Want to Achieve C-Suite Status? Tap into Your Inner Leadership Trait
You’ve gone beyond proving that you’re a star in your field. You survived grad school (although exams and student loans may still cause night terrors), advanced in your career and have notable achievements under your belt. You’re also responsible, trustworthy, loyal to your company, and love what you do. And it shows. Perhaps you’ve even been told that you’re a born leader, and, humility aside, you can’t find any reason to disagree with that. But how do you take that compliment and put it into action? What do you need to do to reach C-suite status or earn partnership at your firm?
When you think “leader,” buzzword-y traits such as extroversion, boldness, drive, resilience and grit likely come to mind. But, the qualities that can help elevate you to become a strong leader just might be more about the social-emotional skills that help you succeed in other areas of your life, such as being an amazing significant other, friend, parent, or volunteer.
Here’s how to tap into and cultivate your secret leadership traits to make an enduring impact in your workplace.
Build trusting relationships
Your ability to forge meaningful bonds could be what best showcases your leadership skills. A 10-year study on executives in the U.S. (via Harvard Business Review), finds that the most challenging yet most impactful trait among leaders is the ability to develop deep, lasting relationships. Sure, we all know the benefits of forming solid relationships with others, but what about the effect of not playing so nice in the sandbox? Perhaps just as bad is not opening up at all. A 2016 white paper published by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) notes that for executives transitioning due to a promotion, job change, or company acquisition, a lack of strong professional relationships account for a disproportionately high rate (38% to 50+%) of executive failure within just 18 months of the changeover.
No matter where you are in your career, take the time to build rapport and establish relationships that could help you better ride the changing tides of your professional life. Position yourself to make the most of those bonds, whether it be to manage up, gain insights, or discover novel ways to solve problems.
Curiosity can lead to innovation
Being open-minded isn’t only helpful when you’re trying a new dim sum dish, it also plays into to your ability to bring innovative ideas to the workplace. The Merck Group’s 2016 State of Curiosity report, based on a survey of over 3,000 employees in the United States, China, and Germany, found that 8 out of 10 workers agree that curious colleagues are most likely to bring new ideas to life. Plus, the highly inquisitive are more likely to occupy leadership positions, earn higher salaries, and have the most influence in making final decisions at the workplace.
Exploring different ways of looking at complex situations could lead to out-of-the-box solutions and/or products that make a huge impact. If you’re a management consultant, approach a problem with a beginner’s mind. Addressing a problem from different angles could help you find novel ways to remedy an organization’s defunct systems. If you’re a software developer, ask different types of questions when analyzing user data. This could lead to fresh insights, which in turn might help you create a more innovative, improved product than your team originally conceived.
Up your emotional intelligence
Nobody wants an indifferent or imperceptive leader. By displaying emotional intelligence—recognizing and managing your emotions, and handling your relationships with empathy—more people will trust that you can achieve your goals, and you’ll boost your job performance.
Empathy in the Workplace, a 2015 CCL white paper, reveals that managers who show compassion toward those who report to them are seen as better performers by their bosses. Opportunities to exercise empathy exist at every turn today, due in large part to expanding globalization. As you increasingly work with people in or from different countries, you have the advantage of seeing things from another’s cultural perspective. Through understanding and empathy, you can avoid conflict, discover solutions that benefit all parties involved, and develop deeper professional ties. For example, if you’re a physician working with fellow doctors from various cultural backgrounds, tap into their unique perspectives to best communicate with them and comfort patients.
The most effective way to harness your leadership potential is often drawing on the strengths of your inner qualities. By cultivating the best of you (the traits you’re loved for at home and with friends), you can make 2017 the year you level up and lead your team to brave new heights.