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Leadership behaviours interns must adopt in 2024

The top leadership behaviours you will need this year.

If you want to start your journey towards leadership on the right foot, then you’ll need to work on a few crucial leadership behaviours. These are attributes you’ll need to have and actions you’ll need to take to become a leader who inspires confidence and can take on any challenge.

Sharing his invaluable insights for students, graduates,  interns, and early-career professionals who hope to become leaders one day is Droston Tang—a seasoned Business Professional and Youth Leadership Mentor based in Singapore.

What has changed in 2024?

If you’re just starting out, you might be wondering, why should I bother with leadership skills right now? Well, it’s a long journey only for those who take the long route. The earlier you start, the better your chances as more opportunities will open up.

It has been said a dozen times over but it’s undeniable that rapid technological advancements and shifting societal norms redefine how we lead every single day. The way we work today is very unlike what we used to do 20 years ago. For example, today, there’s the booming world of remote work, a dozen different digital collaboration tools, and better diversity initiatives. 

Today’s employees are comfortable with their unique colours and aren’t afraid to ask for what they deserve. For the younger generations, what they view as a “delegate to those you relegate” approach just doesn’t click.

Learning effective leadership in the present climate will also take some serious unlearning.

For Droston Tang, whose journey has been more of an adventure than most careers, it couldn’t be clearer what is required of him as a leader and mentor. 

“I play different roles with different mentees. I start by trying to understand more about the mentees first. If the mentee is a more reserved person, I will try to find a way to unpack or unlock their profile—to get the individual to be much more open,” he explained his approach.

“I would try to be a kind of a coach in that sense, whereby I encourage and I give them some very clear directions,” he added. But some people would prefer direct, clear answers or solutions instead.

“I find that they needed another kind of perspective, whereby instead of giving them the full answers, I start by giving them questions. From the questions, they find their own answers. It’s very much dependent on the profile,” explained Droston.

“If the person has higher potential, I try to give them more, such that I would like to see how the individual is coping with increased information. Through that process, I know where they are standing in their ability to learn and to unlearn certain things.”

Of course, navigating diverse personalities is just one challenge of the many you’ll encounter in your career. There will always be far more unpredictable obstacles down the road. You may have to work with unfamiliar people, you may have to woo them to your cause and inspire them—but being able to adapt and thrive together, never alone, is what defines a leader.

If you want to be a leader, remember that you work with people and the weight of your team will rest squarely on your shoulders. Our goal now is to help you get to the stage where you can confidently take on this responsibility.

What are leadership behaviours?

“Behave like a leader” is not an easy command to follow. As we’ve established, to head an initiative or a team means taking on the responsibility for the failure and the success of either with grace. So, how do you become a good leader?

There are several ‘traits’ that are coveted in the ideal leader, while behaviours are a different game altogether. Traits are inherent to you—they’re an integral part of who you are as a person. Behaviours are skills that can be learnt, actions that can be taken, and a manner of thinking that can be developed—all combined and then enhanced by your inherent traits. Being a ‘natural empath’ is a trait but being able to respond to employees with tact and empathy is a skill—a skill that falls under ‘communication’. 

Behaviours, like traits, can be good and bad. We’re aiming for positive behavioural traits that impact you and those who work with you positively.

As these behaviours influence individual performance while impacting team dynamics and organisational culture, being self-aware and cultivating emotional intelligence is important. 

It allows you to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to build stronger relationships with colleagues and stakeholders. 

Let’s dive into some approaches that will help you develop positive behaviours. 

1. Open up your career path

This might sound odd but sticking stubbornly to a single niche might actually be more detrimental to your career journey than diversifying strategically. 

Having an open career path means remaining flexible and receptive to new opportunities and experiences. Rather than strictly planning out every aspect of your career trajectory, try to have an open mind and actively seek out diverse learning experiences. This makes room for skill development opportunities you won’t get otherwise. 

According to Droston, “In today’s context, especially when things are so fluid, with the new influx of technology like AI, or even like the huge interest on sustainability, I think we just need to keep ourselves a little bit more flexible. We need to make sure that we create a knowledge bank or transfer skill sets.”

As a bonus, you’ll also see continuous growth and development and enhanced adaptability and resilience in the face of change. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, and any failure in that endeavour is still a lesson learnt and a milestone achieved.

2. Learn to take risks 

Being a leader involves making bold decisions, but it’s important to be careful about the risks you take. Wisdom isn’t easy to come by—Odin sacrificed an eye for it. The rest of us mortals need to gain it the hard way—by trying new experiences, learning new things and failing quite a few times to learn from our mistakes. 

There’s no point in sugarcoating it but taking risks is never easy. You’ll find yourself asking questions about how often you take risks, what impacts they have, and where they the right decisions to begin with. Let’s talk about a few steps that could ease your burden.

  1. Think about the pros and cons: Before making a decision, think about what could go right and what could go wrong. Consider how your choice might affect your team and your goals. Try to find a balance between being cautious and taking chances.
  2. Try new things: Be willing to try new things and take risks, even if they seem scary. Encourage your team to do the same. Sometimes, taking a chance can lead to unexpected successes.
  3. Learn from your mistakes: Look back on decisions you’ve made in the past. Did they turn out well, or did they cause problems? Think about what you can learn from these experiences to help you make better choices in the future.
  4. Talk to your team: It’s more than fine—it’s excellent—to get advice from your team and other reliable professionals. They might have insights that you haven’t considered. Working together can help you make smarter decisions and avoid unnecessary risks.

3. Be flexible and manage uncertainty 

In our fast-paced world, you can either go up or down, there’s rarely a steady in-between. Ask yourself: How good are you at adapting to change and uncertainty? 

Uncertainty is a bottomless pit and only complete confidence will make your feet touch the ground—but it’s not something that can be avoided. As Droston said, “When we’re talking about leadership now, you need to really showcase the ability to be able to stomach uncertainty and then be able to also find a solution, be responsible enough.” 

He explained further, “A lot of us, when we take on new roles, are a little bit uncertain and unsure of the entire outcome. Being confident in a role gives us that additional support.”

Here are some tips to help you face uncertainty without losing your balance.

  1. Plan ahead: Anticipate potential challenges and have a backup plan in case things don’t go as expected. Being prepared can help you stay calm and focused when things get tough.
  2. Be open to new ideas: Stay open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Flexibility means being willing to change course if necessary and not getting too attached to one way of doing things.
  3. Keep everyone informed: Keep your team informed about what’s going on and encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas. Open communication can help everyone stay on the same page and work together more effectively.
  4. Check on yourself: Managing uncertainty can be stressful, so make sure to take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and find ways to relax and recharge when you need to.
  5. Ask for help: If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t reach out, it could cost you more than you’re willing to pay. This is why when you’re facing difficulty moving forward, it’s a good idea to ask for help.Droston added, “The counterparty also understands that you are going to face some uncertainty. You are saying ‘Hey, I’m going to take charge. There will be times when I fall but if I fall, would you be able to come in and help?’”

By staying flexible and staying focused on your goals, you can navigate uncertainty with confidence and lead your team to success.

4. Mastering multitasking

If you’re heading any endeavour, you’ll find that you often have to juggle multiple tasks at once. So, how can you improve your multitasking skills and prioritise your workload effectively? Here are some tips:

  1. Lists are your new best friends: Write down all the tasks you need to do, doesn’t matter how big or small. Sometimes, when you’re busy working on many big things, the small things—like having lunch—fall through. Use a tool you’re comfortable with, be it your Google Calendar or a handy paper checklist, to write down every task you need done for the day or the week.
  2. Prioritise accordingly: While it’s tempting to try to do everything at once, it’s usually more efficient to focus on one task at a time. But that doesn’t mean all tasks are created equal. Prioritise your tasks from big to small, most time-consuming to least, or by deadline. Which ones have some wiggle room that you can push? Which ones have rigid due times? Then, give each task your maximum attention before moving on to the next one.
  3. Delegate when possible: Leadership isn’t a one-way street—your team is there to support you, too. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to members of your team who have the skills and time to handle them. This will free up your time to focus on more important things.
  4. Take breaks: Working non-stop can actually lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Take regular breaks to rest and recharge so you can come back to your work with renewed focus and energy. Plus if you need a fresh perspective on the work at hand, it’s highly recommended to take a break and revisit later.

5. Strive to grow in your role

Learning really is a lifelong journey and you never really stop—especially as a leader. Believing that you already know everything there is to know is the most dangerous mistake you could make. 

“As a leader, we need to be looking at growing ourselves … A lot of people say that, ‘Oh, I might not be ready enough’. Why not take it on and also double up in terms of learning on the road and being able to accept that kind of new kind of task and be able to build on it?” said Droston on cultivating a growth mindset.

This includes staying attuned to industry trends, mastering new skills, and adapting to changing dynamics, which are essential components of leadership growth. Recognising that there’s always room for improvement is key! 

Here are some steps you can take to continuously improve and enhance your professional skills:

  • Attend workshops, seminars, and webinars to stay updated on industry developments.
  • Engage in continuous learning through online courses and certifications relevant to your field.
  • Seek feedback from peers, mentors, and supervisors to identify areas for improvement and growth.
  • Embrace challenging assignments and projects that push you out of your comfort zone.
  • Foster a culture of learning within your team by encouraging knowledge-sharing and collaboration.

6. Be Confident

Confidence is a charisma-based attribute and something that can be hard to get right if you’re not naturally confident. Often, people tend to try to exude confidence but end up coming off as a bit arrogant instead—which is the opposite of what they were going for! 

The key is to strike a balance between assertiveness and humility and knowing how to establish your strengths and own your weaknesses. (Or a professional humble brag, as we call it.) 

Building confidence involves believing in your abilities while being humble and approachable. That belief needs to come from within—as mystic as that sounds. Faking confidence in your ability to do something or in a decision isn’t a reliable way to lead. If you’re not a confident person right now, you can work on that quite easily.

Try these tips:

  1. Practice self-affirmation and positive self-talk to boost self-esteem.
  2. Set achievable goals and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small.
  3. Speak up when you have ideas and perspectives.
  4. Set firm boundaries while respecting those of others.
  5. Seek opportunities outside your comfort zone and take on new challenges.
  6. Surround yourself with supportive people who encourage and uplift you.
  7. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be ashamed of it either.
  8. Set down your hard plans on paper and believe that you will see them through.

7: Work on your communication 

Effective communication is not something to run from because the only thing truly holding any company together is communication.

In a leadership role, you’ll be expected to deliver impactful presentations, foster meaningful connections with stakeholders, inspire your team, and sell ideas, to name a few. 

Here are some practical ways to improve your communication abilities:

  1. Practice active listening to understand the needs and perspectives of others.
  2. Develop clear and concise messaging to convey ideas and information effectively.
  3. Seek feedback from colleagues and mentors to refine your communication style.
  4. Use non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions to enhance interpersonal communication.
  5. Engage in networking opportunities to expand your professional network and build relationships.

8. Become a mentor

True leadership involves empowering and elevating others to reach their full potential. To know how to do this right, you will have to be able to read people. Mentoring is an excellent way to improve your read on your team and the role of a mentor is a very important one.

A lot of students and interns seek mentors as it helps them gain a wider, deeper understanding of their industry of choice. For example, many eager students perform well in school but find themselves utterly lost when it comes to the working world.

“In terms of high-performing students, where they are extremely eager and excited to perform, they have a structured way to do so. They are trying to fill a gap the gap of the industry reality or the paradigm shift from a studying environment to a work environment,” Droston explained. 

“There are some pockets whereby having a few conversations with mentors who are willing to talk and share about their working experience will help them. Like how to communicate with our supervisors, how to request things monthly from each of our colleagues from different departments … After being in the industry for so long, we might think that is very trivial, but it matters a lot to them (the students).”

For these students, a mentor would be the most helpful person they could rely on, but it’s not only beneficial to them. Through mentorship, you gain fresh perspectives and insights from mentees, fostering continuous learning and growth.

You can also develop your coaching and mentoring skills, while strengthening relationships and building trust with your mentees. You learn how to create a collaborative and supportive work environment and those you mentor will remember your efforts, which is just a heartwarming additional benefit.

9. Embrace accountability

Taking ownership and accountability for outcomes, whether positive or negative, is a hallmark of effective leadership. It demands a lot from you; humility, integrity, and a commitment to learning and improvement. 

These aren’t bad things, so you never have to be afraid of accountability—and this is applicable at any level in a company.

“At the end of the day, you are going to be accountable for the kind of activities happening in the job, scope, department and also company level. These few areas need to be aligned, so accountability is important,” said Droston.

To become comfortable with taking accountability, we suggest trying the following out—starting with whichever you feel most comfortable with.

  1. Own up without hesitation for any actions or decisions taken by you when questioned. Don’t wait to be prodded.
  2. Acknowledge any mistakes and failures openly and transparently. Don’t just state that you made the mistake but offer a sincere apology and provide a solution to your mistake.
  3. Take responsibility for your contributions while clearly highlighting your team’s contributions as well. 
  4. Set expectations plainly and hold yourself accountable for meeting them. Review by the end of the period how you’ve performed and critique your progress.
  5. Actively seek feedback and use it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Demonstrate a willingness to learn and adapt as you put the feedback into practice.

Impactful leadership behaviours can change everything

Effective leadership goes beyond just giving orders; it involves embodying behaviours that align with both personal and team goals. You’ll need to evaluate whether your actions contribute positively to team morale and productivity or if they have a negative impact, leading to reduced efficiency and high turnover rates.

Consider if your approaches and actions are in line with the company’s, team’s and your objectives. Do they contribute to a positive work environment that makes people want to stay because they feel valued?

At the end of the day, a good leader makes all the difference, so, why not give yourself a winning chance? 

To end with Droston’s advice, weigh the options, weigh the risk, and once you’ve identified the way forward, keep going. With “aptitude, attitude and a bit of luck”, somehow or other, you will reach your destination. 

Want your career to have the best start in 2024? Book a call with us, let’s talk about it. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for the latest career information, tips, and updates. (They’re both completely free!)

 

Kahless

Kahless

Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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