At some point in our lives we all have to assume a leadership position, whether it’s over one person or many, those in our family that we are taking care of, or strangers who depend on us for their livelihood. And chances are, as a professional, leadership roles are often what we strive for because let’s face it--not only do they give us an opportunity to do something great in the present moment, but it can also mean more opportunities in the future. However, for all the perks that come with being the leader, higher pay and recognition as well the chance to realize your ideas, the responsibility is even greater. We all know people who have done really well in these positions and those who haven’t done nearly as well. What is it that separates good leaders from bad ones, and the truly great leaders from the rest? Let’s take a look at three of the qualities that sets them apart:
Truly great leaders have not just goals and targets, they have a vision and direction for the future. And it’s not just a vision for themselves. Truly great leaders inspire others to share their vision and make it their own. To quote Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the author of Le Petite Prince, “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Truly great leaders, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Mother Theresa have done exactly that. They had a vision that inspired others and led them towards that vision. In a professional setting this means you have a mission for your group or department or organization as a whole. You understand where you are right now, but you also understand where you should be and where you can be and you know how you can get there. Goals and targets can give you objectives to accomplish but it truly is vision that gives individuals and organizations purpose and keeps them going when things get tough.
Leadership is service. It’s not tyranny and the end goal is not simply to better yourself. Real leadership is not one that puffs up your own ego, but rather a service to those who you are leading. As such it’s important to listen to them and understand their point of view as well as encourage those that you are serving. The service aspect of leadership is pretty closely tied to a good helping of humility for good reason. Modern leadership is much more collaborative, understand that there may be those under your leadership that have skills you don’t and give them an opportunity to make up for what you’re lacking. Don’t simply view them as a threat. As a leader it is your responsibility to help those you’re leading grow.
Practice what you preach. Perhaps it’s the oldest rule in the book when it comes to leadership but it’s because it is so essential and shows your integrity. As a leader, if you want those under you to work hard, you should be the one working the hardest. If you want people to show up for meetings on time, you better be there 5 minutes early. Anyone can talk the talk, but what people want to see is if you’re walking the walk and as a leader, all eyes are on you. And if you don’t, you’ll lose not only people’s respect but also their trust.
What are the qualities you look for in a great leader and what are some ways you have to improve your leadership skills? Let us know!