6 Leadership Skills Are Undervalued — But They Shouldn’t Be, According to Employees

Pay attention to the subtle clues you give your team about your leadership style when you make a decision.

It’s not about bringing donuts into the office or giving a long-winded, inspirational speech.

You’ve probably held a leadership role at some point in your career and realized quickly it’s a lot harder — and a lot less cinematic — than it’s cracked up to be.

According to a Society for Human Resource Management survey , more than half of American workers say their boss could benefit from training on how to be a better people manager. The poll, conducted in 2020, identified the top five areas that managers could work on:

  • Communicating effectively: 41%
  • Developing and training a team: 38%
  • Managing time and delegating: 37%
  • Cultivating a positive and inclusive team culture: 35%
  • Managing team performance: 35%

We looked into the fundamental aspects of leadership that can be overlooked or undervalued. Sometimes the basics are all you need to be a great people manager; here are six tips to help you along your leadership journey.

Prioritize how to prioritize

Prioritizing your tasks and projects requires a dedicated amount of time to complete, just like the tasks and projects themselves. It might seem like you’re just sitting there, staring at all the projects you have to work on and delegate, but this is when critical thinking and strategy come into play. Thinking about deadlines, resources, output and opportunity costs are all important considerations.

It’s common in startups or smaller companies to see leadership shake up priorities more frequently than in already established companies. Although it’s okay to expect your team to be agile and ready to shift directions, taking time to set priorities can mitigate a lot of unnecessary work down the road for others. And your team will notice.

If you don’t sit down to prioritize the work on your plate, you’ll have no chance of prioritizing effectively — at that point, you’re flying blind and hoping your random allocation of tasks will fall in a way that favors.

Even small priority decisions, like deciding what to work on first during a typical Monday morning, can accumulate and build to impact your productivity significantly . There’s no such thing as an absolute “right” or “wrong” decision when it comes to priorities, but each business has unique needs and demands that need to be considered from the top down to be successful.

Give up control and learn to delegate

Don’t get bogged down in work that someone else can handle. Managers, especially in small businesses, wear a lot of hats. Don’t let the pressure of being in charge of a lot of tasks interfere with you from conquering your most important ones.

Even if you take pride in doing as much as possible , this approach often leads to work being completed inefficiently and in an improper order. Know what you do best and demonstrate trust in your employees by delegating work to them. Delegating is a way to communicate to your team that you trust them to do the project or task.

Stay light on your feet

When things change, how do you respond? There are so many variables that can impact the outcome of large-scale projects. As a leader, you need to learn how to adapt to new information and situations as they come.

As you gain new information that drastically changes your workload and that of those around you, showing your team you are ready to move forward — even with a different game plan — is important. Managers who “stick to what they know” or say “this is how we always do it” don’t make a great impression on employees.

Don’t get married to your first idea

This advice comes from Shopify president Harley Finkelstein during a recent Q&A with our team . While discussing how to grow an ecommerce business, Finkelstein shared his insight that many entrepreneurs get too attached to their first idea. When you ask your team for feedback on something you spearheaded, the original idea can be buried by new and better ideas. It’s your job as a manager to separate a good idea from an idea you created. They are not the same, and generally, iterations are always going to be better.

Share the big picture

Share the quarterly goals or larger initiatives the company is trying to undertake. Even if it’s lofty or abstract, give your team some imagery of their work. It’s important to share what you can with your team about how their contributions will lead to greater success. It instills a sense of meaning.

Projects that are a year out or long-term might not seem like important pieces of information for your team, but they can go a long way toward showing you see them having a future at your company. Nothing is worse than having your manager tell you to work on a small project and giving no context about why you are working on it. Build everyone up.

Trust starts at 100%

With remote and hybrid work taking over, trust has been a topic discussed in great detail “You have to earn my trust” or any similar statement from a manager is a red flag in today’s workplace . Unless someone has done something that has ruined their work reputation, you should trust employees to do their jobs.

Burn a sinking ship

The sunk cost fallacy is when a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial, according to Oxford Language.

If a project goes awry, it’s time to burn the ship. By this, we mean to show clear, decisive action to end a project. As a manager, don’t let your team work on projects that are clearly a waste of time. It’s easy to become emotionally invested in a project when you’ve put a lot of time and work into it, but it’s important to think logically — and your team will appreciate it if you do.