When you’re starting your career, it’s usual to have a certain sense of not knowing where to begin at. Probably, your training stage has been very useful in order to acquire the knowledge you will apply throughout your professional journey, and you will improve as you gain expertise. But there is a set of skills that go beyond what is taught in the lecture room that, if cultivated correctly, may help you grow both personally and professionally. The so-called soft skills are those practices related to the way you interact with people, deal with difficult issues and optimize your time and duties.

But, how and where can you learn these abilities? As is the case for the majority of things in life, the best way to learn something is by example. The fastest way to achieve this purpose is to understand how those who have reached success performing their duties work, and implement that formula into your life. Those figures that you should set your eyes on are the leaders, people that have defined a new way of doing things in order to face problems with professionalism and accomplish the goals they set for themselves.

The path of leadership

Self-awareness is the biggest predictor of success for a CEO, according to a study by the organizational consulting firm Green Peak Partners in collaboration with a research team from the Cornell University in New York. Good leaders are aware of their limitations and deal with their issues by being honest to themselves, and knowing how far they can go, without setting unrealistic objectives.

The report by Green Peak Partners, for which nearly a hundred top executives from state-owned companies were interviewed, also claims that leaders with strong interpersonal skills display a better financial performance. A large part of the successful implementation of a project belongs to effective communication.

Leaders have the crucial task of being able to communicate the company’s strategy at all levels, making sure that the message they try to convey is understood clearly and concisely. This is something that should function bilaterally. Should you want to manage teams, you must be willing to listen to suggestions and issues that your collaborators face on a daily basis. In fact, leaders are aware that the best results come from the work of a great team, from a collective effort channelled towards the achievement of a goal. Internal communication is the basis for keeping an organization united and, if dealt with efficiency, the performance of the company is enhanced, showing that as a whole it means much more the sum of its parts.

Another of the qualities featured in a good leader is the ability to embrace uncertainty. In other words: they’re not afraid of taking risks and trying new things. A survey conducted by the consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers on a group of 600 global-business executives concluded that leadership is the best indicator regarding innovation performance.

On a parallel research, with a participation of more than 1 700 managers, they found out that, in the last three years, those businesses that invested heavily in innovation grew 16% more on average than those which didn’t. Companies need employees with initiative, willing to develop creative thinking and put improvements forward proactively. And such skills can, in turn, provide you with a greater chance of growth inside the company.

Of course, if you want to take the initiative, it’s essential that you are resolute and quick when making decisions. The best leaders are not afraid of making mistakes and, even if they do, they are able to learn from them and make an effort so that they don´t make the same mistake twice. The worst thing you could do is not to put your ideas and proposals forward for fear of making a mistake with your choice, since this usually causes bigger problems and won’t solve anything. It’s much better to act confidently and not to be afraid of asking a colleague or your boss if any doubt should arise.

At this point, it should be clarified that self-confidence is not necessarily synonymous with arrogance. A study conducted by the firm Catalyst, in which more than 1 500 workers from six different countries took part, highlighted the relevance of humbleness as one of the four key leadership factors in order to create a nice working environment. Showing an altruistic, selfless attitude, helping your colleagues out when they need it and admitting your mistakes, are some of the behavioural practices that may help you build a better relationship with work environments and position yourself as the one the rest of the staff wants to work with.

Being aware of your limitations, encouraging communication with your colleagues, showing initiative and self-confidence, as well as being humble, are the best qualities to become, eventually, one of those leaders the next generation of professionals will look up to.
Sources: PwC, Green Peak Partners, Harvard Business Review

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