At one time or another throughout our careers, we have all come across at least one individual that stood out from the crowd. They oozed charisma and seemed to effortlessly draw people to them – a natural-born leader. Whether great leaders are born that way is not fully understood, but we do know that top leaders have capabilities that separate them from average leaders.
Experience, strong work ethic, resiliency and even a bit of luck are the hallmarks of unique and powerful leaders. Great leaders communicate effectively, they are engaged listeners, they encourage others to excel, they make strategic decisions and they lead by example inspiring others to follow. Success is not built on the backs of others – but instead comes from helping others become successful.
If we break down the key characteristics of great leaders, there are four that come to the top of my mind.
1. THEY PUT PEOPLE FIRST
The bottom line is that without people, there is no need for leaders. Anyone who has ever run a business knows only too well that your staff can make or break you. Great leaders garner admiration and respect by showing admiration and respect. They listen, encourage, educate and reward their team. They don’t act superior; they treat everyone equally and with respect, fostering team-wide respect as a result.
Great leaders are passionate about the purpose of their work. They are able to blend their internal sense of purpose for life with their career, rewarding them a tremendous competitive advantage. Their behaviour becomes contagious and before long the entire team is as passionate and purpose-driven as their leader. Great leaders design a culture based on common purpose, shared values, aligned vision and an exuberant passion for the work.
3. PURPOSE NOT PROFIT
While business success is synonymous with profits, great leaders understand that profit does not drive purpose, instead purpose drives profit. Being solely focused on the bottom line may work initially, but over time that single goal becomes less and less inspiring to the team. A great leader keeps morale and enthusiasm high by creating a shared purpose and reinforcing the importance of each and every team member to that unified purpose.
A great leader is continually aware of their impact on others. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to welcome feedback, and to feel unchallenged by different opinions. Notable leaders are willing and able to teach, but also to learn. They value sensitivity over insensitivity and humility over arrogance.
It is safe to say that not everyone is cut out to be a great leader, but if you find yourself in a leadership role there are characteristics and habits that you can develop to go from average to great.