What does the word ‘leadership’ mean to you? Does it mean being good at your job, being well-liked, or being in charge of everyone? Every CEO and business owner in the world aspires to be a good leader, but how can you be a good leader, if you don’t understand what leadership really means?
Leadership doesn’t have a one size fits all solution, and there is no magic formula that will instantly make you a great leader. Instead, it takes time and dedication to learn how to achieve the goals you set, and how to inspire others to follow you and do the same. Everyone has their different ways of doing this, whether it’s through rewards, allowing more freedom within job roles or getting stuck into the job alongside your employees. Each approach works differently for everyone, but each type of leader has taken time to figure out their style.
Every great leader shares six characteristics, and it is these characteristics that help them to succeed. Every exceptional leader has developed and honed their leadership skills, continuously learning and developing over time to shape their leadership success.
What does it take to be a great leader?
Being a leader can be tough. There’s a balance between creating a strategy and supporting and guiding others to execute that strategy to manage. The politics and pressures associated with being in a leadership position can be exhausting on a good day, and overwhelming on a bad day. Making decisions that impact the business and a team of individuals who are following your lead is a responsibility that can at times create a sense of tension. Building a resilient mindset is often the missing link for leaders who don’t want to stop at being an effective leader, but rather want to be an exceptional leader. Resilience is the key to dealing with leadership challenges effectively and boosting leadership performance to thrive in your leadership position.
The ability to be flexible is perhaps one of the most important elements of good leadership. Not everything will go as planned, and somewhere along the line, someone will throw a spanner in the works. Competitors could change their tactics, the government could enforce new regulations, suppliers could run into their own issues or even natural disasters could stop the march of progress. A truly great leader is able to quickly adapt to these new situations and find a way around them, rather than wallow in the misfortune, give up or attempt to plough on with the plan anyway.
Being able to communicate effectively is a fundamental skill for anyone who wants to succeed in business. But communication isn’t always about saying the right words. It also means that you are able to empathise with your team, and follow through on the promises you make in those inspiring speeches. Letting your strengths shine through and emanating confidence in the way you communicate is one of the most powerful tools a leader can wield.
Courage is a fickle thing, but incredibly important in a great leader. A leader needs to be able to stand alone and stand up for what they believe in. Having the courage to do what you believe will work is sometimes one of the hardest things to do. With courage also comes determination and patience – the ability to hold firm and not succumb to negativity or the pressure to crumble, and the patience to keep going along a difficult road until they reach the end with their head held high, no matter what the outcome.
Humility and Presence
A good leader will often command the attention of an entire room, sometimes without even speaking. This level of presence is not something you just possess from birth. It’s a quality that needs to be earned through the respect of your employees, working hard and being honest at every step of the journey. Presence is often the result of humility in a leader. Acting aloof or superior to employees is likely to cause dislike and disruption, resulting in a negative environment. Instead, a good leader can listen to their employees, talk on their level and gain their trust.
And finally we come to the last of the six qualities – responsibility. The ability to put up your hand and admit when you’ve done something wrong never comes easily. When there is blame to be accepted for a business error, the owner and leader must be the one to accept it. But responsibility also means being able to reward and congratulate your employees, and spreading accolades and appreciation where appropriate can go a long way. When a business owner is able to accept blame and pass on congratulations to those who truly deserve it, a leader is born.
But there are some harsh realities…
Being a good leader isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you will have to make difficult or unpopular decisions, or maintain your positivity even when you don’t really believe it. This is where your leadership mindset will be the difference between mediocre and exceptional leadership. Your company can only meet the goals you set if you are at the front, leading by example, motivating and encouraging your employees to become coordinated and focussed. If you are going into a ‘new frontier’, then there will be mistakes, miscalculations and the inexperience of everyone involved in this new venture. In situations like this, it is your leadership that defines whether you succeed or fail. Ultimately, there are many different styles of leader, but each of these qualities is an important elements.
If you’re interested in building your leadership skills, get in touch to find out more about our Leadership Edge programmes.