“Leadership qualities” appear on nearly every hiring manager’s wish list, and for good reason. The ability to lead effectively is crucial for long-term success in most organizations, but many companies currently suffer from a “leadership crisis” brought on by having too few employees with the skills needed to lead.
What does this growing emphasis on “leadership” mean for job seekers? First, it’s important to understand that the focus on “leadership” doesn’t always mean producing the best quantitative results. While good leaders do get things done, they also possess a core set of qualities they can draw on even in times of crisis.
To position yourself as leadership material, develop and emphasize qualities like:
Integrity. Staff and co-workers look up to strong leaders because they know their leaders can be trusted. Good leaders are honest; they keep their word, and if the situation changes, they let their people know. Leaders can be trusted not to exploit a situation for their own gain, but to accept responsibility when things go wrong and to give due credit when things go right.
Good judgment. Examples of situations in which you made the right choice for the company are clear illustrations of good judgment – but so are situations in which you made the wrong decision, but stepped in to fix the problem as soon as it became apparent. Good judgment is as much about evaluating and repairing your decision making as it is about getting the answer right the first time.
Competence. Leaders should understand the work their staff members do and be able to offer specific, concrete guidance when needed. To do this well, leaders must know their field and their organization inside and out. While it takes time for any new employee to learn the business, you can demonstrate your competence and your desire to learn during interviews by highlighting your skills and experience, as well as opportunities you have taken to expand your knowledge.
Vision. What separates leaders from managers is their ability to envision goals that transcend day-to-day work – and to communicate these to their staff. Strong leaders can describe their company’s goals, explain them, and convince their team members to strive for a common vision. Demonstrate your skill in this area during an interview by describing your vision for your own career or your work inspiring co-workers in a previous position.