We know that great leadership steers the business into the right path to success and eventual success. Some good number of start-up business have crashed along the way because of poor leadership, but on the other hand, successful big brands have enjoyed some great leadership that effectively managed people and resources. To become a good leader is more difficult than certain literature portrays. Sometimes, people still fail to become great leaders even after several years of study as a leader. This raises the question of what makes a leader?
Some say it takes years of concentrated study, while others believe great leaders are born, possessing the inherent gift of leadership. Well, we know it can’t be all study that makes for good leadership. There are certain traits that good leaders are said to possess. A more significant question here is whether all those traits that distinguish leaders from other people are genetically inherited or cultivated through experience and hard work?
Are leaders born or they become leaders in the process?
Recent studies indicate that only 30% of what makes a good leader depends on genetics, while the rest depends on skills which can be learned and improved through training and experience. Furthermore, according to Andersen’s observations, there is a 10–15% of the population that does not have what it takes to become leaders, no matter how hard they try and how well they train themselves. The remaining 85–90% can improve their leadership skills and become good leaders.
Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan conducted research, in which 88,000 managers who attended a leadership development training were carefully observed. The findings of the study suggested that those managers who reflected on their experience in the training program and tried to implement what they learned, became more effective leaders.
Therefore, leadership is not only a matter of good genes, but it also requires a significant amount of training and hard work for potential leaders to exploit their full potential. Let us explore those characteristics a leader should have in order to be considered successful.
Traits and attributes of a good leader
1. Integrity. This can be described as the cornerstone of leadership. Leaders who possess integrity treat their followers with honesty and justice, by following up on their promises and not making discriminations in their judgments. They are consistent with their core values, demonstrating them through their everyday actions. They also possess a strong ethical code, which helps them distinguish right from wrong on a moral perspective.
2. Humility. This is a character that makes leaders open-minded to reflect on their mistakes and learn from others in order to improve. Good leaders put their egos aside to admit their flaws and work on them. To achieve that, they should seek feedback from their followers and fellow leaders.
3. Empathy. This makes a leader understand what his followers are experiencing and share their feelings and emotions, especially when bad news is concerned. However, just being able to understand how someone is feeling may not be enough. Good leaders should act compassionately to try to comfort their followers and reduce the pain they might be experiencing. Taking time to listen to their fears and concerns is a good step towards that direction.
4. Passion. This relates to a person’s drives, motivating him to exert the necessary effort to be successful in his field. Without passion, a leader will not only fail to perform under the expected personal standards, but he will also fail to contribute to his team’s goals. How can a leader persuade his followers about a vision if he does not feel passionate about it in the first place?
5. Good judgment. Leaders should assess different situations and decide the best course of action, while being under constant pressure and sometimes having to face tough decisions, especially in periods of crisis. It is crucial to be able to control their emotions and not let them interfere in the decision-making process. As far as decisions are concerned, stereotypes may be a dangerous trap, clouding the leader’s judgment and therefore need to be dealt with. Good judgment is often the difference between success and failure for a company.
6. Exceptional communication skills. This will help leaders build connections with their followers. Given that we spend around 80% of our workday involved in some form of communication, it would not make sense if we did not try to achieve the best outcomes from this. To do so, we need to start listening carefully to what other people are saying and try to open a productive dialogue with them.
Leaders should lead by example. As role models for other people, leaders should jump into action, understand what is expected of them and live up to those expectations. Through this, not only will they inspire other people to participate actively in the process, but they will also show them the way to be successful. In other words, a good leader his employees to achieve greatness.
Empowering your Employees to achieve greatness
Here are ten ways a good leader empowers his employees to reach their full potentials.
1. Give employees generous boundaries. Define the boundaries within which an employee can make his or her own decisions. In doing so, you give them the freedom to act. For example, if you allow a customer service rep to spend up to 20% of a customer’s annual fees on keeping that customer happy, you enable the rep to solve a problem without consulting a manager.
2. Listen intently. Too many managers try to get employees to say what they want to hear. “Tell me we will hit our sales target.” This is nonsense. It is far wiser to listen carefully for the truth.
3. Believe in your employees. The best managers get outstanding performance from ordinary human beings. If you wait for a team of superstars, you will be waiting forever. Discover what each person does best. Find better ways for people to support each other. Bring people together to promote and encourage each other. Then believe 100% in these partnerships and collaborations.
4. Forgive mistakes. If your team isn’t making mistakes, then you aren’t reaching high enough. But if you punish mistakes, you will encourage overly-conservative behaviour. Establish clear differences between acceptable errors versus mission-critical offences. Example: It is OK to test a new advertising method and discover it does not work; it is never OK to engage in false or deceptive advertising.
5. Provide growth paths. People change. If you don’t give people room to grow, you will force them to either leave your business or grow stagnant. Even if it is inconvenient for you or your business, you must provide robust ways for your employees to grow.
6. Praise effort. Don’t focus on talent; focus on effort. Over the long run, the effort is far more important than talent. Also, by praising effort, you will encourage people to learn and grow, rather than just to stay focused on the one or two things that come easily to them.
7. Ask powerful questions. Instead of making rash demands or constantly telling employees how to do something, try talking less and observing more. Then, when you start actually to understand what’s happening, express your observation in the form of a powerful question. Remember this question, and wait as long as necessary for the right answer.
8. Earn trust. It’s easy to be there for an employee in good times, but will you be there in bad times? Too many companies annihilate their employees in tough times. Layoffs are not OK. Cutting the bottom 10% of your workforce each year is a barbaric practice. Never hire a person unless you are willing to support that person through thick and thin.
9. Give employees time. You can’t always give each employee as much money as they would like, but you generally can provide them with time. This includes time to learn, time to experiment, and time to manage their personal affairs. Time produces better results.
10. Set your own ego aside. Too many bosses want to be the smartest person in the room, but if this is always true, you have utterly failed as a leader and manager. Avoid pontification and bluster. Talk less and listen more.
You will see that to be a good leadership requires a lot of sacrifices. You can’t be a successful leader if your impact is not felt on the workforce (followers). Check for the traits you already have for good leadership, improve on them. Then, acquire more leadership traits and take leadership courses to be a better leader. And in the end when success eventually comes, celebrate your team members, not yourself.