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10 Traits for strong leadership in 2021

January twenty-twenty-one may not have had the positive start we wanted, but it's not too late to turn it around. Set yourself a new ‘New Year’s Resolution’ and gain back control. Take lessons from the last twelve months. Look at what you can hold on to and where you can progress further. Commit to making 2021 the year you strengthen your leadership by embracing these 10 traits:

1. Showing up

More than just being there, effective leadership requires you to show up. Being truly present encompasses a lot of different factors. You must show up with openness and optimism, with curiosity and ready to build connections. These personal traits will have such a huge influence on your colleagues, as well as your ability to reach potential.

“How you feel about yourself determines how you show up for your team.” [Source]

2. Trust

Being a leader who people trust goes deeper than just good relationships. Building trust with your team empowers them. It helps to form individuals who are not afraid to take risks, who are more productive, more energetic and less stressed, and who are up to 76% more engaged. Who knew something as simple as trust could make such a vast and meaningful difference?!

3. Active listening

Managing in a way which values open dialogue is one of the best skills you can harness. It can be as easy as asking how your employees are doing and receiving their response with care. This has undoubtedly been well practiced during the pandemic as we no longer work in the same space as our teams. Take active listening forward into 2021. Individuals feel a valuable part of the team simply by being heard.

4. Transparency

Traditionally the ins and outs of the business were only shared on a need-to-know basis. Leaders typically felt more authoritative by owning the knowledge. Holding the knowledge means holding power. In fact, the opposite has proven to be true. Crafting an environment where dialogue is open means that goals are aligned, and the vision is shared. Not only does this instill a sense of value and community amongst employees, but it also opens the floor for them part of the solution in challenging times.

5. Acting with a conscience

Accountability is such a buzzword right now, and jumping onboard the true meaning of the word by acting with integrity can really strengthen your leadership going forward. This will mean different things for different leaders, so whether it’s incrementally making small changes or fighting the good fight; know that it is more important than ever to address your societal impact. Those aspiring to be strong leaders should recognise the value of acting with a conscience.

6. Continual learning

There is so much strength in being humble enough to admit that you don’t know it all. So become a student and set yourself on a journey of continual learning. That could be as simple as learning from your team in skill sharing sessions. Or progressing by upskilling, reskilling or just refreshing your knowledge. Consider undergoing an accredited training course to improve your skills. Commit to making 2021 the year you learn more.

7. Vulnerability

A willingness to show vulnerability takes a lot of strength as a leader. But there is great reward for doing so. As with acting with transparency, displaying vulnerability will strengthen your connection with those around you. Your team will see you as much more real when perhaps you don’t have all the answers in uncertain times. Transparent leaders are more relatable for team members.

8. Agility

2020 gave us a crash course in adapting to changes, particularly those beyond our control. Leaders will have emerged ever stronger from this experience, and with greatly improved agility. Acting with agility cannot just serve us in times of crisis though. Agile practices can upgrade our work and leadership in good times too. Flexibility has the power to strengthen projects.

9. Having a vision

Covid-19 gave many companies a monumental shake up. Operations were changed, changed again, and then remoulded several more times, often leaving leaders questioning their organisation’s purpose. Whilst it is all too easy to feel lost in this scenario, it is vital to view this as an opportunity to take a fresh and honest look at your and your business’ purpose and vision. Having a vision gives a valuable sense of direction to all you do and unleashes your potential to be a strong and effective leader.

10. Collaborative improvement

Gone are the days when a leader is a one-man-band. If you are committed to embark on the journey of strengthening any of the above leadership traits, then find ways to share it with others. Invite your seniors to help you progress and take your team on the expedition with you by setting out your intentions ‘on paper’. (Perhaps a blog post, email, or section in the company newsletter.) It may feel self-indulgent or even silly, but putting your commitment out there increases your chances of success – becoming the strong leader you envision yourself to be.