Great leaders and the qualities they display cannot be summed up easily. It is a complex subject requiring an understanding of human nature and no small amount of self-analysis. Why are some people better leaders than others? What makes them better leaders? Can you copy their style or learn from them? These are just a few of the questions that many management students and business leaders ask themselves every day, but the answers are never straightforward. What is clear is that the qualities of a successful leader are generally well understood and can, to one extent or another, be copied with success provided you understand what it is that makes your actions successful in your own situation.
Truly great leaders have many complex and interwoven qualities that they use and call upon every day. Understanding just some of these qualities and their importance in a leadership context will help you understand how you interact with others and what approach may be more effective in different cases. Take a look at only four of the many crucial qualities a leader must have and compare your own approach to assess where you might want to look for improvement.
Many believe that a person’s character is innate, is born within us and cannot be changed. Our character is something that we develop through time, influenced by our experiences, the actions of others and our own actions and habits. Your character can only be revealed through your actions, not your words. How you choose to react to events, or to others, reveals your true character, or lack of it. Your character will drive your reactions to these events and so others will see your character as it really is. Leaders must be people of good character, people who can be trusted, people who do the right thing. Flaws in a leader’s character will catch up with them eventually and will be destructive in the long term, causing people to distrust them, to question their character and ultimately cease to follow them or even see them as their leader. A leader that cannot inspire people to follow them is no leader at all and no leader can rise above the limitations of their own character.
Ask yourself, what is commitment? Commitment is one of the simplest leadership qualities to understand. It’s your personal will to see something through to the end, your will to make a difference, your will to succeed. Much like character, commitment can only really be tested and measured by your own actions and how others perceive them. You may believe that everyone has a different definition of commitment, but think why. Could it be just to lower the standards to make life easier for themselves?
As a leader, your commitment should be unquestionable. If you are truly focused on the vision that you are leading your people towards, your commitment should be unshakeable and your team should be confident of this, and so confident in you. Your commitment to individuals is your bond with them. Where you make a commitment to someone, your character is being tested should you choose not to follow through.
Much like character, charisma is a quality that can be developed. It is not necessarily a born trait. Charisma is seen as something intangible but good and expected in a leader of any substance. Charismatic individuals will tend to see the positive aspects in others much more than they do the negatives. More importantly though, they will help other people see the positives in themselves too. By showing that you see the value in them, other people will come to see the positive side in you too, but understand the fine line between always being seen to acknowledge the positive side in someone and being insincere.
A leader simply cannot lead without excellent communication skills. If you cannot effectively communicate, how will your followers know where you are leading them? Developing your communication skills will benefit all of your personal and work relationships. For a leader, communication should be a call to action and a great leader will always consider the message before communicating it. If you can’t live what you’re saying, don’t say it. If you don’t believe what you’re saying, don’t say it. Do your homework and make sure your communications are always appropriate to your audience and remember that simplifying your message will assist greatly in making your communications more effective.
These four qualities are just some of the important qualities all leaders must display. Understanding what leadership strengths and weaknesses you have is crucial in your development as a leader. Self-analysis and reflection can help combined with feedback from others but never sit back and believe you’ve arrived, that you are complete as a leader. Learning and personal development should never stop. Remember, every day is a school day.