Take a scroll through popular leadership blogs and note the number of skills posts with similar titles.

Boost productivity by rethinking your email sorting! Increase the meaning in your meetings! Five new ways to skyrocket conference attendance!

Those posts have value, to be sure. We all agree skills are important. When leaders work on personal development, they’re more likely to have skilled workers. But are those articles enough to set you on the course to being an effective, engaged leader?

In short, no. Character traits are seldom discussed, yet equally important.  Skills are things you can do well. Traits speak to who you are. Both are developed through training and practice. The real difference is technology skills decline over time and need refreshing as industries change. Character traits stick with you and apply to every position you hold.

I’ve included four character traits essential to engaged leadership, as well as some questions to ask yourself whenever you want to know whether you’re exhibiting these traits in your career. As always, I am interested to hear your thoughts and comments – just find me on twitter @toddring to discuss!

Clarity: Clarity means awareness of the company, and also yourself. Do you have a direction and vision for the company? Are you clearly articulating that to employees? When faced with tough decisions, can you give a definitive Yes or No based on your vision? It’s healthy to revisit this periodically to ensure you and the company are on track.

Integrity: As a leader, employees look to you as an example. Integrity counts from the smallest tasks to the largest risks. Small things include punctuality and other standard courtesies. Big things can entail keeping promises and keeping a public image that doesn’t reflect poorly on the company. Think back to your actions in the last year. Have they shown a respect for employee’s time? Have you kept promises? If not, was there a good reason and did you communicate that to your employees?

Persuasive: Clarity and integrity will only take you so far. Persuasiveness is important if you want employees who share your passion. That doesn’t mean you need to come across as an infomercial salesperson. While you hone your verbal and written communication skills, work on your voice. Authenticity in your voice, and sharing the meaning behind your passion, helps your employees understand why the mission is important. Do you feel you’ve communicated your passion well? Have you shared meaning in a way that garnered employee support?

Compassion: Compassion in this context is understanding your employees, their situations, and even their mistakes. We’re all human, and we mess up. We drop the ball. We say things in error or out of turn. Worse, we might have family or health problems out of our control. The key is to imagine yourself in the same situation. How would you like to be dealt with when you make an honest mistake? What would you say to your boss if the roles were reversed? Use empathy to understand how your employee feels, then use compassion to act on the situation..

Sharpen New Saws
The popularity of skills posts is understandable, given necessity of continuing education in technology. It’s worth pursuing higher skill levels as you advance your career. However, developing your character traits will push you beyond specific technology and deeper into the world of leadership. While these examples are not the definitive list, they are a good place to start. The time investment will pay dividends for you, your employees, and your company.

Todd Ringleman

Todd Ringleman

Founder, CEO at RAY • ALLEN INC
Todd Ringleman is Founder and CEO of RAY • ALLEN INC. Under Todd’s leadership, RAY • ALLEN INC has grown from a disruptive idea into a leading partner in the IT Asset Management and Recurring Revenue market.
Todd Ringleman