Traits of a Leader

Employer Secrets Revealed Vital Traits Employers are Yearning for

Terry J Jones asked:

When employers consider applicants for employment, there are actually two different sets of skills that they must assess. Precise, job-related skills and educational attainments fall into a category often called “hard skills” –the engineering degree, the mastery of certain software, expertise with certain technology, writing ability and so on.

However, there is a second and increasingly important category of qualities that employers wish to examine, sometimes more closely than the hard skills. These so-called “soft skills” are the personal values, critical thinking tools and character traits that you need for success in your. As opposed to innate abilities (talents or “gifts”), these soft skills can actually be cultivated and refined throughout your life.

Various psychological studies and corporate questionnaires have identified the following soft skills that top employers seek. You should honestly appraise your own strengths and weaknesses in these areas. The more of these characteristics an employer notices in you – and finds enumerated in your resume – the better your chances of landing the job you want.

Communications skills

The first “personal asset” mentioned by the overwhelming majority of employers is communications skills. The capacity to listen carefully, speak clearly, read quickly and write competently is highly valued in every line of business.

Without clear communication, no aspect of the workplace will work effectively – not sales, not service, not marketing and certainly not management. If you are an “exceptional listener and communicator who clearly, effectively conveys verbal and written information,” then you should say so, in a similar fashion, on your resume.

Computer and technological literacy

Even fast-food restaurants require employees with computer skills and some technical aptitude. Just about every white-collar, office position requires a degree of computer hardware and software familiarity, particularly with word processing, database, Internet browser and email applications.

Companies often will often describe open positions in completely unrelated departments as requiring computer-literate candidates with proficiency across a wide range of applications. It would be up to you to inform this potential employer of the specific, rather than general, computer skills that make you a leading candidate in a specific functional area.

Flexible multitasking

You don’t have to be a titled “manager” to be responsible for managing multiple tasks, adjusting to changing work conditions, setting priorities and achieving a constantly shifting set of goals. What employers are looking for, at all levels of responsibility, are “team players” who can quickly assess a situation, figure out what to do and when to do it, juggle simultaneous tasks – and do so day in and day out, without undue stress.

Workplace analysis

While employers certainly want workers who can use their heads on technical issues, they also want people who can analyze situations, assemble the information necessary for making “people” decisions and target key matters that need priority attention. This skill also manifests in an employee’s ability to see the simple, straightforward steps that may be obscured by overly complicated procedures and processes.

Interpersonal skills

This catchall term describes the manner in which you relate to your co-workers, resolve conflicts and, if you are a team leader or manager, encourage and motivate others. Companies of every kind benefit from having “relationship builders” who can help achieve consensus and deal with abrasive personalities in a firm but sensitive manner.


Some say that leadership is a quality you are born with, while others make a good case that it is a set of learned habits. If you are able to take charge in confusing and critical situations, and have always found a way to bring squabbling co-workers together again, then you were born with it – or learned it along the way! Who can say?

What one can say is that goal-driven leaders create and maintain environments of productivity. If you can motivate, mobilize and mentor others in the pursuit and attainment of high performance standards, then you are a leader, whether born or bred.

The work ethic

Employers would love it if every job applicant loved what they did, because people who do will work diligently and keep at the task until they succeed. The fact is, you may not love everything you have to do on a job, but having what is called “the old-fashioned work ethic” means that you consider every job important, and work hard in every area, whether it’s your “favorite thing” or not.

Integrity and personal honesty

Studies consistently show that honesty and integrity are valued more than most anything else by employers. It is clear that many other capacities and capabilities issue from this one character trait, and both leadership and relationship-building are correlated with it. In this era of serial corporate scandal, this quality is once again rising in prominence.

Self-confident and self-motivated

People who don’t believe in themselves will have a hard time getting anyone else to believe in them. You need to be confident in your unique admixture of innate talents, acquired skills and education, because these are what comprise the “total package” that you are, in effect, selling to potential employers. The value of teamwork is balanced with your ability, with these qualities, to do as the famous personnel department phrase says, which is “work with little or no supervision.”

Positive mental attitude plus passion

Candidates who get hired and employees who get promoted have any number of things in common, but prime among them are ambition and passion. These are positive mental attitudes, actually, and are recognized in the enthusiasm and energy you inject into your speech and actions. An

“upbeat” attitude and a love for what you do go a long way in expressing your value as an employee.


Beyond knowing how to speak, act and dress in your particular work environment, you must also know how to act with responsibility and appropriateness in all situations. If you are mature and level-headed, or working hard at it like most of us, you will find it increasingly difficult to be inappropriate or petty in your actions, on or off the job.

Planning and organization

You need to be able to envision the work ahead, “map it out” for yourself and your staff and get things done on time, on budget and on target. Various other skills and character traits can be brought to bear on planning and organizational matters, including your ability to set, define and achieve goals. Personnel recruiters call good organizers “results-driven” and “task-oriented,” qualities that need to be balanced with the foregoing ones of flexibility and professionalism.

Personal and cultural sensitivity

There is no bigger buzzword in the workplace today than “diversity.” Job-seekers must be able to demonstrate both sensitivity to and awareness of different people and cultures. The fact is, if you can build consensus with a group of employees who may see more differences than similarities among themselves, you have a very valuable ability – one that will take you far in today’s rapidly globalizing workplace.

Finally, there are any number of other traits, abilities and skills with which we could bulk up this list. There is loyalty, patience, insight, foreign-language skills and
so on – as well as innumerable technical and psychological considerations that can make a prospective employee more or less desirable in a particular position. In the end, the person who makes the hiring decision has to weigh, balance and decide based on a set of cons
iderations unique to the position and workplace. And that takes a number of very special skills itself!

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