach, leaders know they are ultimately the ones responsible for building relationships based on trust, respect, work ethic, forgiveness, and accountability. These leaders model the behaviors they want to see, communicate well with their team, and allow their team members to choose to meet or exceed standards set. This doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t a two-way street, but it means the leader takes ownership and responsibility in it.

Knowing ownership and responsibility of work relationships starts with leaders, here are 7 wise moves you can leverage to strengthen those relationships:

Remove your ego

Ryan Holiday the author of Ego is The Enemy defines ego as “An unhealthy belief in our own importance. The Need to be better than, more than, recognized for far past any reasonable utility.” If this is you, your people won’t want to follow or work hard for you. It’s that simple. 

Cy Wakeman the author of No Ego said, “Ego puts a filter on the world that corrupts your relationship with reality.” If you can remove ego from the equation, you’ll remove barriers in your relationships with your team.

Focus on trust with each team member

When I ask, “Who is responsible for the bond of mutual trust between leader and team members?” in our Building the Best Leadership workshops, the overwhelming answer is “team members.”While I appreciate their courage to answer, they’re wrong.

Trust is built between the leader and team member by the actions and behavior of the leader, not the other way around. General Robert Calsen said on the Follow My Lead Podcast, “Trust is a built over time and it’s a byproduct of your competence and character.”

Focus on showing your people you are competent and you have high character and trust will blossom.

Be a good coach

One of the most important skills any leader can improve is their ability to coach people for growth. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t think of themselves as a coach but as a boss.

Michael Bungay Stanier says any leader could be a better coach just by, “staying curious a little bit longer and rushing to advice-giving a little bit slower.” While this is simple in theory it’s difficult in practice.

Start by getting in the habit of asking your people one of three questions when interacting:

  • Why did you do it this way?
  • How do you think we should do it?
  • How might you do it next time?

Put your phone away when interacting

No one likes to see someone else pick up their phone or check their phone in the middle of a conversation. When this happens, it makes us feel much less important than whatever is happening on the phone. 

If you are serious about having better relationships with your team members you can’t let your phone dictate your day. Get in a habit of taking your phone off the desk and out of sight during any conversation with a team member.

Embrace and leverage empathy

It’s easy for leaders to get in the habit of assuming every professional on their team is in the same place in their life’s journey. This is never the case. Just because a 40-year old and 30-year-old are doing the same job, they aren’t in the same place on their journey. 

Embrace and leverage empathy to put yourself in their shoes so you can act and make decisions differently. The whole point here is to think about the challenges each individual person might be facing so you can align with where they are in life.

Model what you want to see

If you only remember one thing, remember this. People watch everything a leader does whether the leader likes it or not. So the quickest way to improve the relationship with others is to model the behaviors you want to see so the level of mutual respect is higher. 

Be fanatical about the example you model because it’s what actions and behaviors you will get from your team.

Ask for feedback about how you’re doing

The number one competency-deficient area we have found in the Elevate Others 360° Assessment is asking for feedback. People want to feel like they are being heard and asking for feedback not only a great way to do this but it also helps the leader improve their self-awareness.

The action of asking for feedback in person, over email, or for a 360° assessment, will create a moment of vulnerability in front of your team that will instantly improve the relationship. One caveat, you must be humble when accepting feedback so you can change your habits and behaviors.

Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy Want to become a better leader? Apply to participate in the next Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual training program that includes, the EO 360° Assessment, live webinars, and one-on-one coaching. Learn more here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

5 Critical Skills You Must Develop to Become a Great Leader

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a leader. I loved achieving things as a team and the feeling of camaraderie over individual successes. There is something significant about going through a journey with others and being victorious. But I quickly found out that just because you dream about or love something doesn’t mean you are going to be great at it.

My first opportunity leading others professionally proved to be a disaster. I ended up being living proof that Jocko Willink’s quote about leadership is true.

“There are no bad teams just bad leaders.”

I failed my team, but I knew it didn’t have to end that way. I made a commitment to develop my own skills and help others develop theirs. After years of studying, practicing, applying, and writing about what the best leaders do, I am confident there are 5 critical skills every leader must develop in order to become the best leader that can be. These skills do not have to be completed in order and you will probably find that you already have a high skill level in some or most of them.

1. Coaching

All coaching interactions between you and your people should have a common theme: make an individual better, not tear them down. You should proactively be coaching an individual based on their skills. Skill is defined as “the ability to do something well.” It is imperative that you understand the four levels of skill development to best serve your people. These include; Awareness, Building Critical Mass, Accelerated Performance, and Sustained Excellence. Different tactics and techniques are necessary during your coaching conversation, dependent on where a team member is within the four levels.

But coaching doesn’t end with skills. You must go beyond focusing on skill development and contribute to the long-term success and well being of your people. Focus in on the whole person and helping them become the best version of themselves both inside and outside of work.

2. Communication

The vast majority of conflict in a work environment or any relationship can be blamed on poor communication. Many leaders do not place enough emphasis on and put enough effort into being clear communicators. When a leader or team does not properly communicate, assumptions are made. This results in people being unsure about where they stand or how they are supposed to behave. Making it a priority every day to be a great communicator and choosing to over- vs under-communicate will help avoid these issues.

3. Relationship Building

Relationships are the center of everything. As such, the relationships you build with others must be based on trust and mutual respect. Where most leaders struggle is in understanding their responsibility to earn those two things. Long gone are the days of a title earning the respect of those you lead. In today’s workplaces, a title should only be a reminder of your responsibility to earn trust and respect from your people.

4. Teaching

One of the best ways to help set people up for success in the future is to be a teacher to others. In order to do this, it requires something you probably feel you have little to give away; TIME.

Set aside time in your schedule or find time in a moment of need, but either way don’t hesitate to grab a white board and teach.

When you share your passion, competence, and experience with others, you make an impact that lasts a lifetime

If you don’t have the expertise in a particular area that needs to be taught, point people in the right direction and financially support their development.

5. Soft “Real” Skills

People love to use the term “soft” skills when referring to skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, and courage. I refer to them as REAL skills. More importantly than how they are labeled, each of them is a set of skills that can be measured and learned.

Emotional Intelligence: Is getting your emotions to work for you instead of against you. It has three key parts: Identifying emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.

Empathy: How well you are able to identify with your team to understand their feeling and perspectives, in order to guide your actions.

Courage: Being scared or fearing something and deciding to do it anyways.

All three of these “Real” Skills are paramount in order to be a successful leader.

Every leader began somewhere. If you are anything like most leaders, it’s safe to say you didn’t take your job of leading others seriously enough early on. You probably just winged it or did what came naturally. This is what has created a low quality of leaders in the current workplace. The latest statistics show 60% of new leaders fail within the first 18 months of their job. Additionally, the vast majority of people don’t have confidence in the leaders they currently have.

In order for you to excel as a leader, you must work hard to understand, master, and apply these five skills on an ongoing basis.

Building the Best Leadership Workshop Do you lead a team and want to go to elevate the way you lead? Don’t miss out on the opportunity to participate in the Building the Best Leadership Workshop on June 25th in Charlotte, NC. Learn more and sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

3 Simple Reasons Empathy Makes You A Better Leader

When coming up with a list of key leadership skills, it’s not uncommon to see phrases like “good communicator” or “strong decision-making abilities” come up. While such attributes are certainly important, another vital trait is often overlooked: empathy.

Like many words today, its true meaning has been hijacked. My company LearnLoft defines empathy in the Elevate Others Leadership Report as “how well you are able to identify with your team to understand their feeling and perspectives, in order to guide your actions.” 

Empathy is key to connecting with employees and earning their respect–and there are plenty of examples that prove its value.

1. Empathy fuels productivity and performance.

An empathetic outlook has been found to significantly improve productivity. A comprehensive study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that empathetic interventions could dramatically increase productivity in a wide range of environments.

One aspect of the study had lifeguards read stories about how their work helps others to increase their “perceptions of social impact and social work.” The study found that those who read these stories had a noteworthy increase in “job dedication and helping behavior.” Similarly, university fundraiser participants were able to double how many donations they obtained when empathetic stories were shared.

Russ Ruffino, founder, and CEO of Clients on Demand, calls empathy “the key to great marketing.”

As he explains, “When everything is said and done, that’s what your clients want — to be understood. They want to know you understand their problems and concerns on a deep, personal level, and that you have the answers they need. The key to creating trust is to show clients that you know exactly how they feel, and how to fix what’s wrong. When you can do that, everything else is simple.”

These same principles are just as important when leading your internal team. Your team will be more productive and perform better when they know you understand them versus just being another employee.  

2. Empathy increases happiness in the workplace.

Happiness in the workplace matters — for both you and your employees. For many, feeling appreciated or valued by their organization is key to finding purpose and satisfaction in their work. In fact, one study found that 66 percent of employees state they would leave their job if they felt unappreciated — and for millennials and gen z, those numbers are even higher.

Empathy is one of your best avenues for showing your employees that you care about their needs and value their contributions. Gary Vaynerchuk who is mildly obsessed with kindness and empathy in the workplace said, “A lot of people think of leadership qualities as “paternal” — qualities like being aggressive or stern. I think of them as more “maternal.” I think the best managers have caring, empathetic, kind personalities.”

When leaders do this they spur a release of serotonin and oxytocin in people as a result of their empathetic leadership. Not only will it help employees feel a stronger bond to the team and organization, but it will also reassure them that their contributions are valued. Happier individuals will work harder and are less likely to leave for other opportunities.

3. Empathy fosters collaboration.

Companies rarely succeed or fail based on the efforts of an individual leader — they require the collaborative input of several parties. Many of the most successful business leaders understand that innovative solutions often come from others in their organization. They value the input and perspective others have to offer.

Google’s Project Aristotle research notably found that the most successful groups demonstrate empathy by having team members who are willing to discuss emotions utilizing nonverbal cues, while also giving each group member equal time to contribute ideas. Studies in education have similarly found that empathy is the baseline for successful collaborative efforts.

Empathy creates an environment where each team member becomes more willing to share their insights–and this is where many of the best ideas are found.

The above examples are just a small sample of how empathy can transform your office environment. By learning to better understand your staff and demonstrating that you actually care about their needs, you will cultivate stronger performance than ever before.

Ultimate Leadership Academy Do you lead others but your company doesn’t offer a leadership development program? Don’t worry, join LearnLoft’s Ultimate Leadership Academy designed specifically to elevate the way you lead. Learn more here.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

Why Empathy is So Important in Leadership

It was evident from our conversation that we both wholeheartedly agreed.  Entry level positions within most organizations are not valued by their leaders.  My colleague overheard our conversation and spoke up about the turnover problems he was experiencing within the entry level positions on his team as well.   The logical questions were simple:

  • If the jobs are so nonessential, why does the company continue to offer the position?
  • Why is the organization ok with high turnover?

I couldn’t help but think about the“Peter Principle” and feel his department or the organization as a whole was not going to change. This meant, employees wouldn’t be valued and turnover was going to be a continual problem.

Buckingham and Coffman discuss this in First, Break All The Rules.  The authors continually write about “what managers need to know” as well as the six questions every manager/leader should be thinking about.  The opposite was occurring in this situation–not thinking about how to solve the problem, rather providing a quick fix in hopes it will go away.  Not focusing on what needs to be learned, rather on what can be ignored.

The underlying problem in most organizations is the lack of empathy by leaders.   If a leader is not willing to provide some level of empathy about any position or challenges individuals in those roles face (especially for the low level positions) the people in those positions are always going to be disposable.  The same problems will always exist, people and positions will not be valued.

The use of empathy will go a long way to help leaders understand that every position in organizations are important, not just the positions at the top.

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About the Author:  Greg Jones is excited about helping people learn, especially about leadership. Find out more about him on LinkedIn.