If you search for “leadership” in the books section of Amazon, you’ll get more than 80,000 options, at least at the time of this writing. That’s a lot of ideas on what makes for a great leader. Or is it? Is it possible that there are just a few different ideas on great leadership qualities with many different avenues for getting there?
Most experts agree on at least some of the key tenets to being an effective leader. So, here’s our take on 7 key leadership traits.
Good leaders have purpose. They know they’re here for a reason and they live accordingly. They approach both their personal and business lives with calling and passion. They don’t just set goals around how much money they want to make — they focus on how they can make their world a better place when they’re gone and strive for constant improvement for themselves and those around them.
Growth and excitement don’t happen by accident. They happen when leaders set a vision for the future, convince the team members to come along, then lead the group past obstacles to achieve that future. They engage their teams at a core level to make them not just willing participants but joyful contributors in the vision for the future.
One of the most important traits for a successful leader is to see the value in each and every person. They recognize each person’s gifts and don’t get hung up on hierarchy as a source of assigning value. They know that some of the best ideas can come from the front lines and that sometimes fresh perspective is more valuable than experience.
In their personal lives, they treat members of all social classes with respect and dignity, striving to make each interaction a positive one. They prioritize relationships and hold themselves accountable for being fully present in every conversation.
Effective leaders see themselves as servants to those around them. They consider it their mission to help each team member continuously improve, and they take an interest in their personal lives as well as their business interests.
By recognizing the needs of the individual team members, good leaders are able to increase the team’s power. They go out of their way to check in with each person, striving to understand their circumstances and challenges and helping them overcome any sticking points.
When someone understands the big picture of leadership, they recognize their responsibilities to help each person and challenge them to be better. They know that the group’s individual and joint contributions are ultimately a reflection of their leadership abilities.
An effective leader understands that no one person can ever achieve the desired goals. They recognize that “we” is always greater than “I” and know how to tap into each person’s contributions. They invest in the team to foster connection, build trust, and help individual team members get to know each other personally as well as professionally.
When looking to bring in new talent, the strong team leader takes their time and avoids settling for anything less than stellar. They understand that maintaining a strong team means supporting a healthy culture with strong talent and trust for each other.
Understanding that even the best teams will have missteps, good leaders encourage their teams to hold each other accountable and be willing to honestly and openly talk through mistakes as a team. This is of course in addition to recognizing and celebrating each others’ wins.
Great leaders know that success lies not in being the best, but in surrounding yourself with those who are or can be better than you and by working alongside them in respect and partnership.
To quote Tom Clancy (who admittedly paraphrased others), “Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die.” Anyone who decides they know what they need to know and are content to rest on their laurels will find themselves falling behind very quickly. Further, research has shown that people who continue to learn and grow and set goals for themselves are happier.
Effective leaders know how much there is out there that they don’t know—yet! They are always looking to learn more, whether it’s about the industry, about people, or even developing skills as part of a hobby. By acknowledging how much they have to learn, leaders free themselves to ask for help and input from those around them. They take themselves out of the position of having to be the “answer man” and instead get to be the one asking smart questions of others and allowing them to shine with their contributions.
Popular business author Harvey MacKay said “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” One of the most important traits of leadership is the recognition of time as fleeting. Strong leadership means steering your team from busy work and unimportant tasks to focus on the really important challenges facing the business. They make tough calls regarding their own schedule, saying no to activities that don’t engage them or further the team’s goals.
They aren’t always available, but when they are available, they are truly present. They make it a point to be fully invested in whatever they are doing, which they can do since they are choosing those activities carefully. They also build time into their days, weeks, months, and years for regular reflection and strategy. They invest intentionally in relationships and make sure each member knows that personal connection is valuable to them and worth that investment of time.
When you think about your leadership qualities, how do they stack up to these? Are you living up to your goals and expectations for yourself? Where do you feel you are falling short?
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