What is leadership?
Leadership can be defined as the ability of an individual (group of individuals) to influence and steer followers or other members of an organization. Leadership is about making decisions (sometimes impossible ones), creating, spreading, and developing a clear vision and mission, setting goals, and granting followers the proper tools to achieve those goals.
A good leader is not a boss. His primary purpose is not to give orders left and right but to empower people to reach their maximum potential and inspire them day by day. A great leader to take up challenges that will generate organizational renewal.
"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult." -Warren Bennis, leadership guru
Let’s talk about the most important leadership qualities and skills to look for in a great leader:
Integrity is the pillar of all other leadership qualities. You can’t expect your people to be honest if you lack integrity. A good leader leads by example, does what’s right in any situation, and sticks to their word, no matter how hard things become. Integrity is about treating your team right, equally, and advocating for the company’s values. It’s also about apologizing when you make mistakes, offering feedback and appreciation to your team members, and not emphasizing your effort and work too much.
Excellent communication is crucial to good leadership.
A great leader knows how to deliver a message and how to choose the right words. They are not only good orators but also good listeners because listening is about creating a bond and trust with your people.
Communicating effectively will allow you to express yourself fully and boost empathy with other people, which is an essential trait for leadership.
Great leaders are highly motivated, proactive and they strongly believe in the company’s vision. It’s a contagious passion, which can only affect others also.
In his 2009 book, "Drive," Daniel Pink proposes a new motivational framework that better fits today's creative and innovative workplaces. The NYTimes bestseller author argues that most businesses have failed to upgrade their ineffective “carrot-and-stick” motivators. Instead, the work poised to take off in tomorrow’s economy—characterized by non-routine and creative activities—can only flourish when people are given autonomy to pursue mastery with a clear purpose of contributing to something larger than themselves.
Resilience is one of the skills that can be learned from experience and from tough times. A great leader is not seen only in good times, but the one who knows who to surpass the hard ones. When things get complicated, you need to get on board and stand by your team. Resilient leaders can handle themselves in any situation and overcome severe challenges while maintaining their energy levels and positivity.
“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
― Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa
A good leader is an empathetic leader.
They are compassionate and have the skills to connect with others in times of wealth and bad times. An empathetic leader cares about their team’s problems, needs, and hopes and comes to the rescue if someone has issues in performance levels. It’s not about agreeing all the time with other people's views, but about being willing to understand them.
Delegation is a sensitive topic for most leaders. They have to switch from doing to delegating. Doing it all by yourself is not an option. Delegation is the key to boosting productivity and team performance. A good leader has to be less involved but always aware of what is going on in their organization. Delegation is also important because it is a method of empowering your employees and therefore making them feel part of the team and of the mission and vision of the company. Trust your employees to handle the tasks they have to complete, and they’ll trust you to be in charge of vision and strategy.
A visionary leader has an expanded sight and is driven about what can make the company better. They always keep the team updated about the organization’s progress and are not afraid of taking risks if they are key to improvement.
Just having a title will not ensure a leader has influence. Leaders must earn respect at all times. A good leader will improve his level of influence by clearly communicating his desires and objectives, connecting with the team on a more emotional level, or asking for feedback and considering it.
In his classical book Influence, Professor Robert Cialdini says specific triggers can automatically influence human decisions. The six principles are reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
Honesty may be one of the most valued attributes in leaders, regardless of the industry they activate in. A good leader has to be honest with others, but also with himself. People look up to honest leaders who keep their word. You cannot expect your followers to have integrity and honesty if you don’t offer the same back.
Great leaders have to be confident or to develop a high level of confidence if this is not something they were gifted with. You need to be able to manage stressful, unpredicted situations.
Self-confidence is pivotal for leaders because it gives them wings to take risks, overcome challenges, and accomplish goals.
A true leader will not only speak about problems but quickly find a solution.
A great leader has to be optimistic, but setting unrealistic objectives is not desirable. Your team will feel demotivated when feeling they cannot achieve some goals.
Make sure your objectives are reasonable and, at the same time, optimistic so that your team can feel a sense of triumph if they do their best.
Being an accountable leader is never easy. It means you take responsibility not only for your actions but also for your team’s actions. A strong leader will be accountable for the team’s performance, regardless of how low or high.
A good leader will give credit when the time is right and will take the blame if it comes to this. It’s the fastest way to gain your people’s trust.
Even though we speak about this trait at the end of the list, it’s crucial and shouldn’t be shadowed by other skills. A humble leader is aware of their strengths and weaknesses and knows where to work harder for improvement.
Being humble and sensitive with team members will make a leader more relatable and offer an opportunity to gain more trust.
A good leader is also one that has a positive attitude. Don’t exaggerate, don’t overdo it, but people like working for cheerful managers. Even the calmest workplace can be in trouble sometimes, and leaders must react well in these cases.
Being positive is a sign of tenacity, and it’s great to find in a leader.
Great leaders are decisive and know that the organization and their team expect this from them. They have a clear vision and are certain about everything that is in their power and control. They make the best decision by collecting needed data and assessing every situation. A good leader will think long and hard before deciding on strategic matters, but they will stand by it once the decision is made. Remember, people management tools can definitely help you in your decision-making.