22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader
Some people are born leaders. Others become leaders through years of learning and experience. To be a leader is a rewarding position but it is also the most difficult job in the world.
A leader’s abilities come under strict scrutiny when things are really going bad. This is a time when you can distinguish between an ordinary leader and a great leader.
A great leader is the one whose leadership qualities truly shine in worst of situations. He has the qualities his followers respect, look up to and are ready to even die for.
So, what are the qualities which make someone a great leader? Over the centuries, hundreds of qualities have been identified which every great leader should have or develop.
For instance, they exhibit certain qualities in the likes of honesty and integrity, confidence, courage and vision which make them stand out from others.
It is even more important for a leader to learn all the prerequisite qualities of leadership if he wants to command respect of his followers. In this regard, following are 22 attributes of a truly great and successful leader.
1. HONESTY AND INTEGRITY
If a leader wants to inspire his followers to take action and motivate them to attain the impossible, he himself needs to be honest and a man of integrity. A great leader always applies the principles of developing trust among his followers and absolute legitimacy of ideas he preaches.
He sets shining examples and motivates his sphere of influence to do the same by being honest to himself, his organization and his followers. That is the reason why people love to follow leaders like Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
Honesty is one of the most important elements of great leadership. Honest leaders tend to follow five basic rules which are as under.
Explain their Goals Honestly
A great leader honestly explains the goals and values to his employers or followers. He also inspires others to be honest by setting their own examples.
Admit their Mistakes
Great leaders do not blame others for their own failures but openly admit their mistakes and try not to repeat them in future.
They never Claim all the Success
Honest leaders, unlike the fake or dishonest ones, never claim all the credit for their success. They always recognize it as a team effort and appreciate everyone for respective roles they have played.
Create Development Opportunities
An honest leader always creates or is looking for new development opportunities for his followers. He is always ready to take risks in the worlds unknown and take responsibility for the consequences if things do go bad.
He Envisions a Good Future for Everyone
A great and honest leader envisions a prosperous future for everyone, not for himself only.
Great leaders always have an exciting and clear cut idea of what they want to achieve. They do not only have a clear vision but they also have the ability to passionately own and articulate it as well. Most importantly, they relentlessly work hard to transform their vision into concrete realty. Great leaders can see into the future and realize what is going to happen beforehand.
Having a gift of vision makes them special kind of persons. They are able to develop clear and concrete goals that will benefit not only their organizations but everyone working to attain that goal. As visionary leaders, they can also anticipate change and incorporate it in their strategies. They are willing to introduce new approaches and adapt to changing scenarios while concentrating on their main objectives.
Take example of Shantanu Narayen for instance. When he took over the Adobe Systems as CEO, he quickly realized that distribution of software on physical disks has no future whatsoever.
In a bold move, he introduced a subscription based model for Adobe, totally changing the way Adobe’s Creative Suit used to be distributed.
Adobe basically relies on releasing new versions of their products annually for earning revenue. By adapting to changing online environment and introducing a subscription model, Mr. Narayen has managed to revers company’s fortunes once again.
Courage is one of the biggest virtues a person can have and a leader is no different. As Winston Churchill, one of the most courageous leaders of the 20thcenturysays in one of his quotes:
“Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend.”
Being courageous means you, as a leader, are always willing to take difficult decisions in order to attain your ultimate goals with no guarantee of success.
Risks are part and parcel of every business you run, every action you take and every commitment you make. A courageous leader never avoids taking these risks. He is never afraid of failure and is always ready to face uncertainties and change confidently.
Furthermore, a courageous leader always accepts responsibility for his failures. He is willing to face criticism and unpopular opinion. He will raise difficult issues when nobody else will. He is prepared to do whatever it takes to make his company or country great.
This is pretty straightforward. A great leader is always a fair leader. He does not believe in any type of favoritism. He gives equal opportunity to every one of his subordinates to express his abilities and shine under him. A great leader always rewards his people for their work and the actual results they produce. He is never partial and has no place for nepotism in his system.
As a fact of matter, people love a fair leader who is never partial and treats everyone equally without a hint of favoritism.
Similarly, a great leader never allows professional bias cloud his mental judgment and decision making abilities.
He makes appointments on merit and always select most qualified people for the job whether it is promoting employees, signing vendors or hiring new staff.
Most importantly, such a leader is always genuine and open. He implements what he says and encourages others to follow suit.
A leader needs to be flexible in order to succeed in the ever changing and extremely demanding business world. He must possess the ability to flex to cope with uncertainties and sudden changes which are indispensible part of modern lifestyle and business environment.
A flexible leader is able to adapt his leadership and decision making style depending upon the circumstances. He is always able to keep abreast with themarket and act accordingly should something unplanned and surprising happens.
Such a leader also welcomes change, new ideas and fresh opinions about how to run a certain business. He does not only welcome suggestions but take concrete steps towards implementing these suggestions. He keeps rigidity at bay and manages to achieve unparalleled success in the process.
Confidence is the greatest and one of the most valuable traits of any good leader. You, as a leader, need to build confidence and mental strength if you want others to follow you.
On the other hand, your subordinates are never going to respect you if are unclear about your own personality, qualities and decisions. To gain respect of your followers, you need to be assertive, bit boastful and brimming with confidence.
Don’t be overconfident but at least display a degree of self-assurance to maintain your grip on your followers.
People look at you for inspiration during difficult times and if you are uncertain about what to do, you are definitely going to lose their respect.
Similarly, being confident also means you are likely to take right decisions on almost all occasions. If you remain calm and confident while decision making regardless of the circumstances, others will do the same. As a result, you will be able to boast everyone’s moral including yourself.
Most importantly, you will be in better position to solve the problems.
There are many examples when leaders turned the fortunes of their companies only through their sheer hard work and confidence. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Isaac Perlmutter and Doug Conant are some of the leaders who brought their companies back from the brink of disaster.
They were always confident and optimistic about the future of their respective companies and worked day and night to attain the success they enjoy today.
Taking about optimism, it is a key attribute of any great leader. A pessimistic leader can be one of the biggest disasters for any company or organization. Optimists are responsible for starting some of the biggest businesses of the modern world ranging from Microsoft to Google. Everyone knows the story of KFC as well.
An optimistic leader always sees opportunity in most adverse of the circumstances whereas a pessimistic leader sees despair and negativity in even in most favorable conditions.
Optimists never let problems and adversaries deter their determination and impose hurdles on their imaginations. Nothing dissuades them to take steps that ultimately benefit not only their subordinates but the society in general. Quoting Winston Churchill once again:
“Optimists see opportunities in every difficulty.”
Optimistic leaders never allow negativity, fear and uncertainty to overwhelm them. They have successful mindset by default. They will fight till their last breath and leave no stone unturned to attain the success they dream of.
Arnold H Glasow explained accountability beautifully when he said:
“A good leader takes little more than his share of the blame and little less than his share of the credit.”
When it comes to accountability, a great leader ensures everyone in the team is accountable for his actions and decisions. If they are doing a good job, he always encourages and rewards them.
On the other hand, he needs to make them realize their mistakes if they are struggling to live up to his expectations. Similarly, he also works with them to resolve the problems instead of alienating himself from the whole process.
A great leader also takes responsibility for his actions. He never blames others if something goes wrong because of him. Similarly, he seldom seeks rewards but always appreciates the entire team for the success of any project undertaken by him.
Such leaders are always efficient and productive in their decisions. They understand the value of organizational rules and regulations but also encourage individuality. They are expert in taking appropriate actions while balancing different viewpoints and maintaining accountability.
9. CHARACTER AND CHARISMA
Whether a leader needs to have charisma or not is a matter of heated debate. However, history proves that charismatic leaders tend to be more effective. There are many factors which make a charismatic leader so popular and authoritative. People are drawn towards leaders with a strong personality and charisma.
Charismatic leaders exude confidence; they are creative and think out of the box, they are optimist and determined and most importantly, have a strong vision to follow.
Most leaders classified as charismatic also have strong physical presence. Their body postures are perfect; their body language excellent and their communication spotless. They are also comfortable speaking in front of large crowds.
Some of the examples of the Charismatic leaders the world has scene relatively recently are Imran Khan (the current Prime Minister of Pakistan), Barrack Obama, Winston Churchill, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Almost 50% of employers around the globe are indifferent or dissatisfied with their current jobs. Therefore, the number of employees staying at one company for years is reducing by every passing day.
However, it does not mean the concept of loyalty has breathed his last. It is the actually the responsibility of the leader to cultivate loyalty among his subordinates and encourage them to keep working for their current organization.
If you want your employees to stay, you have to develop a certain leadership style. For instance, you should act as a motivator in addition to striving hard to improve the lives of your subordinates. You should treat them as your friends rather than just as your employees. You should help them develop professionally as well as personally. You also need to trust them and impart a sense of duty and ownership to them as well.
Finally, you need to be a sincere and effective leader. Gone are the days when employees would tolerate arrogant leaders. You need to be polite and little bit clever to win their heart and loyalty for years to come.
11. DECISION POWER
Every leader has to make difficult and unwanted decisions at some stage of his career. However, a leader should be able to perfectly analyze the situation, trust his intuition and draw on his experience to make decisions that produce the desired results in both the short and long term.
Decision making is one of the most important components of leadership. A leader has to take countless decisions every day. A good leader should be comfortable in taking right decisions at the right time.
A wrong decision can have serious ramifications for your business but you need to learn from the mistakes rather than being bogged down by them.
You must need to learn how to make tough decisions quickly in order for your business to survive and thrive.
As a good leader, you should be able to take decisions alone or seek advice from your team whenever necessary. It is better to have experts and trusted advisors around yourself to make the decision making process easier and smoother. A great leader does everything possible to take the right decision.
Finally, he ensures that the decision is implemented in its true spirit as well.
Most good leaders develop anadorablepersonality and are always humble towards other people, especially their followers and subordinates. These leaders are never arrogant and take criticism as opportunity for further growth. They are always thankful and show gratitude for their position in the society. This in turn, develops a soft spot in the public for them and people start to look towards them as messiah.
A humble leader is also able to contain his ego. He happens to be more realistic towards his problems and strive hard to resolve them. He realizes that he does not know all the answers. He never hesitates to seek help and is always willing to learn. He never lets his pride create hurdles for him. He always shares credit where it is due and as a result, manages to achieve his objectives successfully.
Needless to say, great leaders are always passionate. Their enthusiasm enables them to surmount greatest of hurdles thrown their way and come out of the field with the flying colors.
A good leader cares about his goals and leaves no stone unturned to achieve them. Nothing in this world can deter him from reaching his destination no matter how perilous the journey is. His boundless passion and energy help him eventually get where he always wanted to be.
Great leaders also ignite passion among their followers. When you are passionate about something, it will definitely be visible and others will start doing the same. An enthusiastic leader inspires others to work hard, take action and never lose hope. Timeline of success is not important for such people. They strongly believe that if you keep looking for what you want, you will eventually get it.
14. STRATEGY AND SELF MAINTENANCE
“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite: it’s the starting point.” Henry Mintzberg
Strategic planning comes naturally to great leaders. It is one of the most importantleadership strengths you should work hard to develop. Great leaders can accurately anticipate market trends; they have wonderful foresight and they can suggest what to do well in advance. They are genuinely curious and interested in the welfare and betterment of their company as well.
Such leaders are way ahead of their competitors when it comes to anticipating changes based on current circumstances and market conditions. They can predict where the market will be in next 3, 6 or 12 months. Their ability to plan strategically helps them outwit their competitors and win the race.
Great leaders also manage to maintain themselves successfully. They set clear goals and prioritize them according to conditions and their own personal objectives.Goodsleaders also manage to regulate their emotions, attention and of course, time. Most importantly, they are aware of their biases as well as strengths and weaknesses.
15. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
Effective communication is another important attribute of good leaders. They know when it is time to speak and when it is time remain silent and listen to others. Their communication abilities are immaculate.
They can explain succinctly what they need from their employees and what company’s mission and goals are. They are always specific about their demands, making it easier for their employees to understand their requirements and act accordingly.
You must enhance your communication abilities for all levels. Whether you are talking to an individual, your team or a large crowd, your words should exhibit your confidence, knowledge and your passion for the organization.
Similarly, it is also imperative for you to master the art of using emails, telephone and social media for effective communication. You must be able to exchange ideas through your conversations and therefore, you should be comfortable meeting people from all fields of life.
16. TEAM BUILDING
A great leader always builds a team he can trust. Great leaders lead by example but they also empower their team members to shine and rise through the ranks. In fact, a leader is nothing without his team.
Building a team of like-minded people is one of the most important moves a leader can make. The team helps a leader better solve the problems in addition with improving the overall productivity of individual members.
Similarly, a good leader tries to develop a team comprising of people with all kinds of skill sets and personalities. It enables all of them to learn from each other and develop strong social bonds benefiting both the individuals and organization. A good leader also fosters communication among team members. He also keeps on motivating them by clearly reminding them about company’s goals and missions.
17. LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Good leaders always lead by example. They are the hardest working and committed members of any team. They always honor their promises and commitments and set an example for their followers. They are aware of the fact that they need to be genuinely interested in the welfare of their organization if they want their subordinates to give their best as well.
Great leaders employ different techniques to lead from the front. For instance, they always walk their talks and never back away from their promises. They are always truthful and take full responsibility of their actions. Such leaders are industrious and try to find solutions to the problems themselves before asking others for assistance.
Similarly, they take special care of their health and inspire greatness in their team as well.
18. THEY TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Good leaders always take responsibility and never ever blame others if anything goes wrong. They do realize that in the case of any failure or misshape, they have to admit their mistakes instead of holding others responsible for the mess. You can only expect your employees to be honest if you set a good example by holding yourself accountable for your own actions.
It is also pertinent to mention that good leaders never hide behind lame excuses. On the other hand, they try to identify the root cause of the problem and find its solutions. This helps them enhance their integrity and prove themselves as more trustworthy as well.
19. THEY ARE INSPIRATIONAL
It is extremely difficult for any person to persuade others to do something and leaders are no different. Again, you have to set a great example if you want others to follow you.
Your followers or subordinates look towards you for inspiration. The result will be sheer disappointment and panic if you are not able to come up with any viable solution to their problems. On the other hand, they will fall in love with you if you handle the situation professionally and effectively.
A great inspirational leader always thinks positively and this positivity reflects from his every action. He does not get emotional and remains calm in most adverse of the circumstances. He never loses hope and keeps on motivating his team and followers as well. According to the words of John Quincy Adams, you are only a leader:
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.”
20. CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION
According to Steve Jobs, perhaps the greatest business leader of the 20th and 21st century, it is actually the innovation which separates a leader from a follower. A leader must not only be creative but innovative as well in order to succeed. You can only beat the competition and stand out from the rest if you and your team are extremely creative and innovative at the same time.
You need to be creative as a leader and come up with really unique ideas. Similarly, you also need to be innovative enough to implement those ideas in the form of a new product, a solution to a long lasting problem or simply a process.
You need to have a slightly different perspective from others and think out of the box. That is what Steve Jobs did during his life and achieved the level of unprecedented success others can only dream about.
21. THEY CREATE LONG LASTING RELATIONSHIPS
A good leader does much more than just leading from the front and being inspirational for others. They manage to compel their employees to work wholeheartedly to achieve a common goal that is the success of the organization they are working for. They give value to their employees and appreciate their good work.
They make their subordinates feel that whatever they are doing does make a difference to the company and its leaders. As a result, they feel more invigorated and work even harder to take their company to new heights of success.
Similarly, great leaders are exceptional at networking with others. This is important if you want to advance your own career as well as further promote and benefit your organization. Good Leaders manage to establish long lasting relations not only with customers but also with partners and clients through a vast network of people, and that is their secret to success.
22. THEY DEAL WITH CONFLICTS EFFECTIVELY
A good leader should always be able to deal with conflicts effectively if he wants to work effortlessly with people. You will always face conflicts and you should be good at dealing with them.
Different people manage things differently. You will be doing a great favor to yourself by recognizing this fact sooner rather than later.
Similarly, try to ensure that all the conflicts within your team do not turn out to be counterproductive. Keep in mind that you can only harness the best ideas and performance out of your team by successfully resolving internal and external conflicts.
In order to make a name for yourself as a leader, you need to have all of above mentioned qualities. Otherwise, things can get really rough and tough for you. You have to be compassionate, honest and passionate while also showing a great deal of integrity, empathy and commitment to your task.
You also need to develop your decision making and communication skills in addition to being more creative and innovative. Only then you will be able to make a mark in a crowded world of leadership.