Leadership has been around since the beginning of time. We have seen it been donned by different people who portrayed various leadership qualities and owing to those qualities got to play their part in history.
People have always looked up to someone for Leadership for purpose in life or direction
From time immemorial the world has witnessed the fight for Leadership…between people…between communities…between genders….. and history has borne witness to the same.
The reasons may be umpteen but they have provided us with some of the great leaders of our time. They all embraced the need of the hour to be ‘The leader’ in order to achieve their dream…..a dream which they had firm faith and belief in.
Lets look at some of my favourite examples:
#Abraham Lincoln, who dreamed and believed in a stronger and combined united states,
# Martin Luther King, Jr., who dreamed about equality and freedom in America,
# and of course, our very own Mahatma Gandhi who lead our country into Freedom from the Britishers.
What is Leadership?
As Mahatma Gandhi once quoted “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
In earlier days Leadership was related more with “muscle power” , which in turn mostly deemed the Leaders as ruthless or fearsome and forced people to follow them simply due to fear, however we have seen a paradigm shift in how Leadership is perceived now.
Who gets to be a Leader? Are leaders born or made?
I believe and have experienced that each and every one of us, as well as people who surround us in our day to day life have qualities within to turn us into a leader or a follower.
It could be in the son our tailor….the girl behind the cash counter at the supermarket….the new and shy trainee in the company…you or me…anyone!!!
Some great Leaders are born with the essential qualities and some become great leaders by learning to practice those qualities effectively over time.
Generally, the terms ‘Leader” and ‘Leadership qualities” get to be connected in Business Management. However, one can find this in every walk of life apart from the corporate world as well.
So how only some get to be a leader and some not?
Well, it’s the circumstances that we are constantly thrown into that makes some of us choose to lead (by wish or force).
A leader is one who has innate passion and pure conviction in his or her thoughts or beliefs to be able to lead successfully.
Changing face of Leadership
In Business management Leadership has always had a ‘Man on top’ syndrome. Wherein all expected the Leadership to be in command and control and tell everyone what to do.
As Steve jobs nicely puts it
” Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things, they never thought they could.”
However, we are seeing a difference in approach in Leaders of today wherein they are the taking the back seat and leading from the back.
So who is a Leader?
Have you ever given thought to the fact as to why it was only a chosen few who rose to be leaders in history?
Say for example:
# Why was it only Buddha who got to become one of the greatest spiritual leaders of all times and instrumental in paving the way for one of the world’s biggest religions…
Not only Buddha we have numerous leaders etched in time who have been leaders for various reasons.
#may it be peace like …Ashoka….mother Teresa…or
#politics like Alexander the great, Abraham Lincoln, or
# been the torch bearers of creating the spark in science by attempting to discover the world around them even amidst criticism from the people of their time…. say Pythagoras or Aristotle for even suggesting that Earth was actually a sphere, Thomas Alwa Edison, Darwin etc
# women with their extra ordinary achievements who changed the world, Marie curie, Margaret Thatcher to name aa few
#bearers of change in society and equality like nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King or
#simply been the pioneers in Technology innovation and advancement like Bill gates or Steve Jobs
All of them had certain traits, skills and characteristics which made them become ultimate leaders for their chosen cause.
So, we come back to the same question…what maketh all of them Leaders….do they have any special skills endowed?
Nope…read on to decipher more on the secrets of Leadership……!!!
Why do we need a leader in management?
To put simply, we need a leader to:
- To steer an organization or workforce towards a common goal or vision
- Guide and motivate all members of the team to fulfil their individual roles
- Keep up the morale of the workforce in times of strife
- Be the face of the organization act as a bridge between the management and the employees.
What makes a good leader?
A good leader is one who is aware, understands , builds and enhances the prerequisite qualities of Leadership. These are the qualities that will you as a leader be better at what you do and stand out from competition.
Though the roles of the Leaders may differ the qualities that set them apart from the others can generally be put together in a common bucket.
However, many of the so-called leadership qualities have had to stand the test of time.
So as per my research and experience of decoding human nature through my experience, I suggest the below top 12 leadership qualities that all good leaders should have.
Lets look at the top 12 leadership qualities as per my research
1.Trustworthy & Honesty- Stepstones of Integrity
Though honesty and integrity are skillsets that cannot be easily measured in any metrics, however practise of the same is an essential quality in a good leader.
By being honest the leader earns the trust of his followers/team as well as sets an example as to how one can attain success by being fair even when others are not.
Once you are trustworthy you easily open a channel of communication with your employees who feel comfortable to come to you with their issues/concerns and queries or if they have done something wrong.
Also being Honest as a leadership skill means to be ‘transparent’. You need to share as much information that you can within your managerial limits as well as give feedbacks clearly and constructively without any confusion.
As the quote in the cartoon, the leader should not “fake it till you use it”. If the skill of integrity is merely put up as an act to win trust then rest assured you can loose it more easily than you gained it! So, it should be rather a true act in and out because you as a leader believe in it!!
Suggested action tips:
#Stand up for what is right
#Build your credibility by your daily actions.(yes indeed it’s a habit …to be built..!)
#Have a consistent behavior with your employees
#Develop the ability to apologise and accept your mistake if wrong…( even though it’s a very difficult thing to do!)
# Take accountability for your actions
#Follow and set the blueprint for your employees/Team by practising strong business ethics
#Be committed to your goals, promises made, a reward, team lunch for meeting targets, working on weekends to meet deadlines….whatever you agree to do just ensure you follow it through
2. Visionary- Be Innovative and Think Long-Term
Another essential leadership quality to have is to be a visionary.
A leader should always lead the today with a clear knowledge and plan of ‘where’ and ‘what’ they want to be doing in the future.
This leadership skill may easily be the one skill that will make you stand apart from the other leaders.
Being a vigilant, self-aware leader will ensure that you are able to take the correct decisions, make plans towards necessary steps to be taken NOW, for the successful attainment of your vision of the future.
Steve Jobs can easily be termed as a visionary who believed that “innovation distinguishes among a frontrunner and a follower” and was the first to imagine technology advancement like iPods and iPhones in a global scale long before than anyone else had even imagined them to become one”.
In today’s cut throat, fast-paced world, a leader must be creative and innovative. Being a leader means people will look up to you to provide unique ideas or encourage those ideas from your team as well. It’s up to the leader to turn those innovative ideas and goals into reality .
Hence, we can say that many leaders have been successful because of their leadership quality to think outside of the box, learning to try non-traditional solutions, or take a more unconventional path to success.
Suggested action tips:
#Keep in mind your future goal (say your annual budget/winning the best company award, anything!) and set your present plans aligned to that
#Ensure that your team understands the Why, what and how of your vision
#Encourage them to have their own visions in sync to that of yours (company’s)
#Be self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses. As the better you understand yourself, the more effective leader you can be.
3. Courage & Resilience- Trust your abilities
Courage is another important leadership quality in a leader, as it encourages to deal with difficult situations, the turmoil and stress in a calm manner.
It’s easy to give up in the face of adversity, however for a true leader “when the going gets tough”….those who display courage ..’get going’ and will be able to motivate their people and lead them to success.
Irrespective of the extent of the problem, a true leader will always be resilient and exude a positive attitude which in turn reflects on his or her people.
Some Action steps on how to build on the leadership quality of courage?
# Be confident, decisive and exercise accountability
# Being a team player will encourage your people to committee and engaged
# Don’t forget to equally motivate, assert and be absolutely sure about your decisions to set the bar for your people to follow.
# Step-up to take on challenges with a positive frame of mind
#Concentrate on solutions, not problems!
4. Communication (Essential for Influence & Diplomacy)
Who can be a better example for this Leadership quality than our very own Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.
As a political leader, Modi’s ability to speak, his par excellence way of communication and diplomacy has made him the 16th Prime Minister of our country.
Communication is maybe one of the most basic leadership qualities that every leader should have. It is essential in every step, for a leader from, effective sharing of the visions, building trust, influencing and motivating people to align their efforts with your vision or goal.
Another indispensable leadership quality which is ‘need of the hour’ and sprouts from communication is that of Diplomacy.
It can be exercised by blending strong communication skills, confidence, Influence and decisiveness.
Effective communication enables a leader to get things done , achieve the desirable outcomes and resolve issues amicably creating a win-win situation.
Some Action items
# Always deliver a clear message to the followers, failing which will result in losing their trust and influence.
# Do the homework well with all the facts readily available #Present your case authentically and be accepted with lesser disagreement
# Influence is not same as manipulate as it requires, building trust, and an emotional connect to inspire others.
#Words have the power to motivate people and make them do the unthinkable rouse them effectively, to achieve better results.
5. Open-mindedness -Be a team player and good listener
According to E.M.Kelly “ Remember the difference between a boss and a leader: A boss says go-a LEADER says”Lets Go!”.
If you want your team to have an open mind to listen to your ideas, collaborate, work as a team, you need to put it in daily practise by following the same yourself.
You will be creating a relationship with your employees based on trust, accountability and open mindedness if you act as part of the team rather than a ‘boss’.
A leader should ensure that the employees are comfortable to work with them, and each other. They will earn the trust and respect of the employees by being good listeners.
By actively following the above leadership quality you will be building a more ‘well engaged’ team who will be comfortable to share their thoughts and concerns with you, which in turn will provide a positive outlook to the entire organization.
# Be open to receive and accept ideas and thoughts from your team members
# Respond, don’t react
# Build your leadership qualities of humility, honesty, humbleness to become more open mind in return
# Ensure to be willing to accept changes and explore new ideas
6. Empathy -Be aware of others
One more essential leadership quality to be possessed by a leader is that of Empathy.
Being empathic is not easy or even to start practising the same overnight. It needs to be developed over the period of time by consciously being self-aware of other people’s emotions, experiences, abilities.
Its all in the little things that one needs to be perceptive about-
Say ….failing to be greeted by someone who daily greets you, a usually over inquisitive employee with loads of questions stays silent in a meeting ..and many more are the small things to look out for consciously.
A good leader is one who is closely connected with his or her team ‘empathetically’ and values their individuality.
# Do not choose to hear what you want, listen to every detail
# Try to provide immediate solutions to the problems shared which build your credibility as a leader who listens as well as takes action for the betterment of the employees
#Be an influencer rather than a commander
7. Accountability & Reliability- Essential virtues to build morale
In the words of Rick warren-“Having authority implies accountability. If you reject the blame for failures under your watch, people reject your leadership”
This resounds the need for a leader for having a leadership quality of taking accountability for the outcomes of their decisions and hence be deemed reliable.
Being a leader does not necessary mean that you can NEVER fail. In fact , some of the greatest leaders in history failed at one time or another, a list that includes Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, and many others. However their ability to hold themselves accountable enabled them to persevere, become better leaders, and build their legacies.
It is imperative for a good leader to search for solutions rather than placing blame on his people. As its not something that easily comes hence this leadership quality is found rarely in leaders.
That said, it doesn’t mean that the leader should close eyes on any issues that may have caused the problem. By having full confidence in the abilities and contribution of his people, he should start to brainstorm with his people to realise what went wrong. Then provide constructive feedback to everyone(including the leader himself) get to understand how to do the same things in a better way next time…in short …mentor them.
Whenever a difficult situation arises, people will look upto their leaders for solutions and way forward. Being reliable and accountable will mean that you provide solutions using a clear vision and confidence and get everyone to come through unscathed.
# Have regular one on one performance discussion with employees to understand any concerns and suggest improvements as well as praise good work done to boost morale!
#always remember to document the performance discussion and allow the employee to suggest the plan of action so as to let them feel involved in the growth process rather than just instructing.
8. Gratitude & Humility ( Gratitude fosters Humility)
Showing gratitude to members of the team is an engaging leader quality.
Developing gratitude as an individual leadership quality enables leaders to improve their self-control and decision making.
Too good to be true? I thought so too!
She goes on to find that this interlink between the two creates an “upward spiral” of professional and personal growth of the leader and hence an essential Leadership quality in today’s world.
There maybe very few people who would like a boastful/prideful leader. But many also associate humbleness with weakness. On the contrary, a humble leader is not a weak leader but a take charge individual.
Gratitude and humility are another set of leadership qualities of that cannot be faked. But practising them creates the path for the leader to focus on his people, uplifting them, supporting them, in growing by reaching their goals.
#Regularly express gratitude for a job well done
#Get to know your team members on an individual level
#Communicate well with your team
#Thank them individually and collectively
#offer token of appreciation
# don’t brag about yourself-more of ‘us’ than ‘me’
9. Delegate and empower (Two sides of a coin)
As a leader your focus should be on key responsibilities while empowering your team to do the rest. It can be achieved by understanding the skills of your team and delegating the tasks to them.
In addition to delegating, you should provide the team with all the necessary resources and support so that they can bear the responsibility and achieve the set goals successfully.
If you take up too much on your plate as a leader and avoid delegating, just to prove that your capable , then you will only end up struggling to get anything done!
Successful leaders are those who effectively utilise the leadership qualities of Delegation and Empowerment for overall personal and team’s growth.
# Have trust in your team and avoid micromanagement
# Increase the employees accountabilities and support their decisions
# Define expectations clearly
10. Problem solving-Need of the hour
One of the best leadership quality in a leader and the most expected as well, is that of the ability to “Initiate” and “problem solving.”
As occurrence of problems are inevitable, solving them is the essence of what leaders exist to do. As leaders, the goal is to minimize the occurrence of problems .
You may also find yourself using every single one of the leadership qualities that you may know of when you’re trying to solve the most complex of problems.
If you want to be a successful leader you must learn to initiate the steps towards problem solving by soliciting and evaluating others’ ideas. Once you are clear about the problem , it gets easier for team members to produce potential solutions and you as a leader to evaluate the quality of those solutions.
# Be courageous to identify and tackle the problems before it gets out of hand
# Involve your team in suggesting the possible solutions so that you work it out as a ‘team’.
11. Learning agility-Learning never ends!
Another essential leadership quality that every leader should have is “Learning Agility”
Learning agility is the ability and willingness to learn from an experience and ultimately apply that to future situations which maybe new or first-time conditions.
Learning agility encompasses,
- learn and unlearn,
- learning from mistakes, a
- asking insightful questions, and
- being open to feedback.
It also includes learning a new skill quickly, taking advantage of opportunities to learn, and responding well to new situations
As a leader you should be open for active learning so as to develop value and seek out the lessons of experience.
This involves recognizing when new behaviours, leadership skills, or attitudes are needed and accepting responsibility for developing them.
# reflect regularly on the methods of your work.
#Read.Read. Read some more!
#Push your boundaries and explore out of your comfort zone,
12. Feedback (A necessary process)
The last but definitely not the least leadership quality is that of giving “Feedback”
Many of you may wonder why Feedback should be considered as an essential Leadership quality.
However, it may very well be a very vital tool for a leader to have a productive and engaged workforce.
All of us like to be given feedback on our work from time to time. Constructive feedback will motivate your employees to strive to do better!
The performance feedback should be given frequently and less subjectively and should aim at primarily improving the overall work of the employees and not as a blame game.
It will also aid the leader in knowing their employees better and in turn delegating tasks more confidently.
# Provide feedback in a clear but empathetic way
#same time be open to receiving feedback as well
# Follow positive reinforcement
Lets recap the Leadership qualities discussed above with some dos and don’ts for a good leader
By -Donal H, McGannon
This great quote comes from Donald H. McGannon (who ran the Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation and served as President of the National Urban League) summarises very well what we have been reading so far!
I hope you are able to agree on the above quote on leadership due to the take away from my blog 😊
To reiterate, leadership is much more than just a high ranking position or just simply being in charge! The need of a practical, inspirational and a visionary leader is eminent for the successful running of an organization, business etc
A true leader is one who
#leads with example, rather than force.
#learns the essential leadership skills
#develops the qualities and values
Needed to successfully nurture, lead, motivate, and create an atmosphere of being valued and in line with the companies goals and vision so as to ultimately attain success….together…as a TEAM.