There’s no such thing as a ready-born leader. While certain skills may be innate, leadership demands constant work and practice. What’s more it requires the emotional intelligence to understand the people working for you and what they need from you as their manager.

As executive coach and author Scott Eblin explains, being able to connect with your employees on a personal level is the first step to being able to get the best out of them.

Knowledge is key
Flawless company and industry knowledge is a prerequisite for any leader. However, knowledge and intelligence can be alienating if not offered in the right way. According to Eblin, information should be imparted in a way that feels personal, with frequent use of the second person, helping listeners to feel directly engaged.

Knowledge also extends to the employees themselves. Pay attention to small details about the people in your charge: their experiences and interests as well as their aspirations and concerns.

It’s all in the delivery
Unsurprisingly, successful leaders identified by Eblin all shared strong oratory skills, none more so than former US President Bill Clinton, described as a “master story teller” who could deliver a “killer line”.

Good delivery means projecting yourself well and engaging with people by creating the impression you are speaking directly to them. Clarity is also key: leaders need to be able to condense information down into simple messages, or even a single, memorable line.

The personal touch
To reiterate, connecting with a group means being able to make each employee feel valued and, more to the point, like an individual within a wider circle. Specific references to employees – their achievements and views – in meetings is a great way to let them know they are appreciated and respected.

It’s also about having the emotional intelligence to recognize the different moods and feelings of your employees and being able to adapt accordingly. You need to know the right time to offer encouragement or a quick pep talk.

While strong people skills are often linked to personality, they can be learnt and, more importantly, honed. You might be self-confident, enjoy hearing the sound of your own voice even, but this counts for little unless you can connect with colleagues on an individual level.

S. Thomas Wharton is President of LIFOCUS, Inc, a human resources consulting firm in Rhode Island, providing Career & Transition Coaching, Outplacement, Executive Coaching, Assessments and Leadership Development. Tom can be reached at 401.884.7959 •

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