Good leaders are, quite simply, good for business. They’re the key to a happy working environment, a productive team and, as such, a profitable company.
Some people are born leaders, others are made. Whatever the case (whether you’ve been elected or appointed as your team or department’s leader or you want to prove your worth to your company for an upcoming promotion), there are some essential qualities and characteristics that you need to possess to be an effective and successful leader.
Without confidence in your abilities as a leader, as well as the abilities of those around you, you may find yourself lacking followers – which is kind of an essential component of leadership. After all, it’s easier to trust someone who exhibits confidence (not to be confused with arrogance) than someone who has a history of panicking and giving up at the first sign of struggle. Sadly, this is one of those things that you either have or don’t have, but the good news is that it’s something that can be learned.
Imagine you’re on a dinner date with your crush and they’ve been browsing the menu for the better part of half an hour trying to decide what to eat. Just when you think they’re finally ready to order, they go and change their mind at the last minute for the umpteenth time. Now imagine being led by someone just as indecisive as your (by now former) crush. Exactly: it’s impossible. No one in their right mind would follow someone who is unable to make decisions and who hesitates to act in tough situations; they follow those who commit and who are unafraid of making difficult decisions.
While managers don’t exactly charge into battles on horseback, it can certainly feel like it sometimes. A courageous leader is one who is prepared to take risks, share unpopular opinions, give difficult feedback and raise difficult issues. Often, they are also someone who is able to admit to their own mistakes. And although fearlessness is a trait only few people truly possess, it’s not impossible to develop a habit of showing enormous courage at crucial moments – Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter is a prime example of this.
Great leaders think outside the box. They challenge the status quo, and they come up with unconventional ideas and concepts that others consider too risky or absurd. They’re imaginative and they’re able to quickly and efficiently analyse problems and offer solutions. And they’re essential not only for the success of a company but also its survival.
Where others might think a project or task is too difficult or impossible, a good leader faces those challenges with enthusiasm and positive energy. By being a source of positivity and creating a culture of optimism and a happy and relaxed atmosphere in the workplace, they effectively help the company keep going. Even in the worst situations, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to solve problems and keep the team motivated. Even things like treating team members to cupcakes on a Friday afternoon or having a great sense of humour go a long way!
What do Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton and Richard Branson all have in common? They have a clear idea of where they’re going and what they’re trying to accomplish. And that’s exactly what makes a great business leader: they have a vivid picture of where their company is headed, they articulate those goals to others (this is kind of essential if you want the entire to work towards a common goal) and they commit to achieving them.
Effective communication in the workplace is what, really, makes team members feel appreciated – and a good manager knows (and practises) this. They encourage communication between team members (both, in person and virtual), they listen (and really listen) to them and their ideas (without interrupting), and they clearly and succinctly present expectations, explain circumstances and justify decisions taken.
To be successful in your endeavours, as any CEO will tell you, is to remain focused on the goals of your team and organisation. Life is full of distractions, so it’s essential that you always remain on track. You can achieve this by planning ahead, being organised, thinking multiple scenarios and developing alternative solutions, as well as establishing processes and routines to maintain high performance and meet your goals.
Passion and enthusiasm are contagious in the workplace. In other words, when a leader is passionate about a project or task, so too will be the team they lead. Whatever it is that you’re passionate or that you care about, be it writing or conducting scientific experiments, make sure that your team knows about it. Inspire your people and empower them.
If you’ve ever worked under a manager who was nervous, frantic or angry, the last thing you’d probably describe them is ‘good leader’. A good leader is actually someone who remains calm, composed and steadfast in even the most stressful situation, and it is this that commands respect and admiration from others.
Being humble doesn’t mean you’re weak or unsure of yourself. On the contrary, it shows that you have the self-awareness and self-confidence to recognise the value of others. In other words, you need to contain your ego, accept that you don’t have the answers for everything and be willing to accept criticism as an opportunity for professional and personal growth.
People tend to respect those who are honest and have integrity. A good leader fits the bill perfectly here: they are ethical and believe that honesty, effort, transparency and reliability are what makes a team, department or especially a whole company successful. In other words, treat people the way you want to be treated.
One of the most valuable traits a leader can have is the ability to understand people and empathise with them. Being compassionate and understanding how your actions and decisions affect people will, in turn, generate a huge amount of loyalty, as well as productivity and engagement from your team.
While imitating others is said to be the greatest form of flattery (as Madonna, albeit sarcastically, spoke about Lady Gaga), there’s no room for it in leadership. No one’s telling you that you shouldn’t learn from others and be inspired by them, but it’s important that you don’t lose your own voice. Be true to yourself, your beliefs and your values, as well as those of the organisation.
Holding yourself accountable and responsible for your decisions and mistakes essentially helps others do the same. This, in effect, helps create an efficient and productive team. This means that you don’t blame others and you certainly don’t blame things that were out of your control.
What do you think makes a great leader? Can you think of any other essential qualities and traits? Join the conversation down below and let us know!
Don’t forget to check out these 15 tips on how to be a better boss!