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While once workplaces sought management skills in their employees, today the focus is unfailingly on leadership. The differences are subtle but, in general, leading a team today is more about inspiration and guidance than handling technical minutiae.
If you want to progress your career with your current employer, or you’re ready to take the next step with a different organisation, you should seek to demonstrate your leadership abilities.
But what are the qualities that employers really seek in their leaders, and how can you convey that you have them? Here are the skills that are most commonly cited by businesses in talking about their leaders:
Successfully leading a team relies heavily on communication. And that doesn’t just mean talking a lot! It’s about having advanced communication skills, where you can flex your approach in different situations. As a manager you’ll come across a variety of challenging people situations: the way you conduct a difficult conversation can have a major effect on the outcome.
This is partly about how you keep your team up to date and conduct yourself in one-to-one situations. But it’s equally about how you interact with your own manager and senior leaders within the organisation.
In any job interview, make sure you talk about the importance of communication, with examples of how you implement regular updates and conversations with your team and line manager.
A key part of leadership is inspiring your team to deliver on their objectives, even when times get tough. Negativity in a team is highly contagious, so seeing and communicating the good in a challenging situation is an important skill. Companies are seeking positive people that will come to them with solutions rather than problems, and keep their teams performing through praise, reward and an optimistic attitude.
Listen to how you speak at work and the kinds of words you use. Are you positive? What could you could do to bring more positivity into how you work?
As we progress at work we gain experience and expertise in our chosen field. But as you move into management you need to leave the day to day work to others. Your role is often to oversee and guide, rather than do the work yourself.
Surprisingly high numbers of managers struggle with this and get too involved with the delivery of projects or initiatives. Your role is set clear expectations for each member of your team and help them to deliver. You’re also there to advise and support when problems or challenges arise.
Following on from successful delegation is accountability. A good leader will assign the work to their team while taking full responsibility for their successes or failures – never blaming others.
Accountability is about delivering on your promises and flagging up the challenges or issues. Business owners see accountability as someone being reliable.
Demonstrate your accountability by never giving up, by seeking feedback and support to deliver your objective, and by showing that you’re motivated by the task at hand.
Resilience is an enormously helpful quality both in and outside of work. It’s your ability to take a deep breath and move on, no matter what pressures or issues you’ve been facing.
Many jobs involve fairly frequent periods of stress or intensity, and sometimes extreme pressure. As a leader that takes accountability, you need to be able to keep things in perspective, remain calm and keep your team on track.
Resilience can be a difficult thing to demonstrate in a job interview. It’s a good thing to mention when asked about the skills or qualities that you bring to a role, ideally with an example that brings your statement to life.
If you feel you need to focus on one or more of these qualities to reach the next level at work, discuss it with your manager. Seek their feedback too – it may be that they have a different perception. Finding a mentor or coach is a great way to learn more about yourself at work and your leadership strengths, to help you on your leadership journey.