💳 Get a MasterStart with Mastercard | Sign up for a MasterStart online course, pay in full with your Mastercard & get a complimentary tablet* 📲 View Courses

Leadership essentials

essential traits of leaders

Do you believe you have what it takes to be a great leader? Do you recognise leadership characteristics within yourself?
Most leaders are born with leadership qualities; but even so, these qualities need to be nurtured and refined in order to be executed and used to their full potential. While one can learn many effective leadership techniques, there’s another effective way to strengthen your given leadership skills – this is by practicing them each day, in every situation, and embodying the behaviour of a leader. This will train you into becoming a strong, influential individual, who leads naturally and effortlessly.

By practising these leadership qualities – in every situation, you’ll be on your way to nurturing your leadership potential:

1. Inspire and uplift

One of the key characteristics of an effective leader is the ability to drive positive change. Leaders know there are various ways to approach this challenge, but one of the most effective ways is through inspiring and uplifting those around them. This is how trust is cultivated, and it’s also the fastest way to increase the motivation of team members. It takes a strong, charismatic individual who understands the value of people, to successfully steer a team. If you want to engrain this highly effective leadership quality into your psyche, practise inspiring and uplifting those around you; whether they’re family, friends or even strangers. By exercising this characteristic early on, you’ll find it easier to step into a leadership role in the future and successfully influence your team.

2. Set attainable goals

Leaders should always set attainable goals. Without clear-cut goals there’d be no clear direction of where the team is going and what’s being worked towards – this negatively affects motivation and therefore productivity. When leading a team; attainable goals are critical as they remove fear and are easier to ‘swallow’, whereas big goals have the potential to intimidate. To learn how to set attainable goals and work towards achieving a vision, set attainable personal goals for yourself. Identify what motivates you to achieve them, and recognise the difference in your personal performance when faced with daunting long-term goals compared to attainable short-term goals. This awareness will give you a clearer indication of how most people (and your future team) would react.

3. Communicate effectively

Effective communication is a vital prerequisite for the role of a leader. A leader needs to effectively communicate with their team members so that each individual is aware of the goals, objectives and the ultimate vision. Without clear communication from the leader, team members would be oblivious to what is expected of them – which is sure to affect motivation, productivity and performance. Leaders need to act as the communication vessel between different departments, as well as carry and relay information from top management, to staff and vice-versa. To become a strong communicator, practice communicating clearly with those around you. Try to predict the questions people would ask, based on the information you’re giving them, and recognise the weaknesses in your approach, which need to be worked on.

4. Give Recognition

Leaders should give recognition where it’s due, especially if they want to positively impact motivation of team members. People want their efforts to be recognised, and it drives staff to maintain – or exceed their previous performance when their superiors acknowledge them and their hard work. To become an individual that identifies the good in others, practise giving recognition to those you see are doing their best. This will help you to quickly identify, and acknowledge your team members’ efforts in the future.

5. Balance emotion and logic

It’s important that leaders find a balance between emotion and logic. While they should display a degree of empathy, it’s important they also manage emotions to ensure a clear perspective in all situations. Leaders are usually more logical than emotional, however, decisions based solely on logic can also be fairly dangerous as there’s a higher chance of team members’ feelings being disregarded. A balance of emotion and logic is a great formula to becoming a successful leader. Learn how to find the perfect balance between the two, by becoming aware of your emotions, your actions, and the way you seek out solutions. This will give you a clear idea of which side is stronger, and therefore which side needs to be nurtured.

You know the saying: “Practise makes perfect”! Become an influential individual by practising the above leadership traits, and nurturing your leadership abilities. To become an unstoppable force in leadership, however, you may want to invest in your career potential too.

Register for our Leadership online short course

The benefits of lifelong learning

lifelong learning

Throughout life, we are taught the importance of improvement. From a young age, we would hear our teachers, coaches or parents saying ‘there’s room for improvement’, especially when we lost a match or scored an average mark in a test. Yet, even when we excelled, our superiors would remind us that to stay at the top we needed to continuously invest in our efforts. We can do this through lifelong learning.

This notion does not change when we reach adulthood; if anything, it becomes more significant. As working professionals, we are faced with a lot more competition than back then when we were competing for the school trophy. Now, we are competing against millions of competent, skilful individuals, who are just as deserving as us, to be selected for the ‘dream job’. That’s why to stand out from the crowd we need to be extraordinary.

How to become extraordinary

Today, employers are looking for people who not only come with the relevant qualifications and experience; but whose skills are up-to-date, and are aligned to the present day state of the industry. Organisations are constantly looking for ways to improve productivity and increase profitability, and individuals who are at the forefront of industry advancements are more likely to achieve this objective for them.

To be extraordinary, you need to commit to lifelong learning. Continuously developing your professional skills and expertise will ensure you stay relevant and attractive to organisations – even the one you currently work for. AT&T CEO and Chair, Randall Stephenson recently told the New York Times, “There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop. People who do not spend five to ten hours a week learning will obsolete themselves with technology.”

The working world is a cut-throat, competitive environment; where one’s value is continuously questioned. Companies have limited financial resources and plenty of goals and objectives that need to be met. Individuals who lack knowledge of modern tools and techniques, and struggle to display essential technical know-how are not seen as valuable resources. This means individuals who have more to offer are the ones that’ll be hired; the ones that’ll be kept, and the ones that’ll be promoted.

Lifelong learning: an ‘ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated’ pursuit of knowledge.

Three ways you can stay on top of your game:

  1. – Invest in an industry-aligned short course:

    Many well-known universities offer short courses – some even online. Short courses add immense value to one’s CV, and of course ones skill-set. This is because they’re usually created based on the current industry practices, and the content is updated on a regular basis. Short courses are a great way to stay abreast of industry developments and prove that you’re a lifelong learner.

  2. – Attend skill-building workshops and seminars:

    Workshops and seminars are a great way to stay informed of your industries advancements, or updated regulatory requirements. These gatherings can also help you to improve your soft skills, as well as strengthen your network in the field in which you practice.

  3. – Invest in informational content

    Although reading and conducting research on your industry is a great way to stay ahead, it still doesn’t prove that you have invested in your career potential, and strengthening your skills. However, it will enable you to refine your immediate knowledge of the industry, and the general developments taking place currently.

Benefits of lifelong learning

Other than improving your skills and investing in yourself, lifelong learning has the potential to boost your career. The benefits of lifelong learning include:

1. An increased chance of landing a well-paying job
2. Heightened security within your current role (avoid retrenchment)
3. An increased chance of being granted a promotion
4. Broadening your network in your respective industry
5. Being seen as a valuable employee within the organisation, and the industry as a whole

“The day you stop learning is the day you stop living. We should all pick up new skills, ideas, viewpoints, and ways of working every day.”
– Richard Branson

Interview with Kevin Henderson, the HR man

Kevin is a clinical psychologist, facilitator and motivational teacher with over 30 years’ experience in education, training and development, private practice and employee wellness work.

In addition to running a private practice in psychology, Kevin is a seasoned facilitator focussing mostly in the areas of leadership, EQ and people management at the Business School (Executive Development) of the University of Stellenbosch.
If we do say so ourselves; Kevin is an extraordinary mentor, whose knowledge and experience will feed your growth, both personally and professionally.

1. What is the highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career has been being able to facilitate people management practices to employees of the UNFPA in Uganda and Sierra Leone.

2. How is Human Resource management different in start-ups vs well-established companies?

In most start-ups, the HR function tends to be more of a generalist role, whilst there’s more specialisation in established organisations. The HR role in startups also tends to focus more on moving people laterally in order to assist with the motivation of employees whereas in established organisations there’s greater opportunity for promotion due to the size of the organisation.

3. Any tips or advice for those starting their careers in Human Resources?

Be smart about how you brand yourself in your organisation. You have the opportunity to contribute to the bottom line in the organisation as you are better positioned to contribute to strategic discussions regarding strategies towards achieving the organisation’s goals. You can also assist in changing the perception of HR with your colleagues by contributing to the people agenda within your organisation.

4. Why is it important for those in leadership roles to have HR skills?

It will assist leaders to maximise what they can get out of their people. In the world, it is all about productivity. You can improve productivity when you understand what motivates people, and by addressing people’s needs in addition to addressing the needs of the organisation.

5. What book are you currently reading? Or what is your favourite thing to do to take a break from the everyday hustle?

I enjoy playing a round of golf or just having fun on the squash court.

6. And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

It gives me the greatest joy to do things for my kids in order to improve their quality of life.

short course in human resource management