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The traits common to the most admired leaders

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Think back to who you respect as the best boss you have ever had. Aditi Sharma Kalra tries to pinpoint what makes good bosses so “good”.

Think back to who you respect as the best boss you ever had. Two observations in conversations on this topic – first, it’s hard to pinpoint precisely what personality traits make a leader so admired. It’s probably a collective blend, but it is not easy to isolate just one good quality. And the second observation, have you noticed how much easier it is to pinpoint what makes a leader disliked rather than liked?

On Teachers’ Day recently, I took the opportunity to reconnect with some of my former managers, and wondered how I could replicate some of the things that made them so awesome.

For example, the editor on my first job put complete trust in me from day one – he involved me in decisions, helped me ramp up to full productivity at a tailored pace, always gave me a context of how my work contributed to the big picture – all of which empowered the fresh graduate I was. My former deputy editor left an equally big mark on me, with actionable feedback and frank suggestions on how to deal with the demands of conflicting stakeholders.

In a conversation with author and experienced HR leader Bitasta Roy Mehta, she referred to admired leaders being “someone who knew how to use the strengths of each team member”.

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My most recent supervisor at a management consulting firm made it a habit to always be honest – calling each spade a spade; that meant fabulous feedback when I did a good job, and the reality when I needed improvements. She fought tooth and nail to make sure I got credit where it was due, fully understanding the demands of each project with her superior technical knowledge.

At present, I am fortunate to have a leader who’s not only open and transparent, but driven by the most elusive of traits – empathy. It’s incredibly hard to be a P&L head, yet maintain the balance between a people-based and task-based orientation, but she makes it look easy.

Almon Prem, regional HR business partner for AMEA at ABB’s electrification products division, agrees with me on empathy being the most consistently admired trait for leaders. He cites his manager’s example: “Claudio embodies the view held by several great leaders – ‘human first, leader next’. His genuine concern for his team members and a simple start to his conversations of ‘how are you doing?’ and ‘what’s going on?’ builds fantastic momentum for great discussions.”

Listed here are just some of the non-exhaustive traits that make my former managers kings and queens in my eyes. Which ones would you add to the list?

Photo / StockUnlimited

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