The leadership traits that set the great apart from good are the traits that often take a long time to exemplify to others. It takes a focus and consistency from the beginning to be seen as a great leader. But leaders that plant the seeds of successful leadership traits can grow to greatness. It takes the right seeds, soil, water, and sunshine. It’s not a quick fix, but a metamorphosis over time. Given the right conditions, this can be a natural progression.
Here are 14 leadership traits to nurture great leadership:
- Honesty. Trust is one of the most important qualities in a great leader. Honesty is noticed and appreciated. Honesty builds trust. To be seen as an honest leader takes consistency in your actions and words over time. This takes a mindset dedicated to the long-term. You must always be aware of this and stay true to your values, even when it is difficult to do so.
- Talent spotting. Successful leaders can spot the different talents of their team members. Paying closer attention to others strengths is a good lesson for life or business. The ability to see what traits a person has, and how they can best be leveraged takes time and knowledge of different styles to develop. One helpful tool is the communication styles survey developed by Leading Resources, Inc. which gives you an idea of how someone thinks. You can learn to quickly identify people’s primary and even secondary styles. This helps when you are looking for specific types of people to work on projects best suited for them.
- Motivational. Great leaders inspire their workforce and encourage employees. Instead of monitoring every solitary task, try to focus more on motivating the team to perform at their best. Assign tasks that play to each individual’s strengths, and highlight their growth more than their mistakes. “When you teach a man (or woman) to fish…” they can do more than if you give them a fish each day. Think of mistakes as opportunities to inspire someone to grow and learn. Value their honesty in coming to you, even if they make a mistake.
- Humility. Even the best leaders make mistakes. The great leaders are the ones who can own and learn from them. It shows that you are humble and have flaws like everyone else. Practice these lessons on yourself with your self-talk to improve how you coach and teach others to practice these lessons for themselves. When employees make mistakes, an effective leader will turn it into a teachable moment rather than offer criticism. Talking about what happened and telling this to everyone else can turn into a great talk on preventing similar mistakes from happening in the future.
- Clarity. Great leaders know the business goals they want to achieve. Their goals align well with the organizational core values, and they can explain why it gives a competitive edge in a few sentences, noting the three or four strategies to achieve their goal as well as the bumps to expect along the road. Focus on the overall strategy and the execution. If you are not working towards a goal you believe in, lack of enthusiasm for work will show. If the goals don’t align with the culture or values, employees will feel it. A lack of purpose and disengagement is a big issue for all companies. Showing that you care enough to focus on these intangibles builds up trust in the background, and helps your organization come out on top.
- Team-oriented. Successful leaders build great teams that work well together. Be there when people need to speak to you about problems and answer questions honestly, but give your workers and teams autonomy to work through their problems and figure out how to execute. Your workers should be able to work without you interfering too much. Pressure and hand-holding both downgrade performance. While it is important to “inspect what you expect” it’s also important to make sure people have opportunities to flex their minds and creativity.
- Confident and uncertain. The highest rated leaders are confident but uncertain at the same time. Confidence is important. But leaders that are confident and certain are often rated poorly. You must take some risks, but leave the door open to listen. You may be quite capable of making decisions quickly using the available information and your own intuition, but it still builds trust if you also show you are listening to contrasting opinions.
- Effective communication. This is probably the single most important trait of being a great leader. Failing to let people know all pertinent information is counterproductive to the team. Transparency builds trust. Failure to communicate also makes you appear incompetent. Build systems of communication that promote communication that flows up, down, and across the organization. Avoid systems that create bottlenecks.
- Developmental delegation. It’s impossible for you to take on every task alone. Ultimately, you are as good as the rest of your team, so be sure everyone plays more and more essential roles. Often new leaders or managers get stuck doing the same work they used to do, but delegation is one of the keys to great leadership. Learn to delegate, learn to accept less than 100%, knowing that where someone may lack, they can also grow, and in time you’ll create a workforce that exceeds your expectations.
- Inspirational. Truly inspirational leaders organize the business plan and set the bar high. Your company’s productivity will increase when you concisely and clearly communicate expectations. And as Steve Jobs said:
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
- Humble. A great leader is aware of his or her own weaknesses and strengths. They evaluate their effectiveness often. Assessing one’s own weaknesses and strengths not only opens up growth opportunities but shows strength in humility and provides a standard for employees to follow. When employees see you working on your flaws, it builds that essential respect and trust.
- Passionate. Great leaders are passionate about their work. Employees value their leaders when they see enthusiasm about the organization or even individual tasks. If you can accomplish this, that positivity will spread, and your employees will be passionate too. Always remember that you are being watched and copied whether you want to or not. A positive attitude and a drive to push on can inspire people to match that energy.
- Empowering. Empower others to reach higher levels by giving them tasks to them. This on-the-job learning is what creates real and meaningful growth, more than training programs or leadership coaching. Employees are given a chance to shine when you delegate important tasks. Delegate tasks that build on strengths or help develop skills essential to the success of the organization. One of the best ways to retain employees is to help them with professional development.
- Fun. Promote fun at work. While everyone needs to work hard to get the job done, there is always time in the week to relax the rules a little bit. Use this downtime as a window to have some fun.
The business world succeeds because of great leaders. I hope this information helps add some perspective on the long-term mindset you must have from the beginning to become a great leader. Keep reminding yourself of these core principles and you will be well on the way to planting the seeds of great leadership.
What are other important traits of great leadership?