Being an effective leader is an ever-evolving process, but there are some basic traits that can make all the difference. So whether you’re an established leader or just starting out, here are five characteristics that all great leaders have.
What do a president, a business owner and an alpha wolf have in common? They’re not just running their organizations. They’re leading them. And although they may have varying degrees of success, one thing remains true across the board: Being an effective leader is not for the faint of heart. Thankfully, you’re more than capable of releasing your inner commander-in-chief by focusing on some basic leadership skills.
Here are five things effective leaders do:
Although it may be a little counterintuitive, being an effective leader is not about gaining more power. Instead, it’s about empowering those around you. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” And he’s got a point. By giving your team the go-ahead to use their creativity to solve issues on their own, you not only give them more autonomy, but help them feel happier and more fulfilled.
And giving employees more responsibility isn’t the only way you can empower them. Showing enthusiasm in their projects, as well as showing them how much you believe in their abilities is a way to empower them on an emotional level. Your goal: To make them feel extremely confident in and proud of their abilities. Because once you’ve done that, you’ll have not only more skilled employees, but a stronger organization in general.
The best leaders don’t squash differing opinions, but encourage them. To see an example of this in action, we need look no further than the ways governments treat freedom of speech from one country to the next. It’s the countries that allow, encourage and protect freedom of speech that are hailed for their strong and just governments, not their counterparts.
Similarly, great leaders rise above the natural fear of conflict because they’re secure in their position and vision. They don’t feel threatened or offended when an employee disagrees with them or with each other. Skillful leaders know that collaboration is one of the best tools they have at their disposals, and that pushing for uniformity and discouraging different opinions is a sure-fire way to shut the door to new ideas. To create a good environment for truly open communication, employees should be encouraged to express themselves, and be rewarded when they do.
One major trait that separates leaders from those around them is their dedication to improving one of their very best resources: themselves. By taking the time to practice your leadership skills and incorporate changes to make them more effective, you’re investing in your own capacity as a leader. Because effective leaders are ultimately learners, and learners are always hungry to learn more.
Furthermore, great leaders apply this same concept of perpetual learning to their businesses as well as themselves. They’re up on industry news, and completely in the know about any and all big changes. Although learning takes a lot of discipline and perseverance, leaders know the struggle is well worth the reward.
Make a community
As John C. Maxwell, author of the best-selling book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership put it, “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” In order to be the most effective leader possible, you need to connect with others. No one likes to feel like a cog in a machine. And as a leader, people won’t start paying attention to what you know until you show them how much you care.
Furthermore, effective leaders know they can’t do it alone, and neither can anyone else. And that’s why they make it a point to fostera sense of community and build up team spirit. Once people feel a part of something larger than themselves, they not only have higher self-esteem, but choose to do things for the benefit for the whole instead of for themselves as individuals. And for a truly exceptional leader, the connections don’t stop at your team alone. Extend your reach and make connections outside of your team
Employee trust is one of the most valuable things a leader can earn, and it can only be done by having integrity. Integrity has two main parts: having good character, and exercising it consistently. Integrity means being completely honest, even when it’s going to sting. It means being yourself regardless of who you’re around. And it means doing the right things at every opportunity, even when you don’t feel at your best.
A good way to demonstrate your character is to be transparent, as in, being open with your employees about what’s going on. It also means taking responsibility when you know you could’ve done better. Because at the end of the day, when a leader has been consistently respectful and skillful at their job, people are willing to forgive the occasional mistake in judgment or ability. However, the same can’t be said for someone who’s demonstrated poor character.
Leaders are crucial to all businesses, big or small, and despite the difference they may have in particular leadership style, great leaders have these skills in common. However, being an effective leader is not a cookie-cutter business. How you implement these traits, and how they suit your business are completely up to you. And you, as a great leader yourself, know what’s best.
-Gracelyn Tan, Volusion