Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Maya Verber.
Whether you’ve just started your own business, had a promotion at work, or are simply looking for a way to motivate and enthuse those around you, developing your leadership qualities will prove invaluable.
But did being a great leader just come naturally to the likes of Nelson Mandela or Abraham Lincoln? What about Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s pioneering CEO? Or is it something that can be taught and nurtured?
I believe that being a great leader is about developing the skills necessary to steer those around you towards a common goal, in both smooth periods and more difficult times and that there are five key qualities that great leaders share. Start to work on these and you will be equipped to succeed in whatever area you choose.
1.Communication & Listening
Examine the world’s greatest leaders and you will find them all to be first rate communicators. Want to motivate and inspire people? To promote discipline and accountability? To endorse your values and realise your vision? Clear communication is the key.
The ability to listen is just as important being able to clearly describe what you want done. Perhaps there’s a problem you weren’t aware of, or an issue everyone in the team is facing.
Employees and subordinates long to be asked for feedback and to be heard so ask how everyone’s getting on on a regular basis. Companies ranked the ‘best places to work’ invariably have a system in place for soliciting opinions and taking action based on their findings.
On days when things aren’t going so well, it can be easy to worry about the future, or lose faith in your original plan. As the saying goes, “a smooth sea made a skilled mariner”, so try to see problems as stepping stones to your final destination.
When US News & World Report caught up with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, he stressed the importance of using failure as motivation:
“While we’re crossing the desert, we may be thirsty, but we sincerely believe there’s an oasis on the other side. You’re going to have to have a willingness to repeatedly fail if you’re going to experiment. For a certain kind of person, that is a very exciting, very motivating culture.”
For more of Jeff’s thoughts on leading Amazon to success check out the full US News report on America’s Best Leaders. As a leader, your job is to maintain the morale of those who look up to you. Assure others that setbacks are natural.
3. Commitment and Hard Work
If you want your team to work hard then it is great to lead by example. Seeing your boss working alongside you is great motivation, not only will it prove you are truly committed to success and earn you the respect of others but it will instil a hardworking ethos among the workers.
No one could question Nelson Mandela’s integrity, after he was released from prison he was asked whether he hated the people responsible for his 27 year internment, he replied “no I don’t hate anyone, I hate racism”.
A great leader’s actions reflect their inner values. Honest dealings and consistent behaviour are signs of trustworthiness, so try to be measured in all of your actions and your team will reward you for it.
5.Ability to Change
Successful leaders willingly support and embrace change in both themselves and others.
Perhaps you could apply this quality to your leadership skills themselves; there’s no shame in seeking help to become more successful in your dealings with others. There’s a huge range of leadership development programmes available in the US and abroad so whether you’re at director or entry level, there will be something out there for you.
If you think you’ve nailed these five qualities already – lucky you – then check out our previous post, How to Caffeinate Your Leadership Repertoire, for an extra little boost.
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