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Top Leadership Skills and Traits To Look For in New Hires

Mar 03, 2021

Whether you're interviewing a candidate for a managerial role or an entry-level position, finding a new hire with leadership skills can do wonders for your company culture and office morale.

“Shaping your culture is more than half done when you hire your team.” — Jessica Herrin, Founder, Stella & Dot 

Leadership skills matter, even when the candidate won't necessarily be supervising. To ensure you choose a strong performer, here are 5 top leadership skills to look for in new hires:

1. Enthusiasm

Look for the enthusiastic candidate who speaks fondly of past roles and accomplishments. A candidate who is passionate about what they do is not only more likely to stay at your company, they can also contribute to a positive and passionate company culture.  An enthusiastic employee inspires others to do their job well and enjoy doing it—not a bad leadership skill to cultivate companywide.

2. Positivity

Closely related to enthusiasm is positivity—another leadership trait to look for in a new hire. Why? Because life rarely goes as planned. This is where a positive attitude comes in. Employees who can laugh and promptly correct themselves when they make a mistake are better contributors than those who avoid responsibility or even criticize/blame others. Positivity is infectious. 

3. Communication skills

No list of top leadership skills would be complete without communication. Leaders need to communicate well—this includes writing, speaking and listening. Leaders need to set clear expectations. A study by TinyPulse shows that poor communication from managers is one of employees' biggest complaints—it also lowers productivity. 

A candidate who communicates clearly and concisely can grow within your company and help grow your company. 

4. Empathy

According to a 2015 Employee Engagement Study, 70% of employees report that a good manager needs to be understanding. Employees feel more comfortable bringing issues and feedback to leaders who are empathic, as empathic leaders are more likely to listen and engage.

If that was true in 2015, imagine how much more so today. If you want to lower burnout, employee disengagement and absenteeism, hire employees with empathy. 

You can discover if a candidate is empathic by asking questions, such as:

  • Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict with another employee. (Then listen for what is revealed in the response. Empathy? Learning? Blame?) 
  • How would your last manager describe you? (Does the candidate know how he or she is perceived by others? This is a key indicator of empathy.)
  • What's the worst you've drawn from this pandemic—and the best? (Another way to discern a candidate's empathy, resilience and positivity.) 

5. Flexibility

Last-minute changes at work happen all the time. Look for a candidate who is flexible enough to handle changes gracefully, effectively and efficiently. To determine if a candidate can be flexible with change and problems at work, here are a few questions you can ask:

  • Tell me about a time you worked to solve a problem at work.
  • Can you tell me about a situation when you had to adjust to changes that you had no control over?
  • What did you find most stressful about your last job?

People who are flexible are usually much more open to feedback. When leaders listen to feedback and take constructive action, the workplace is more likely to thrive. What's true for leaders is also true for team members. In fact, if you hire people who already have leadership skills, your job as a leader becomes that much easier and more enjoyable.

Learn more about developing a culture of leadership within your organization

Hiring and developing excellent leaders improves company culture, productivity, employee engagement and more. If you're looking to develop leadership skills within your company (including your own!), I encourage you to reach out to me today

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