We often hear about leadership development and there are many articles, books, and courses that aim to teach us how to become great leaders. At the same time, throughout my experience so far, I’ve felt that the term “leader” was often misused, so I wanted to express my own view on this topic.
I believe that if you want to become a leader, first of all you need to have your own definition of leadership, as well as to clearly define the qualities that you admire in a person that you consider to be a leader. Many people associate a managerial title with leadership – however, quite often this doesn’t happen to be the case. As a manager you may have excellent organizing and delegating skills, know how to create policies and procedures, follow disciplines or deliver services. However, if others don’t willingly follow your advice, don’t admire you and don’t feel inspired by you, then you’re not a leader.
Another notable difference between a manager and a leader is that a manager is appointed from above (by senior management), while a leader is chosen from below (by his followers). In addition, a leader will never discourage you by saying that you cannot do something – instead, (s)he’ll encourage you to pursue your goals by offering guidance and support in that direction.
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~ John C. Maxwell
Below are the top 9 qualities, as well as character and personality traits that make me call someone a leader, regardless of their title:
- Integrity. A good leader is honest, has strong moral principles and values and (s)he walks the talk. By doing so, (s)he shows great character and trustworthiness, earning the respect of others.
- Vision. All great leaders are visionaries – they are able to envision their future, have a clear idea of where they’re going and are able to communicate it effectively to others.
- Courage. Leaders are willing to take risks and face their fears in order to achieve their goals, without having any guarantees of success. There are no certainties in life nor in business, every single action entails a risk of some sort.
- Reliability. Leaders will always set your expectations and do their best to keep their promises, they are someone you can count on. They don’t leave people hanging, are quick in their responses and respect other people’s time, as well as their own.
- Excellent communication skills. Besides being a good speaker, a leader needs to know how to actively listen, in order to hear what people are really saying. They use their body language, they paraphrase what’s being said, and respond appropriately to convey that the message was fully understood.
- Welcoming personality. More often than not, a great leader is a people person. A positive outlook, a genuine smile and the ability to create meaningful connections are a must. They avoid personal criticism and pessimistic thinking, and always aim for win-win solutions.
- Confidence & Competence. These two go hand in hand. The more competent someone becomes at something, the more confidence they build. If a leader is not confident as a person and in the leadership role, it would be hard to inspire confidence in others. Leaders know what they’re good at, the value they provide, and are acting in a way that conveys that to others.
- Recognition & Encouragement. An effective leader must take the time to recognize and reward people for their accomplishments and show a genuine appreciation for someone’s work. Also, a leader needs to have the ability to make people feel good about themselves and encourage them to grow.
- Commitment to excellence. Leaders aim to be the best at what they do. They not only maintain high standards, but are also proactive in raising the bar in order to achieve excellence in all areas. They will change their direction if needed, but never lower their standards.
We all have leadership potential. Some people are born natural leaders, while others can learn and develop leadership skills. I believe there’s no secret recipe to become an effective leader. It’s a permanent learning and practicing process, with many trials and errors – and at the end, it’ll be those around us who will be able to tell if we have succeeded or not.
Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. ~ Brian Tracy