I got thinking after I read an article on CNBC about “signs that you’re a problem employee”. It was a good, short read and was interesting to see these qualities aren’t just localised to any country. Coming into the workforce, most of us are as clueless as lambs in a slaughterhouse waiting room. There are so many ways you can go about employment that it’s no wonder it’s a strategic game in itself. So much to learn, and even more pitfalls to avoid; gossiping, laziness and office politics! Let’s not delve into all the disgusting stuff we find within the workforce, shall we? Instead let’s focus on some desirable qualities that leaders, and well, followers want!
Why did I pick these as desirable qualities over others?
Truth be told, there are definitely a lot of desirable qualities out there. I did a post about some un-desirable qualities we exhibit a while back but that was more of general mannerism. I’m giving this overview from my perspective and experience. It’s not going to canvas everything; surely, you can’t expect me to find breakdancing skills desirable if I’m not even in a dance crew, right? But these should get you thinking just enough to gauge how well your mindset stands (well, subjectively, compared to mine, mind you).
A little bit about my experience
I have observed and learned from superiors I’ve worked and interacted with directly. The way they talk, give orders and get the job done. It’s like looking at different pieces of art in a museum; everyone has their own style but not all are effective. Some of them exhibit qualities that are seem so superhuman to me because I don’t see myself being able to step up to that level.
I also look after 30+ people where I work: split into teams, responsibilities, workloads and their own set of laughs and headaches. I found observing them easier from a “top-down” perspective. Like looking down at a chessboard and thinking “which one can do what?” Obviously, the following list will be subject to what I determined to be great and highly desirable qualities to have in my teams. But let me tell you, when you have 30 individual mindsets and personalities trying to intermingle, there will be issues at times. But what’s most important to me isn’t the petty squabbles (which I have to step in if escalated) but simply, getting the job done.
This little list does not, however, take into consideration their motivations and remunerations amongst other things. So take this with a pinch of salt, Dear Reader. Well then, let’s crack on:
A responsible person will do what they need to do. Simple as that; no matter the time and place, they can be called upon for support. Many times we face someone who tries to get out of doing things, or worse: blames others for their failing to get it done.
A responsible individual can easily become someone you can trust; simply on the merit that you know you can rely on them to get the job done. These are the people that should be given more freedom to act and require less micromanaging.
Managing incompetence at the workplace should be a feat of strength in the Hall of Fame. How often are there people who rise to where they are but aren’t actually qualified to do jack-shit? “If you can’t do the work, and are unwilling to learn, you don’t deserve the job,” I’d say.
But on the other spectrum, we have the good and excellent ones. The people who, if you tell them you need something done, they could even propose the way in which to do it! Competence comes from applicable knowledge. But if that’s absent, willingness to learn and a good drive can suffice until they’re trained up. If I ever built my own team, for sure this would be a top priority for me.
3. Good work ethics
Unfortunately, the visible few of the public sector here is guilty of horrible work ethics. Got a job to do? “Ah we need some coffee/tea break first.” or “Oh sorry, I need to bring my kids.” Tch! If it was a private company, you’d probably have to get another job, matey.
Good work ethics seem to come with higher ranks, though I must say that’s not exclusively true. My direct superior has a god-tier level of work ethics I honestly can’t match. He’s able to come into office early and, at a drop of a hat, stay on after hours until the job was done. Of course, performance is top notch too; truly an example for us all. A few of my team members are also brilliant; if you need something, they’d come in to do the work ASAP; always reachable. That’s remarkable.
There are some really brilliant people but they lack the confidence. People who are able to back up their decisions and proposals confidently have an advantage. This allows them to push through and not crumble under fire. Of course, this is opposite of being an arrogant ass; which is completely undesirable. There really is a fine line between these two and you know immediately once a person crosses into arrogant territory. It’s like your spider-senses are tingling!
Confidence also supplements charisma. When I talk to a confident person, I don’t feel like I need to get out. On the contrary, I want to keep talking to them and learn more from them (and see how they tick).
5. Problem solver
Many a time, people do come to you with a problem… and expects you to fix all of it by yourself. As if you’re the resident problem fixer guy. I’ve heard a lot of excuses why they can’t fix it too. “Too much workload” is a fan favourite.
But let me tell you something about problems: every problem has a solution. If you can figure something, or some way to get the ball rolling, it would help immensely to solve it. If it’s a problem above your pay grade, fair enough, let the superior take it from there. But that shouldn’t stop you from suggesting a fix. And I’m talking about technical or systematic fixes here; not personal issues.
6. Receptive to Feedback
Every organisation works in a certain way. Even within an organisation, there could be changes in how we do things. And if you’re some hard-ass trying to stick to the “old ways” of doing things, I’m sorry to say you might be obsolete.
Being open to feedback and coaching is a really good skill to possess. Not only does it show that you’re willing to learn, it also shows you’re flexible and easily adaptable.
7. Communication skills
Being able to relay your thoughts, ideas and instructions to colleagues is not just important, it’s crucial. Personally, I prefer factual and to-the-point styles of communication. That’s because I feel that as you pad up your message with needless drivel, the essence leaks out until a point where people get confused.
Regardless, this is a skill that could mean the difference between you closing a deal, alienating your colleagues or needing to apologise for a “miscommunication”.
8. Able to work as a team
No organisation is a one-man operation. That is unless you’re a lean startup; but even then, you’ll likely need to delegate sooner or later in order to scale. So here comes teamwork. Many people have a “lone wolf” mentality where they only look out for themselves. That’s because if you lookout for your workmates, they’ll dump their job to you, right? Sadly, toxic work culture has conditioned people to this.
Playing well with others takes good communications skills and a kind of synergy. Where does the synergy come from? Simple; check the points above. If 2 or more individuals have desirable qualities in the workplace to begin with, high chances you’ll form a bond. This bond and mutual respect for each other’s work quality makes it easier to work as a team. But there’s also an element of personal views and potential drama to be wary of.
Many people are thrust into a leadership positions but most don’t really know how to lead. Most people take this in their stride as “being the boss” and barking commands but there’s really more than that. Being able to take charge without coming out as overbearing, bossy and a downright asshole is a skill. And like many skills, it can be learned and practiced. Of course, with great powers come great responsibilities so don’t think you can slack while your team does the heavy lifting.
There’s a whole new dynamic within leadership that I can’t cover in bullet-points. Things like team dynamics, project management, risk analysis, human resource development, and much, much more fall under this huge umbrella.
And don’t forget: “A person who leads but no one follows is just taking a walk.”
Here’s a little something Aristotle said, “He who never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” I came across this quote long ago but it’s stuck to me ever since. If you cannot learn to follow, how would you know how it feels when others follow you? This is more in line with leadership development, I guess. But a majority of the workforce are followers. That’s why you don’t see 2 billion CEOs in the world.
In a work-setting, we definitely don’t need 10 type A personalities trying to take charge. What we need is the ability to work together and get the job done. If you can’t follow, you will disrupt. And if you disrupt, there’s likely no place for you on the team. There’s a time and place to shine; and it’s not every time, everywhere.
The qualities I listed were from observing people around me; positions varying from top management to entry-level. Do I possess all of these? Hells naw. I’m still learning and while I may think I have certain qualities, it’s a different story to exemplify it. Having desirable qualities differentiates a person between asset and liability to the workforce. There’s no in-between. You’re one or the other and with varying levels. So, what if you have only a few of these qualities? Are you doomed career-wise? Of course not! Skills and habits are learnable; and being aware is the first step.
And if you have all these qualities mastered? In my opinion, you’re probably one of the 0.001% that can move mountains and split seas.
Anybody can do bad work, but not everybody does good work.
– Paul Simon