What Does It Take to be a Great Leader

leader woman with men groupA simple enough question with answers that vary widely. Fortunately, though, in this case the answers are fairly straightforward, too. Being a strong leader is not about a special type of personality, it’s more about individual qualities, as researcher Robert Mann who spent 43 years studying leadership, has found out. What’s better is that these qualities can be developed consciously, they’re not some inbuilt immutable trait that only the lucky ones get. Well, at least not all of them.

However you look at it, to be a successful leader you need one main thing: you need recognition from the people you are leading. Without this recognition, a leader is just a dictator of sorts. So, how do you get to be accepted as a leader by a group of people? By having a vision and being able to communicate it in a way that would engage and inspire your listeners, that’s how, in a nutshell. Having a clear vision about where you want your department or company to be, gives you and your team a sense of mission, and this sense is a very important element of effective leadership — if you can instill it in people, you’re doing things right. Of course, the success of this mission-instilling process depends on a few other things, the most important we already mentioned: communication skills.

Being a good communicator is essential for leaders. The ability to present your ideas in a clear way is at the core of your success. But that’s just the start; you will also need to be able to listen to other people’s ideas and be willing to delegate responsibilities. A leader is not a person who’s always right, a leader is a person who’s not afraid to admit a mistake or task someone else with a job that they know this person will do better than themselves. This means you need to know the people you lead well, know their strong and weak points and be realistic about them. Successful leaders create strong teams and strong organizations because they know how to distribute the weight in the best possible way.

Another thing good leaders share is a positive attitude and flexibility. Life doesn’t always flow evenly, especially in business. There will be ups and downs and it’s the leader’s job to keep morale high during the downs. It’s always possible to take an optimistic view of a situation, and having a good sense of humor helps immensely. Laugh it off, if it’s not too serious and deal with it quickly if it is. Quickly, that is, without pausing to lament your miserable fate, you understand.

One final consideration is the thing you probably already knew intuitively — a leader is like a parent in that he or she leads best by example. If you want the people you lead to be committed, you need to be committed, too. If you want them to work at maximum productivity, be ready to be the one who puts in the longest hours. All this comes naturally if you’re really set on being a good leader, a leader who inspires by being honest and clear about goals and the road to them.