* Great leaders have a deeply rooted sense of a clear vision and a passion to succeed. As John Maxwell said, “The leader finds a dream, and then the people. The people find the leader, and then the dream.” The old saying pertains – “you must stand for something, or you’ll fall for everything”. Leaders should have an incurable passion to succeed and become the best. Failure is not an option.
* Great leaders have courage. The quality of courage means that you are willing to take risks in achievement of your goals with no assurance of success. Because there is no certainty in life or in business, every commitment you make and every action you take entails a risk of some kind. Courage is the most identifiable trait of a great leader. As Churchill said: “Courage is rightly considered the foremost of virtues, for upon it, all others depend”.
* Great leaders have confidence and a positive attitude. Sometimes things do not go according to plan. Setbacks are natural and the important point is to focus on the larger goal. Staying calm and confident as a leader, putting out the fires, encourages the team to do the same. The key objective is to keep everyone working and moving ahead.
* Great leaders surround themselves with the right people and develop a strong team who share their vision and whom they can trust to develop and grow the business without being leant on. Identifying and attracting the right people, as well as retaining them, and believing in them, is a special skill of exceptional leaders.
* Great leaders are inspirational in communicating their passion and fuelling the team towards the goals – and then continue to inspire them. To build an extraordinary team, you’ve got to “light the fire in their bellies”, to get them to feel the passion about the company and connect to your vision. Passion is such a key part of being a great leader that if you don’t have it – you simply can’t be a great leader.
* Great leaders are definitely results-orientated. Ultimately leadership is about encouraging your team to accomplish your goals. It is what defines whether a leader is successful or not. It is what pushes leaders to be creative in solving problems and to persist in the face of obstacles.
* Great leaders lead by example. They do things they talk about — walk the talk. Especially in tough times the best leaders don’t just ask others to make sacrifices – they are the first to put their shoulders to the wheel. Strength under fire is what teams notice and remember.
* Great leaders are terrific motivators. We all need a little nudge from time to time. Great leaders know when to provide that needed encouragement. Not just inspiring motivation but urging and, if necessary, forcing. The best leaders take time to know what motivates each different team member. Combining that knowledge with team cultural dynamics makes for a powerful motivational recipe.
* Great mangers have a sense of humour. Morale is linked to productivity and it is the leader’s job to instil a positive energy. That’s where a sense of humour pays off. Encourage the team to learn from their mistakes rather than crying. Find humour in the struggles and you will find the team will be in a healthy and happy place. Cracking jokes with the team keeps commitment, productivity and morale at high levels.
* Great leaders pay huge attention to the small details. Not in a looking-over-your-shoulder aspect, but in all the small touches that others would not tend to think about. A clear desk and set-up for new arrivals; fresh flowers in appropriate environments; answering emails and messages the same day; remembering birthdays, families, high days and holidays. All of these “small touches” bolster the feeling of appreciations and motivation in the team.
I mused that I knew many leaders who had all of these characteristics in buckets and spades.
How, as leaders, can we embrace these essential traits? Where do you see your strengths and where do you know you can take yourself to the next level?