How Good Leaders Lead
Great leaders are needed to shape our organizations, communities, and nations. They each possess certain qualities that can be summarised by the ability to motivate and influence other people towards a common goal. Leaders need to have courage, vision, humility, foresight, and integrity.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of clear leadership in the world. According to the World Economic Forum survey of 1,767 experts, 86% agreed that we are facing a global leadership crisis.
The results are similar to those found by Edelman’s annual survey of popular trust in business and government leaders.
They all agree that the world needs better and more effective leaders to handle the issues of our times in government, universities, and corporations.
All leaders have distinguishing characteristics, but they all share some common traits and qualities. Some of them are summarised below.
An effective leader has to have the courage to take chances to reach desired goals. It's not comfortable to risk being unsuccessful without any clear assurance of success.
Being a courageous leader is not easy. It is a necessary characteristic because it fosters trust and sets an example for others to follow. Some traits of courageous leaders:
- Not afraid to ask for feedback even if it is negative
- Able to communicate effectively and have necessary conversations, even if they are uncomfortable
- Are not afraid to change the status quo when there is a better viable alternative
- Able to clearly view what is real and true even when it isn’t positive
- Give credit where credit is due, especially when someone else deserves it
- Able to make decisions and act on them
- Capable of holding others and themselves accountable
- Encourage healthy debate and constructive criticism to promote effective team participation
Be a Visionary
A leader has to be able to see the bigger picture and understand the best direction and most effective way to get there. They need to be able to make concrete and clear goals that will benefit the entity they are leading.
To be effective, a leader needs to strike a balance between growth and stability and not be afraid to make changes or use new approaches.
Organizations will benefit from leaders who have good mentoring skills.
According to Walter Schindler, a corporate law expert with nearly 40 years of experience as an attorney with expertise in clean technology venture capital firms, good mentoring can help you at every stage of life. It is what enables people to develop maturity as a leader.
Those companies that have a reputation for developmental and professional opportunities coupled with leaders and managers who mentor and help their teams thrive will attract the best talent.
Leaders who empower team members with the skills needed to deal with changing realities who work together towards a common goal will reap the rewards.
They will develop a team of highly skilled, engaged, and agile employees who work together to help the business succeed.
Mentors provide encouragement, inspire others, and give moral support to those they lead. It's a win-win situation.
Dependable and Responsible
It is imperative that a leader be responsible for both his actions as well as inactions. A leader is also ultimately responsible for the actions and inactions of those whom he leads.
When a bad decision is made, a good leader will accept responsibility for it, analyze why it was not effective, and look for better solutions. Team members need to know that their leaders are responsible enough to handle any situation.
It is also vital that leaders can be depended upon to do their part to get a job done or reach a goal. They support team members especially in rough times and work with others to meet common goals for the benefit of everyone and the organization.
Excellent Communication Skills
The ability to communicate effectively is helpful in all aspects of life including leadership. Being a good leader means knowing when to talk and when to listen. Listening is a vital component of communication in that it makes it a two-way street.
For a team to have a clear understanding of tasks and goals, a leader must be able to explain expectations, procedures, responsibilities, and processes succinctly.
Effective communication involves not only verbal interactions but also written exchanges.
Any goal worth reaching is going to hit some bumps in the road along the way. It's common to feel frustrated and defeated, but as a leader, you can’t let these negative feelings show.
Your team should see you as being able to deal with whatever is handed to you with patience and persistence to get past any obstacles that get in your way.
Think and Act Strategically
Having an open-minded and forward-thinking approach to your goals is necessary to be an effective leader.
According to a Harvard Business Publishing report, Leading Now: Critical Capabilities for a Complex World, today's leaders must learn how to deal with the exceedingly complex business landscape.
They identified eight leadership capabilities that have the most impact on success including the ability to act strategically.
To think strategically, a leader needs to be able to assess the business environment on an ongoing basis as markets are continuously changing. Strategic thinking is cultivated by:
- Keeping a positive outlook
- Having a flexible mindset
- Being open to new ideas and approaches
- Focusing on your organization's future goals and working towards achieving them
Great leaders need to have a clear understanding of the opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses of the organization they lead.
They will be able to change direction when necessary and have the ability to assess how the tasks, projects, and processes they are currently pursuing fit into the overall goals of their organization.
Self-Awareness and Trustworthiness
It is imperative that a leader be authentic and trustworthy to those they lead. Being able to recognize and understand one’s flaws as well as strengths is necessary.
Every leader has unique qualities that don't fit into any mold. Embrace what makes you different and effective and develop your own leadership style.
Great leaders come from all walks of life. Most of them have had to overcome difficult obstacles and face failures along the way. Below are some examples of both historical and recent effective leaders:
- Abraham Lincoln is known for his courageous acts to keep the nation together and end slavery by signing the Emancipation Proclamation.
- Helen Keller showed tremendous courage by overcoming being deaf and blind to help improve how society treated the blind or deaf-blind.
- Martin Luther King showed incredible strength and courage in fighting against racial discrimination and supporting civil rights.
- Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, although known as abrasive, also encouraged and nurtured innovation and creativity from others.
- Walt Disney, leader of the most profitable entertainment company, had many different leadership styles that changed over the years to match the needs of the times and the market.
One of the best ways to be an effective leader is to lead by example. Practice what you preach, accept responsibility, and have the courage to make decisions and act upon them.
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