Top 6 traits of successful people leaders

During the height of the COVID pandemic, our lives and workplaces were disrupted and forced to adapt to a dramatic new way of living and working. From my perspective, most workplaces, and people leaders responded admirably to this challenge, coming together in ways previously unseen and untested to continue to build value for their organisations and their clients. We’ve all come out the other side with hard-learned lessons about our teams and ourselves.

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is credited with the concept that the only constant in life is change. And in that spirit another change is underway, and this time it focuses on the role of the people leader.

Post pandemic expectations of blended or hybrid working, and a more EQ-led style of leadership require us all to build new skills so we can meet changed expectations. It is said that people leave managers not organisations, and in my experience that theory usually holds true. So, the risk of not adapting is high because our top performers always have optionality.

It would be short sighted not to acknowledge that our people leaders are under tremendous pressure. In addition to their own role obligations, team management responsibilities, and learning new management skills, they are also likely to be:

operating in a cost constrained environment possibly with limits on recruitment and/or compensation adjustments
struggling to recruit quality talent given the low unemployment and talent shortages in Australia
navigating expectations of compensation, development, and promotions, and
meeting new obligations around Respect@Work, psychosocial risks, and positive duty requirements.
It is no wonder that our people leaders are increasingly feeling overwhelmed.

So what skills are needed to succeed in this new era of people management? In my role I have the privilege to work with a wide range of people leaders across many different industries and organisations. Here are the top 6 traits I’ve seen in the most successful people leaders:

Have a genuine desire to help their teams be and deliver the best:
adapt their personal style so they can manage each of their team members in a way that allows them to excel – understanding each person’s individual motivators
have an outcome orientation versus presenteeism style of management. Getting the job done is more important than where the job is done
know how to build trust, connections, and culture virtually. It’s a new paradigm and it requires new skills.
Show compassion coupled with a consistent and pragmatic approach:
own and accept the decisions of the organisation and communicate them in context of the organisation’s strategy and objectives, while showing compassion and empathy for challenging decisions
apply the same standards to everyone, except when there is a legitimate need to deviate (e.g if a team member is going through a challenging personal situation).
Have an intolerance of disrespect and prejudice
Any element of these within a work environment erodes trust and is a roadblock to people being their authentic selves. Strong people leaders champion a culture of respect and respectfully challenge those who disrupt that order, both within the immediate team and amongst peers and leadership. In addition to being the right thing to do, the new positive duty around at Respect@Work requires it.

Can develop people effectively and meaningfully
The adult learning principles state that 70% of knowledge comes from job-related experiences, 20% from interactions/observations, and just 10% from structured education. Providing breadth in a role is often more important (and more practical) than a promotion and when positioned well can lead to increased motivation. Taking the time to identify how a new project supports a team member’s stated development objectives will make a huge difference in how they receive and perform a new task. Suddenly a new project is a development opportunity rather than simply more work to take on when they are already stretched for time.

Have high self-awareness and can show appropriate vulnerability
Teams want to be led by and learn from compassionate leaders who demonstrate EQ and share their own struggles and journey of self-improvement. No one is infallible so there is strength in admitting what you do not know. (Just be conscious of oversharing as that can make others uncomfortable.) It’s a balance.

Are willing to have difficult conversations
Nothing good comes from waiting and the ability to address challenges effectively and compassionately as they arise is a virtue of all successful people leaders.

The person who excels at all the above would be formidable indeed. However, all of us possess these skills to varying degrees and can work to improve the others.

That is where Ombpoint can help. Our advisers have years of experience in senior strategic and advisory HR roles, so they understand the pressures people leaders face and can work with you to manage the challenging situations that define you as a leader.

Allison Monahan | Ombpoint Adviser
1300 709 389
hello@ombpoint.com

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