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Applying Leadership Skills Across Industries

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CEO of Truckstop.com, leading the company toward empowering the freight community with trusted and innovative solutions.

Leadership is more than being a manager. It is the act of guiding people in good times and in bad, as well as having the ability to comfort them when there is great concern or confusion. This is easier said than done and often more challenging than it looks. But it is certainly achievable. Just as managers come in all shapes and sizes across a wide variety of industries, so too can leaders come with various skills. With a career in auditing, healthcare, commercial real estate and transportation and logistics, the skills I use were developed across many industries.

There is much to learn as a leader, no matter the job or sector. With a little assistance from our peers, we all can continue to grow into better leaders and, in turn, develop stronger, more meaningful and more resilient relationships with those we lead. By leading with powerful skills, developing a higher level of emotional intelligence and setting a good example for others to follow, leaders can guide their employees through any situation.

Lead with integrity, empathy, courage and respect.

Every leader understands the need for dedication and hard work, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of skills that are needed to succeed. Many necessary leadership skills are based on emotions and feelings, as well as the innate ability to sense how others are doing and react accordingly. This is particularly evident from the most important skills outlined by the Center for Creative Leadership, which include integrity, empathy, courage and respect, among others. These are essential skills that I also believe every leader should have.

The first is an obvious one to me: Every leader should have a moral compass to guide them in situations where integrity is paramount. Empathy is important in helping others deal with challenging situations. Courage is needed to overcome insurmountable challenges. And if leaders don’t respect one another and their subordinates, it will show in every action they take.

Additional vital skills, according to the CCL, include communication, gratitude and delegating. I’ve found communication has become even more imperative during times of stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, and I believe it will remain an equally important skill as people return to the office. At a time when many employees are willingly quitting their jobs, leaders should show a bit of gratitude to those who remain loyal to their firm. I recommend leaders also reward that loyalty by delegating more tasks and empowering staff to grow within their roles.

Whether leading a tech company, freight company or working in another industry entirely, these skills are applicable and necessary for leaders looking to achieve optimal results for their business.

Let your emotional quotient shine through.

Leaders endure a great deal of stress — far more than people might realize. They are often the first to receive bad news and the first to relay it to everyone else. This is a huge responsibility, and the way in which information is communicated can be the difference between a team that is successful and one that is not.

Given the weight resting on their shoulders, leaders need to be capable of dealing with these challenges on a daily basis. And they need to do so without allowing it to affect their behavior — even if their employees are stressed or burned out. In essence, leaders need to take steps to develop a high emotional quotient, which measures one’s ability to perceive, use, understand, manage and handle emotions.

A report from researchers at Cornell University and the University of Toronto found that there is a link between EQ and decision-making. More specifically, individuals with a high emotional quotient are more likely to properly interpret physiological sources of information versus those with a lower EQ. A prior study from University of Toronto researchers found that emotionally intelligent individuals can make better decisions. Given the past year we’ve endured, it’s clear that EQ is valuable to leaders in any position and in any industry.

Be the example of who you want your employees to be.

The shift to remote work was abrupt but fairly universal. When leaders told their employees to work from home, they knew it was necessary. However, when it came time to discuss a return to the office, many employees were quick to share their opinions on the matter. Some even said they would quit if they had to go back to working in the office full-time.

This response is understandable, but imagine the frustration if, upon asking employees to return to the office, management didn’t follow suit. Instead of showing up, they continued to work remotely just because they could. This would send the wrong message and frustrate employees who would feel that they are being forced to do something not required of the higher-ups. This same philosophy could be applied to any number of requests, policies or behaviors. If employees are expected to follow a dress code, for example, leaders should do the same.

Leaders should always keep this in mind as they implement new plans and strategies, especially those that will have a direct impact on everyone else. In other words, they should lead by example and be proud to do what they expect of their staff.

As a leader, you must always be ready to learn and grow.

Great leaders are invaluable. They help us through day-to-day challenges, as well as the most difficult black swan events. But all leaders should be ready to learn, grow and become even better. This doesn’t need to involve a massive overhaul. Leaders can start by embracing the very skills that they expect of their staff. In doing so, they’ll be in a position to lead with superior results and happier employees.


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