Leadership isn’t always the things we think of from TV or the movies. The best leader isn’t always the most alpha person in the room. Over the years I’ve seen plenty of leaders that have the characteristics that we typically think of as “leadership traits”. I’ve seen the tough-as-nails, overbearing leader. I’ve seen the super-confident, just-do-what-I-do leader. I’ve seen the take-charge, follow-me-without-question leader. And you know what? More often than not those leaders lead their organizations right into the ground. So, what does makes a really good leader? In my opinion, there seven key traits that the most talented leaders seem to have in common.
A solid leader has to begin with an understanding that they are part of a team. Yes, you have to lead the team, but you are also a part of it. Newsflash! You aren’t good at everything. One of the most important traits you can have as a leader is the self-awareness to know your own strengths and weaknesses; and to bring together a team with complementary skills to help run your organization. Identify people who can help fill in gaps where you might be weakest and be willing to show you spots where you may have blind spots. It doesn’t make you a weak leader. But it sure makes you a smart one.
2. Customer Commitment
The best leaders I’ve ever met have are almost fanatically committed to customers – knowing what their customers need and value (often before they even do) and then making sure their company blows away their expectations.
You need to always, always, always have your customers’ best interests in mind. Every decision you are faced with should have at its center knowledge about how it will impact the customer. Are you just changing your ordering process to make it cheaper and more convenient for you or will it be beneficial for your customer? Will that website revision improve the customer’s experience? Is that new pricing model intended to squeeze a few more nickels and dimes from your customer or will does it allow you to provide better products and services to them? The best leaders make decisions with the customer in mind.
3. Care for Employees
A great leader knows that virtually nothing gets done with a team that isn’t happy and committed to the organization’s strategic values and goals. They won’t treat customers well. They won’t make mindful decisions. They won’t treat each other (and your customers) with respect and care. They won’t build good products or deliver good services. They won’t stay committed to the organization. They won’t be open with you when issues or opportunities arise.
As the leader, go out of your way to get to know your employees. Know what makes them tick. Treat them with respect. Treat them as humans and friends. The payoff will be huge!
4. Visionary (and willing to share it)
Having a vision for the organization’s future is one of the core values that a good leader brings to the table. In my opinion its one of those traits that separates a manager from a leader. A manager can help keep the train running on time. A leader does that – and knows what great location you want the train to go. And it seems like it shouldn’t need saying, but it does. Believe it or not, leaders don’t always share their vision with the rest of the organization.
Be that leader. Be the one that can see where the organization can be 3, 5, 7, 10 years down the road. Work with your team to develop a clear picture of what that destination will look like.
Too often I see leaders that are good in several ways, but lack that little something that makes someone want to follow them. That thing is the ability and willingness to inspire. Many leaders feel that they have to be serious and emotionless – sometimes to the point of being boring and distant. The question then is: Who would want to follow someone like that? Who would want to follow that person into battle that doesn’t seem to be all that emotionally invested? Trust me. Your team wants to be excited about the mission. They want to get behind a leader; someone who really wants to accomplish something.
Are you leading an organization that you feel strongly about? (Hopefully you are.) So why not show it? Why not share an exciting, inspirational, compelling vision – and then lead your team there? Why is a boring, insipid, lukewarm existence better? Reaching for goals together is exciting. Show it.
6. Decision Maker
Many leaders don’t get this one right. Either they feel the need to make every decision and just hand down edicts from above or they try to make decisions by committee. Or even worse, some decisions just go unmade! We often avoid making decisions because we look at what can go wrong. We fear the downside. We don’t want to make a mistake. The truth is that the downside is rarely as dire as we perceive it to be. And I’ll tell you from experience, most execs I’ve worked with are better decision-makers than they give themselves credit for.
My advice? Be the leader that consults with colleagues and then is unafraid to “make the call”. Your team will appreciate you being the person that was willing to take the risk. And if something goes wrong they are likely to respect you for standing up and making the decision in the first place than blaming you for what didn’t go right.
7. Level Headed
This is a challenging one. Part of it depends on your personality. Some people are just naturally better under-fire than others. (Sorry, but it’s true.) A really solid leader will be the one that doesn’t make knee-jerk reactions when things get challenging.
But you can learn to improve your ability to keep a level head during a crisis. Train yourself to stop and think before diving into a decision. This is especially important in a crisis. Remaining calm will serve you well and allow you to make smarter, more thoughtful decisions. And your team will appreciate and respect a leader who can see their heads.
So let me ask you. Do you see yourself in amy of these? Do you see yourself on the other side of them? Give it some thought. I suggest selecting an area where perhaps you struggle the most and set improvement in that area as a goal. Your management style and your leadership skills will begin to improve. And you will start to see positive changes in your team as well as you become a stronger, more inspirational leader.
Please feel free to reach out and get in touch and let’s explore how I can help you and your business succeed. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore some ideas. You can contact me on our Contact Us page, call me at (713) 907-8429, or email me at BCohen@IDiscoverConsulting.com. I hope you are enjoying these blog posts. If so, please help spread the word. Tell others about IDiscover Consulting Group and my blog. Share these posts. Comment on them. I’d really love to hear your ideas!