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Empathy, flexibility and humility are the top traits to get ahead in today’s workplace
If you were asked to draw a boss, what might he or she look like? Cigar-chomping megalomaniac akin to Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, or all-knowing ice queen to resemble Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada? These are two very different (and extreme) characters, of course, but the truth is that leaders come in all shapes and sizes: the world of work is changing, and leadership in the workplace is changing with it.
Rather than trying to fit a certain stereotype, it’s more beneficial to think about the characteristics of a good leader. And one of those characteristics is the ability to stand up in front of a crowd and make people listen. From acting to TED talks, it’s human nature to seek out an inspiring performer. But before you start worrying about signing up for that amateur dramatics course, remember that no one starts out as a good public speaker: like every skill, it’s just something that takes practice.
These days, a good leader is a people-oriented leader too. Rather than issuing a team with a specific set of orders, a modern leader is somebody with the ability to see the bigger picture – and the emotional intelligence to know when to take a back seat and let the people in their charge get on with their tasks. In a paper titled ‘Empowering leadership: A meta‐analytic examination of incremental contribution, mediation, and moderation’, the researchers found that horizontal collaboration –empowering a team by giving them the tools and space to perform to their full potential – is what truly resonates.
When it comes to leadership development, communication is key. A glittering embassy reception may be a good excuse to break out the bow tie but it’s diplomatic backchannels where the real statecraft happens. And it’s the same in business. Whatever position somebody holds in a company, it’s the informal networks that wield true influence because they’re built on human traits like trust rather than the strict hierarchies imposed by HR.
As corporate culture – and business in all its guises – shifts to a more casual, inclusive workplace and leadership style, the parameters for what makes a good leader are changing to reflect that. Nowadays, it’s about enabling not instructing, listening not telling. Collaboration and workplace wellness are what employees are looking for, and flexible-office space that promotes such a productive environment is the physical embodiment of the new approach. For the modern leader, empowering a team to work when and where they want is a good start.