All organizations, big or small, will need someone who can get its members working towards a common goal. A good leader is more than just a title. It’s a huge role that requires skills well beyond the office desk. You don’t just solve problems, you need to listen to them, too; you can’t just delegate, you must serve as an inspiration as well.
While leaders may differ in their strategies, there are certain skills that will separate those who are destined to guide others. Don’t worry – leaders aren’t born, they are made. So if you’re wondering whether or not you’re fit for the duty, there’s always room to grow.
Here are some leadership qualities a great leader should possess.
Essential Leadership Qualities
Perhaps the cornerstone of great leadership, integrity means a consistent practice of honesty and strong moral values. In other words: what do you do when no one is looking? If your boss doesn’t follow through on what he says, or never apologizes for his mistakes, then he doesn’t have integrity. The same goes for people who also take credit for other individuals’ efforts.
A person with integrity does what is right – all the time. They don’t bend the rules just to suit their needs, or because a close friend asked them to. They are prime examples of honor, fairness, and trustworthiness.
As businessman Arnold Glasow says: “A good leader takes little more than his share of the blame and little less than his share of the credit.”
What will you do when a project goes wrong? Do you pin the blame on your employees? Or would you be willing to take responsibility for it? This may sound unreasonable, but good leaders understand that when things go very wrong, they face it first – and head on.
This doesn’t mean becoming a human doormat. Rather, it’s owning up to the fact that you probably didn’t lead your team well. And that’s why the project failed. It’s also giving credit where it’s due, and not taking them for yourself simply because you’re the boss.
3. Effective Communication
This isn’t just about giving orders or delegating tasks. Remember that effective communication involves active listening and paying attention to non-verbal cues.
For example: when an employee tells you why the report was delayed, listen to the tone of their voice and facial expression. Do not interrupt. Set aside your own biases and judgments. Next, work together to form a clear and realistic solution. How can this problem be avoided in the future? What should be done differently?
Being an effective communicator also entails good control of emotions. If you’re angry or irritated for instance, express it positively by remaining respectful.
4. Managerial Competence
Just because someone is good at their job, doesn’t necessarily mean they can be good managers. According to Harvard Business Review, what makes a person productive will not always serve in their best interest once they become leaders. That’s because much of effective leadership relies on being ‘other-focused’.
In essence, it’s having good interpersonal skills. Being productive usually entails that you develop your own work processes and increase technical expertise. But the minute you become a leader, you need to think about the good of the entire team as well as the organization. You will have to be comfortable with motivating, inspiring, mentoring, and directing other people.
While leaders are always productive individuals, not all productive individuals can be leaders.
What do you do when the going gets tough? Resilience is more than thinking positively during a bad situation, or of focusing more on solutions. Resilience means bouncing back from difficulty.
When changes occur in the workplace or there’s a crisis, it is up to managers to provide assurance and answers. They don’t hide in their offices. They don’t take sick days right when there’s a calamity coming. They brace for impact.
Resilience is perhaps the one skill that takes a lot of time to learn – because only experience can provide it. If you want to develop this trait, seek out adversity for yourself. Be in the eye of the storm and observe how well you handle the situation.
In today’s demanding and cutthroat society, patience is indeed, a virtue. But more so if you’re going to be a leader. Patience will be required in everything you do: from listening to employee feedback, to knowing when to strike, and waiting for the tide to subside.
Most folks will want to have it all, and all at the same time. But the best of leaders know that true and lasting success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long and often not linear process of experimentation, failure, and triumph. Being patient will come in handy not only when waiting for the right opportunity, but also in dealing with unreasonable workers.
7. Vision and Purpose
What do you see when you come across a patch of dry, barren land? While most people will dismiss it as a desert, a future leader will see potential. She will plant the seeds herself. She will come and water it everyday, hopeful that in a rational timeframe, it will bear beautiful flowers that will turn the once arid land into a flourishing garden.
Even better: she will encourage her friends and neighbours to do the same. So they will all come with their rakes, shovels, and watering cans. They will take care of the sprouts until they grow. And when the months pass, they will marvel at the new blooms they all worked hard to achieve.
Great managers have a different perspective on things. When others only see a desert, they will see an oasis. And with a clear plan, they can rally other people into following them towards that greater dream.
Does 2+2 always equal 4, or could there be another solution? As a future manager, you would be the one called upon to think ‘outside the box’. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild! Brainstorm with your team if you have to. In our current fast-paced world, it’s the creative minds who produce wonders.
9. Focus and Drive
Problems aren’t always one-sided. Sometimes, they can hide layer upon layer of varying issues, each more complicated than the next. One of the most overlooked – but critical – leadership qualities is the ability to focus. This involves looking at a dilemma through rational lenses, pinpointing the actual issue at the roots.
This trait goes hand in hand with drive. This is the enthusiasm you bring to the task at hand. Without sincere love for your work, you won’t be able to motivate others into putting the same level of passion into theirs.
This trait is often confused with low-balling yourself, but that’s completely untrue. Being humble just means that you don’t let your new title get into your head. After all, leaders should be in the service of others.
A humble manager or supervisor should be: ready to accept feedback for improvement, apologize for being wrong, and ask for help when they can’t handle something. You know that your position doesn’t imply you’re better than the rest of your team. In fact, you won’t be going anywhere without your team.
Ever worked at an office where your boss constantly sends you requests even after your shift? Or how about being made to work even when you’re ill because there’s no one else to cover for you? Despite its importance, many managers nowadays still lack empathy.
By definition, empathy means ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person’. It’s ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’. Now more than ever, leaders are called to have empathy for those around them. When you’re able to see a situation through another’s eyes, you’ll be able to make better decisions and address issues with more precision.
People in general will almost always follow who they like. That’s why businesses hire celebrities and other prominent individuals to endorse products. When a person sees someone they admire using a certain commodity, they would be more inclined to purchase it. The same principle applies to leadership.
Having great charisma has nothing to do with being attractive or starring in movies. It has more to do with being approachable, friendly, and sincere. Leaders who take the time in nurturing positive relationships with their workers are more effective, simply because they lead through influence – not authority.
They don’t use their position or title to make employees compliant. Rather, their actions speak for themselves. When you see someone diligently going about their duties, don’t you feel compelled to do the same?
What do you think? Are these leadership skills spot on? Does your current leader have any or all of these leadership qualities?