Whether you are already in a leadership position or you have aspirations to become a leader, there is always room for improvement when it comes to leadership skills and abilities. Making the leap from a good to a great leader, takes dedication, self-awareness, having an open-mind, relentless, and more importantly, introspection. Without the ability to analyze your skills, qualities, and characteristics as a leader and then making adjustments, changing or improving, you cannot become a better or more effective leader.
So how do you know if you have what it takes to be a great leader? The qualities listed below may help you in making that determination:
1. Great communication and interpersonal skills: Everything we do today whether at home or work, involves some type of communication; emails, reports, budget requests, client presentations, or phone conversations, are very much of our office landscape. Leaders must master the ability to communicate effectively with their teams, superiors, peers, vendors, and clients in order to get things accomplished and the intended results. In addition, without interpersonal skills, leaders could not motivate, coach, or mentor their employees and could not get employee buy-in and collaboration.
2. Ability to Develop/Mentor Employees: One of the most important responsibilities of leaders is to help their employees reach their potential and perform at highest levels. Great leaders have the ability to recognize potential in their employees and take the time to mentor, guide, and cheer-on their employees; for great leaders, succession planning is not just another organizational objective, but a personal goal and mission.
3. Positive Attitude: A leader is the face of the company and also serves as a ‘mirror’ for employees; since attitude is contagious, it is paramount leaders always keep in check their mood and outlook, remaining vigilant and aware of the language they use or the emotions they display. Employees are sensitive and receptive to their leader’s emotions so it is best to keep personal emotions in check at all times.
4. Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand one’s emotions, recognizing one’s feelings, and using their emotions in a positive manner rather than allowing negative emotions to surface or take over. Leaders with high emotional intelligence not only understand their own emotions but also their employees’, thus being more emphatic and understanding; they are less impulsive when making decisions or reacting when something negative happens and have high situational awareness.
5. Lead by Example: Most employees want their leader to understand their tasks, care about their performance and work load, and even pitch in whenever they are overwhelmed. Even though your plate may be full, it is important to let your employees know there is nothing they are doing you would not do and if needed, you could jump in and roll your sleeves to help them. As a leader, you must also display all the attributes, skills, and behaviors you want in your employees so they can follow your example.
6. Manages Employee Performance Effectively: Even though the company may have organizational goals and objectives, it is equally important to share your expectations with your employees so they are aware of acceptable/unacceptable behaviors, goals for the unit/department, and responsibilities they have. Communicating your expectations in a clear and concise manner always allows for seamless communication and leaves little room for interpretation.
7. Are Genuine and Charismatic: Great leaders are not only likeable but they are also genuine. Employees (and for that matter everyone as well) can feel when someone is insincere, don’t have their best interest at heart, and are selfish. Employees tend to usually follow those leaders who are more likeable, easy to talk to, and easy to work for even though they may have higher expectations at the same time.
8. Have a Vision: Great leaders are visionaries, they see the global picture, and strategically choose the best path to arrive at the desired destination. Without a clear vision, they cannot motivate their employees to accomplish organizational goals and objectives and the journey would be unclear.
9. Competent: There is nothing more damaging to a leader and disappointing for employees than an incompetent leader. Socrates once said: the “one who clearly knows best what ought to be done will most easily gain the obedience of the others;” leaders must have confidence in their own abilities and show their employees they are good at what they are doing so the employees trust and follow them.
10. Integrity and Accountability: Without integrity and accountability, there is no great leadership. Leaders define organizational culture and they set the tone; everything a leader does or says is followed and scrutinized by others and they shape the values of an organization. Not just great leaders, but all leaders must have integrity to build a trustworthy relationship with their employees and must also be accountable. Leaders cannot hold others accountable if they do not hold themselves accountable first; they must take responsibility for the successes and failures of their teams in addition to their own. Without these two valued characteristics, no one can lead with greatness.
There are more traits that employees value in great leaders but most are related to one of the categories above and the beauty is that most can be developed with time and determination to become better. So what kind of leader are you today or what kind of leader are you aspiring to be?