Without the foundation of great leadership, any company will eventually crumble. And with more than half of organizations, there’s an urgent need to shift this tide.

In the restaurant industry, we hear these same complaints from owners and operators. On one hand, they have employees who show promise, but who they feel aren’t quite ready yet for the responsibility. On the other hand, the employees they do promote all too often fail in the new role.

Clearly, something is missing from the equation.

Soft Skills Matter

When considering someone for a leadership role, many tend to focus on their hard skills – those skills that can be more easily taught, like computer knowledge or inventory management.

Soft skills, like personality characteristics and attributes, are actually much more vital to leadership success. Being a leader goes way beyond being able to do the basics of the job – things like follow a checklist, make a burger, clean the cooler, or coordinate a schedule. Leaders need to be able to connect with people.

Before promoting that next employee, here are nine soft skills to look for in a future leader.

1. A love for the company

Leaders need to love what they do. No one will love every minute task, but by and large, they should exude passionate and excitement about their position and company.

2. A natural communicator

Leaders must be able to communicate with their team, day in and day out, on many different levels. They don’t over-complicate their message and speak in way that inspires and encourages others.

3. An infectious personality

It’s impossible to be liked by everyone, but the best leaders among us come close. They usually have an almost magnetic personality, one that attracts people to them and puts them at ease.

4. A problem-solver

If you have an employee who isn’t afraid to jump in feet first and figure stuff out, they show leadership promise. They tend to look at a problem as an opportunity – to learn, to grow, to stretch their abilities.

5. An active listener

You learn when you listen, and great leaders are always, always looking for opportunities to learn. One of my favorite quotes – “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” ~ Larry King

6. A question-asker

Leaders certainly understand the value in listening, but they also relish in questioning the status quo. Their questions shouldn’t take on an inflammatory or accusatory tone though. Instead, they should garner introspection, discussion, or a new way of looking at an issue.

7. A dreamer and goal-maker

Dreams and goals go hand in hand for leaders. An emphasis too heavy on dreams without the goals to get there isn’t productive. Effective leaders dream big, but also outline the steps they need to take to make it happen.

8. A relationship-builder

Healthy relationships are key to a healthy company culture. Leaders value relationships with everyone – their coworkers, customers, and vendors. They adapt to each person and situation, knowing every encounter deserves a unique and personalized approach.

9. A golden rule follower

Employees who go on to become the top leaders understand you must treat people the way you want to be treated. They value respect in the workplace, and know it’s a two-way street.

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Carrie Luxem is the founder and President of Restaurant HR Group, a full-service HR group based in Chicago, IL. Carrie will be sharing her wisdom from over 15 years in restaurant human resources through guest-posts on the Homebase blog.

You can find job descriptions, hiring guides, and more from Homebase and Restaurant HR Group in our free HR resources.

Which soft skills do you look for in future leaders? Please tell me in the comments below!

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