Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.
– Professor Warren G. Bennis
The word "leadership" can bring to mind a variety of images. For example:
A political leader, pursuing a passionate, personal cause.
An explorer, cutting a path through the jungle for the rest of his group to follow.
An executive, developing her company's strategy to beat the competition.
Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to "win" as a team or an organisation; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.
Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way.
Everybody defines leadership differently but I really like the way John C Maxwell defines leadership, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Irrespective of how you define a leader, he or she can prove to be a difference maker between success and failure. A good leader has a futuristic vision and knows how to turn his ideas into real-world success stories. In this article, we take an in-depth look at some of the important leadership qualities that separate good leaders from a bad one.
1. Honesty and Integrity
The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a football field, or in an office.” Honesty and integrity are two important ingredients which make a good leader. How can you expect your followers to be honest when you lack these qualities yourself? Leaders succeed when they stick to their values and core beliefs and without ethics, this will not be possible.
To be an effective leader, you should be confident enough to ensure that other follow your commands. If you are unsure about your own decisions and qualities, then your subordinates will never follow you. As a leader, you have to be oozing with confidence, show some swagger and assertiveness to gain the respect of your subordinates. This does not mean that you should be overconfident, but you should at least reflect the degree of confidence required to ensure that your followers trust you as a leader.
3. Inspire Others
Probably the most difficult job for a leader is to persuade others to follow. It can only be possible if you inspire your followers by setting a good example. When the going gets tough, they look up to you and see how you react to the situation. If you handle it well, they will follow you. As a leader, should think positive and this positive approach should be visible through your actions. Stay calm under pressure and keep the motivation level up. As John Quincy Adams puts it, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” If you are successful in inspiring your subordinates, you can easily overcome any current and future challenge easily.
4. Commitment and Passion
Your teams look up to you and if you want them to give them their all, you will have to be passionate about it too. When your teammates see you getting your hands dirty, they will also give their best shot. It will also help you to gain the respect of your subordinates and infuse new energy in your team members, which helps them to perform better. If they feel that you are not fully committed or lacks passion, then it would be an uphill task for the leader to motivate your followers to achieve the goal.
5. Good Communicator
Until you clearly communicate your vision to your team and tell them the strategy to achieve the goal, it will be very difficult for you to get the results you want. Simply put, if you are unable to communicate your message effectively to your team, you can never be a good leader. A good communicator can be a good leader. Words have the power to motivate people and make them do the unthinkable. If you use them effectively, you can also achieve better results.
6. Decision-Making Capabilities
Apart from having a futuristic vision, a leader should have the ability to take the right decision at the right time. Decisions taken by leaders have a profound impact on masses. A leader should think long and hard before taking a decision but once the decision is taken, stand by it. Although, most leaders take decisions on their own, but it is highly recommended that you consult key stakeholders before taking a decision. After all, they are the ones who will benefit or suffer from your decisions.
When it comes to accountability, you need to follow the approach highlighted by Arnold H Glasow when he said, “A good leader takes little more than his share of the blame and little less than his share of the credit.” Make sure that every one of your subordinates is accountable for what they are doing. If they do well, give them a pat on the back but if they struggle, make them realize their mistakes and work together to improve. Holding them accountable for their actions will create a sense of responsibility among your subordinates and they will go about the business more seriously.
8. Delegation and Empowerment
You cannot do everything, right. It is important for a leader to focus on key responsibilities while leaving the rest to others. By that, I mean empowering your followers and delegating tasks to them. If you continue to micromanage your subordinates, it will develop a lack of trust and more importantly, you will not be able to focus on important matters, as you should be. Delegate tasks to your subordinates and see how they perform. Provide them with all the resources and support they need to achieve the objective and give them a chance to bear the responsibility.
9. Creativity and Innovation
What separates a leader from a follower? Steve Jobs, the greatest visionary of our time answers this question this way, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” In order to get ahead in today’s fast-paced world, a leader must be creative and innovative at the same time. Creative thinking and constant innovation is what makes you and your team stand out from the crowd. Think out of the box to come up with unique ideas and turn those ideas and goals into reality.
Leaders should develop empathy with their followers. Unfortunately, most leaders follow a dictatorial style and neglect empathy altogether. Due to this, they fail to make a closer connection with their followers. Understanding the problems of your followers and feeling their pain is the first step to become an effective leader. Even that is not enough until you work hard and provide your followers with the suitable solution to their problems.
To become a good leader, you must have all these qualities but if you lack some of these qualities, then you might struggle to make the mark in the world of leadership. You will have to set a good example for others to follow. That is where your commitment, passion, empathy, honesty and integrity come into play. Good communication skills and decision-making capabilities also play a vital role in success and failure of a leader. Lastly, innovation and creative thinking, as well as the futuristic vision, are a couple of key traits which make a leader stand out.