One of our fellow Heretics recently asked me the rather innocent question “What are the skills and traits of a good leader?”
As innocent as it sounds, the question is tough to answer. In my career I had very different bosses and experienced pretty much every leadership style. And to be honest: I wouldn’t be able to say that one was better than the another.
The one thing I learned though and I believe is true for any good leader: For me a good leader sets me up for success (be it by helping me round out my skill-set needed for the particular job at hand or by just encouraging me and backing me up); she creates the space for me to operate in; she gives me complete confidence that she has my back and then she gets the hell out of my way — yet stays around to provide guidance and mentorship when I need it.
There are many mechanical skills which make this easier. They can be learned fairly easily and you’ll find rows upon rows of books helping you with that. And then there is the soft skills — which also can be learned and trained but require a leader to be self-aware and caring.
If I were to recommend one thing to an aspiring new leader — invest into learning more about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and develop deep empathy for the people you work with. The rest is (mostly) just mechanics.