Nine Traits the Define Great Leadership
- Awareness. Leaders understand there are clear differences between management and employees, and use this knowledge to retain a professional and objective distance for the best interests of the organization. Economy notes that while leaders recognize the differences, they don’t act in a way that suggests they are superior to those under their leadership. Rather, they don’t let personal relationships cloud professional decision-making.
- Decisiveness. All leaders must occasionally make difficult decisions, such as terminating employees for poor performance, or reducing the size of the workforce. “They understand difficult and timely decisions must be made in the best interests of the entire organization.” Economy goes on to recognize that great leaders know their limits, and involve other voices and perspectives into their decision-making.
- Empathy. A long-standing principle in leadership is “praise in public and discuss issues in private”, which Economy believes is one of the best ways to retain top performers. “The best leaders guide employees through challenges, and are always on the lookout for solutions to foster the long-term success of the organization.” In your own organization, make even conflict-riddled conversations an opportunity for professional development and growth. Teaching employees how to navigate complex challenges will make them more aware of how their work fits into everyone’s success.
- Accountability. When business is down, it can be tempting to blame others. Leaders who stand out above the rest take responsibility for everyone’s performance. They follow up in a timely manner, coach employees at every turn, and make improvements to internal processes regularly. “When things are going well, great leaders praise. When problems arise, they identify them quickly, seek out solutions, and get things back on track.”
- Confidence. Leaders confident in their own abilities, and the abilities of their team, inspire confidence in others. Employees encouraged by the leaders in their organization become more comfortable taking creative risks, and come up with better ideas. Confidence should not be confused with arrogance, says Economy. “When proven wrong, great leaders take responsibility and quickly act to improve the situations within their authority.”
- Optimism. A positive outlook and a genuine concern for the welfare of their employees is yet another trait of great leaders. “They always seem to have a solution and always know what to say to inspire and reassure.” Ease in communication and creative problem-solving translates into effective leadership, as leaders will always look for ways to encourage a healthy team dynamic.
- Honesty. Honesty and ethics reflected by senior leadership in any organization serves as a model for how every employee should act. “Honest, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success,” says Economy. Great leaders embody the values they want to see in their businesses, and in their teams, and encourage everyone to follow suit.
- Focus. Great leaders commit to a vision and focus their efforts on achieving that vision, even when challenges present themselves. They consider the possible outcomes of their decisions, and establish strategies and processes that reinforce the vision. When a new direction is required, they communicate openly.
- Inspiration. For Economy, great leaders inspire others to do more. “They challenge their people by setting high but attainable standards and expectations, and give them the support, tools, and training to become the best employees they can be.”
What traits do you think define great leadership?