What does it take to be a good leader?

Following from the previous blog which talked about the important skills for effective team work,

I think it is equally necessary for one to understand what it really means to be a good leader.

This is because, to see the success of any team, there needs to be someone who can stand for the team and inspire them to perform tasks seamlessly and in an effective manner.

As mentioned by Steve Jobs, “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

While some leaders seem like they were naturally born that way, leadership skills can be learned. It doesn’t matter if one hasn’t led before. There are certain characteristics, traits, and skills that ultimately build the most effective leaders. Here are a few of them:

  • Communication:

The first and the most important skill an effective leader needs to bear in mind are good communication skills. Using language to perform one-to-one communication is really all that we have as human beings. (ccl.org)

There’s no doubt there are non-verbal clues, but being able to express yourself openly and build empathy with other people is the foundation of effective leadership.

Listening is an integral part of communication. Alongside empathy, the only way to get people to follow you is to make them feel heard.

This is 100% true. The more you make real eye contact, and show sincere interest in the lives of others, the more people will be drawn to you and will be more inclined to speak about their lives. They’ll become inspired, feel heard, and begin to know, like and trust you.

Therefore communication is the #1 most important quality of being a great leader.

  • Integrity:

According to C S Lewis, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even if no one is watching.”

(Source: quotefancy.com)

Without integrity, no real success is possible. An honest leader succeeds when one keeps up to their word, live by their core values, leads by example, and follow-through.

Integrity is the cornerstone of all other leadership qualities. There are many things to look for in people with integrity including:

  • Apologizing for mistakes
  • Highlighting the work of their employees and downplaying their own contributions
  • Giving the benefit of the doubt when circumstances are unclear
  • Being appreciative of people’s time
  • Accountability:

To be accountable, one needs to always remember the advice given by Arnold Glasgow, that is, “A good leader takes little more than his share of the blame and little less than his share of the credit.”

A strong leader is accountable for the team’s results, good or bad. One needs to hold themselves and their employees accountable for their actions, which creates a sense of responsibility among the team.

One needs to give credit where credit is due, and take responsibility for blame when necessary. Being accountable and leading by example is one of the quickest ways a leader can build trust with their team.

  • Empathy:

A true leader has enough open-mindedness to understand their followers’ motivation, hopes, dreams and problems so that they can develop a deep personal connection with them.

Empathy isn’t just being a nice person. It’s a mind-set that enables leaders to:

  • Make better predictions
  • Improve work strategies
  • Inspire loyalty among their teams
  • Better their negotiation skills
  • Increase creativity
  • Humility:

When it comes to leadership, it can be tempting to embrace a new title or status. However, it is important to focus on problem-solving and team dynamics rather than in self-promotion. A leader can never be effective if one is more concerned with themselves than with the well-being of their team.

As Thomas Merton rightly said, “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

Being humble and vulnerable with the team will make a leader much more effective.

  • Resilience:

The true courage of a leader is not how they perform during good times, but how they tackle the situation and produce good results when times are difficult.

Great leaders with positive attitudes lead by example and be with their team no matter the circumstances. It’s this inherent positivity that helps react to situations with a calm, collected manner and focus on solutions rather than on problems.

Resilience is a leadership trait that comes with experience.

  • Vision:

Jack Welch said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Additionally, John C Maxwell stated, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”

A company’s vision only goes as far as a leader’s influence over others. A great leader clearly sets the organizational direction and exercises keen decisiveness. Decision making is a key to new ideas, ensuring team members know the bottom line, and understand the goals and the mission in front of them.

(Source: brainyquote.com)

  • Influence:

Some leaders believe that when they attain a certain level of leadership status, respect will automatically be given to them. This is not the case. Leadership and influence are not interchangeable and respect has to be earned, not given. Here are some things that leaders can do to increase their influence:

  • Clearly state what they want
  • Connect with people emotionally
  • Make others feel important
  • Be vulnerable and charismatic
  • Work toward commonly shared goals
  • Ask for suggestions and input
  • Build real, lasting relationships
  • Act professionally on social media sites like Facebook and Linkedin
  • Have self-awareness
  • Positivity:

Leaders inspire their team not based on their own goals or outcomes, but on their exhibited behaviour, life outlook and attitude in any given situation.

This comes down to positivity. Even the calmest workplaces can be stressful at times. It’s more important how leaders react to this stress with a positive outlook rather than get frustrated.

  • Delegation:

A difficult transition for many leaders is shifting from doing to leading.

Many new leaders are accustomed to doing all the work themselves and struggle to let others handle responsibilities on their own. Great leaders must elevate their team – they must be more essential and less involved.

(Source: stakeholdermap.com)

This requires leaders to shape others’ thoughts and ideas toward a common goal. They give their team everything they need to be successful and get out of the way, not directing their path, but setting clear expectations and explaining where the finish line is.

They aren’t scared of their subordinates’ successes and don’t feel threatened by them. One of the most important leadership qualities of good leadership is delegating tasks and evaluating their team. Through this delegation and evaluation teams shine, as they are able to contribute in the most meaningful way.

  • Confidence:

To be an effective leader, you need to be active and take charge. This includes being confident enough to lead, knowing that your plans and vision are not only viable for the team but the absolute best decision possible.

If you lack confidence in a leadership role, people will spot that quickly. “Make it ‘til you make it.” They say about confidence – and that is 100% true. The more that you believe in yourself, the more you’ll be able to manage any stressful situation.

True leaders are the ones that don’t just talk about problems but come up with their own solutions fearlessly.

You could perhaps try working on one skill every day, and see the difference you can make.

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