It is perfectly possible to acquire the skills of leadership, and such skills are not innate. But the statement sparks a question: is ‘leader’ too broad a term? Is it absurd to attempt to draw comparisons between, say, the leadership of an award-winning Head Teacher and the leadership of Winston Churchill during the Second World War? The different positions – and thus requirements – of leadership vary enormously, and furthermore each leader has a unique personal style, but nonetheless it is worth attempting to isolate some of the qualities that make any leader a success.
Here are our 7 Key Qualities that we feel make a Great Leader:
1. Great leaders are great listeners
It is our view that true listening is an exceedingly rare quality and worthy of further discussion. Without this, skilled leaders can lose their grip on the needs of their team and/or their customers, and other leadership attributes that they may possess can become diluted.
2. Great leaders make decisions with integrity
Integrity is often given lip service without the evidence to back it up. Many leaders quote integrity as their mantra without benchmarking every decision, big or small, against this value. This doesn’t mean that a great leader needs to be permanently serious or pompously moralizing; it means that he or she does the right thing, even when it may be uncomfortable to do so or creates difficulty for themselves or others in the short term.
3. Great leaders favour being respected above being liked
Most of us have a need to be liked, but in the role of leader being respected is a more noble aim. There is no reason why you can’t be a tremendously popular leader and be respected too – but the leaders who put too much emphasis on popularity can soon find their team difficult to manage when times gets tough.
4. Great leaders inspire their teams and recognize their individual skills
Sometimes people need to be motivated to be at their best, and sometimes they simply need to be trusted to get on with their work. Acknowledging and then developing the skills of others, without ‘micro-managing’, is an important attribute.
5. Great leaders exercise humility
There is a profound difference between being weak and being humble but people still seem to confuse the two. On the flip side of humility, arrogance is a most reprehensible trait in a leader, and is normally – counter-intuitively perhaps – the product of deep-seated insecurity.
6. Great leaders accept responsibility
Any position of authority requires a responsible person. It’s been said that accepting responsibility in every situation is among the highest forms of maturity. Taking responsibility means having the courage to stand up and be counted, admitting one’s mistakes, and resisting the temptation to blame others or circumstances when it may be expedient to do so.
7. Great leaders lead by example
The great leader has to ‘walk the talk’ and be the epitome of the values and messages they proclaim. A leader who doesn’t lead by example risks ridicule or contempt.
So that’s our 7! We’ve had the privilege of meeting some excellent leaders over the years and the theme of Leadership, directly or indirectly, has often been the subject of our experiential learning workshops, training films or when executive coaching.
Let’s conclude with some wise words from John F Kennedy that we often like to quote:
‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’